Three 'chop shop' arrests

A Dunedin-based trio behind an alleged ''chop shop'' near Mosgiel used social media to taunt the owner of a stolen vehicle they dismantled, police say.

An early-morning search of a Kaikorai Valley flat yesterday led to the arrest of three people in relation to the theft of high-performance cars from Dunedin and Timaru this month.

A 27-year-old woman and two 22-year-old men were charged with the theft of six vehicles, with more charges likely, Sergeant Chris McLellan, of the North Dunedin Proactive Policing Team, said.

The arrests follow Tuesday's raid of a property near Mosgiel allegedly used as a ''chop shop'' - for the dismantling of cars for the illegal sale of parts - and where the remains of six performance vehicles and two flatbed trucks were uncovered.

Sgt McLellan said the 22-year-old alleged ringleader of the group complied with police requests, but the woman was aggressive and the second man ''fancied his running ability''.

He was quickly apprehended, thanks to eagle-eyed members of the public, he said.

More car parts were uncovered around the basement flat of a Kaikorai Valley Rd address, and it was possible dozens of vehicles had been targeted by the group over the past month, he said.

''They have been highly active, and this has been a nightly occurrence over the last three weeks.''

Police said the trio, who were linked to a variety of addresses and had ''loose'' gang connections, had targeted vehicles in Dunedin and Timaru.

The group was allegedly behind the theft of a Dunedin vehicle on Monday and the dumping of it in Timaru. The group then allegedly returned to Dunedin in another stolen vehicle.

The owner of a stolen vehicle had been contacted via social media and taunted with a photo of his stripped-down Nissan Skyline, Sgt McLellan said.

The cars were stripped and sold for parts, but it was too early to comment on the method used to sell the items, he said.

Police were working to identify the parts of other stolen vehicles and track down affected owners, but identification numbers had been removed.

A flatbed Nissan Atlas truck belonging to Brent Lucas Builders Ltd was stolen earlier this month, had its motor removed and cut down into parts. Brent Lucas said the theft of the truck, which was insured for $7000 but could cost up to $22,000 to replace, had affected his business.

''We are going to fork out a lot of money. ''

The trio are expected to appear in the Dunedin District Court today.

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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