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Stolen Car Search

FROM: Iain Row

What NEED does this meet?
Stolen car information is recorded on the Police National Computer - let's build a website that makes that very same information publicly available, for free. It's such a simple idea, and yet it would be useful to millions of people!

The benefits work both ways - if you're looking to buy a car and it is flagged as stolen, you could easily report where the car can be found.

What is the APPROACH?
I don't know why the police haven't done this before now, but I'm guessing that it's down to a lack of manpower, know-how and coordination.

The key is probably lobbying at a government level to encourage the police to share this information, or rather, a subset of the information (to avoid privacy concerns). We get the info from them, and then the website makes simple requests to find out the status of a given registration.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
'Caveat Emptor' (let the buyer beware) is inshrined in UK law, so buyers have no comeback if they inadvertently buy a stolen vehicle. Making the information publicly searchable will help people to make an informed decision, make the trade in stolen cars more difficult, and may even help people recover their stolen property.

What is the COMPETITION?
Some companies (HPI, Carwatch) charge for running a full check, not just on whether it's stolen, but if it's been an insurance write-off, or clocked, or has outstanding finance. That's fine - they offer a useful, comprehensive service and guarantee their results.

However a simple, free search of the police's records is a good place to start and, at zero cost to the user, will surely be popular.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
It depends what is needed to get the information out of the police's computer. If it is stored in a proprietory format, some specialised coding will be required to expose it to the web page. Perhaps a web service could be implemented to ensure that only certain info can be extracted; we, via the website, provide it with a registration number, and it responds with either 'true' or 'false'.

Actually creating the public-facing site would be trivial.

I would estimate that the cost would fall somewhere between £10,000 and £50,000 - at the lower end if the data can be easily extracted, and at the higher end if hardcore programming is required to get at the data.

October 30, 2003 in Crime, Transport, User Created Content | Permalink


I'd guess HPI/Carwatch etc would be keen to block something like this, but at the same time it's in the interest of the Police/Insurance Companies to provide it...
I would suggest that if you're offered a car, do a look up and if on the register there's a CrimeStoppers type opportunity to report the location of the vehicle (routed to police / insurance co as appropriate)
Would be good to include a WAP and GPRS phone friendly version for 'instant' lookups while at a car yard.
Data would need to be kept accurate / up-to-date (recovered vehicles removed very quickly) and would need to work on number plate and VIN as well as store basic details (why is the blue Vectra I'm being offered apparently a yellow Focus !) - because number plates are easy to change as well as access to stolen vehicle records the basic descriptions of all registered vehicles could (should) be held as a first check...

Posted by: Jeremy E Cath at Oct 30, 2003 10:50:37 PM

With more and more police ANPR (automatic number plate recognition), the need for a separate (duplicate) database will be reduced. As the traffic patrol cars identify number plates, a quick PNC check already identifies any 'abnormalities' against this:

Vehicle declared as 'off-road'
Vehicle declared as stolen
Vehicle has no valid road fund licence.
(soon to come: Vehicle has no valid MOT test certifiate)

Not sure if they already do, but could easily do:
Vehicle explicitly covered by some form of insurance

These patrols can stop and aprehend suspect vehicles, and in the process, take these vehicles off the roads. What's more, all this work is being done by people who are already being paid to do this work.

If I'm buying a vehicle, it makes sense to do more than the sort of checks described in this original proposal, so using a commercial service like HPI.

Giving public access to the stolen vehicles list on the PNC might even encourage disreputable car dealers who knowingly trade in stolen vehicles to make use of it to quickly sell on vehicles that have not (yet) been reported stolen.

Posted by: Simon Hewison at Nov 2, 2003 8:13:00 PM

This already exists in the USA at

Posted by: Mark at Dec 6, 2003 11:57:24 PM

I'm trying to find out if a car I'm looking at buying is stolen.Does anyone out there know of a website where I can enter the VIN # and check for a stolen car report without spending a bunch of money on it?

Posted by: James at Dec 8, 2003 2:22:39 AM

Our local sheriff recommended that our neighborhood watch group here in Erie use
that stolen car report program. My son gets alerts on his cell phone. Anything like
it in the UK?

Posted by: Larry Hendricks at Dec 9, 2003 3:27:16 AM

I spot a white four door car believed to be a lincoln town car
with one Indiana license plate on the back of the car.
This car has a smashed
driver side window and a smashed back window both covered
with clear plastic. Also, the trunk seems to be tied down with a
red rope or something similar to it.

Posted by: Dee at Dec 10, 2003 4:04:44 PM

Having asked EVERY Chief Constable in the UK for assistance and having only had ONE response, it is clear the UK Police Force will do nothing to help when you have a car stolen. Therefore I have a new web site that should help if people will help add data.

See www.twoc.co.uk

Posted by: Craig at Jan 9, 2004 10:20:42 PM

Report and watch for stolen cars! http://carsstolen.com

Posted by: Cars Stolen (dot) com at Jan 15, 2004 4:13:27 AM

How many Americans participate in these Stolencarreport
like programs?

How many need to participate for it to be a deterrent
to car thieves?

Where does the Stolencarreports.com program get the
funding to pay people for their information on car

Posted by: Paul at Feb 17, 2004 3:16:40 AM


Posted by: scott at Feb 27, 2004 3:33:19 AM

West Virginia,Antique Car!!!
Stolen Car---1957 Ford,Custom 300,2 Door!!!
Was originally Green and White!!!
It could be any color now!!!
Stolen in the Charleston,West Virginia area!!!
Good and Restorable Condition!!!
Has Had HardTop Removed and Replaced Due to Damages!!!
It will show signs of Welding a New HardTop on the Vehicle!!!

Posted by: Alfred S.Williams at Feb 29, 2004 7:52:13 AM

My 1991 Honda Accord was stolen in broad daylight last Wednesday March 25 at 12:41pm from my job's parking lot. (Hartford,CT on corner of Park Street and Bartholemew Ave.) I know this because a co-worker saw my car being driven off the lot and I was at my desk. They were also able to show it being taken on our t.v. monitor. It took less that one minute. If anyone sees it please email me. I feel totally violated!

Posted by: Regina Grant at Mar 3, 2004 5:54:52 AM

I can't believe it, my co-worker just bought a car for $52802. Isn't that crazy!

Posted by: Betsy Markum at Nov 17, 2005 11:28:22 PM

I've managed to save up roughly $71724 in my bank account, but I'm not sure if I should buy a house or not. Do you think the market is stable or do you think that home prices will decrease by a lot?

Posted by: Courtney Gidts at Nov 19, 2005 12:43:47 AM


Posted by: studentinnen at Aug 31, 2008 12:08:23 PM

i have a white vw polo infront of my house the numberplate is TFZ 887

Posted by: tanya at Jan 7, 2010 8:55:46 AM

i have a 2006 pontiac g6 gt triple decker sun roof blackexterior black interior i have two children cant get them anywhere and do anything like doctors or run my buisness please if anyone can help me i would be so gratful. i live in oklahoma city the vehicle was seen and he tried to get it back but lost the suspects it was reported at time of the chase but never seen since the incounter please i am desprate and need my car back

Posted by: latricia woodard at Oct 5, 2010 12:20:49 AM