For many years, cars stolen in the United States have been exported to countries in South America or the Caribbean using containers and ferries. Others have simply been driven across the border into Mexico. Thefts are sometimes organized on a massive scale, with criminal groups responsible for the trafficking of dozens of vehicles. Other thefts are more opportunistic, often committed by juvenile offenders, who might steal a car in the afternoon and sell it that same evening in Mexico (Resindez, 1998). A recent analysis has found that vehicle theft hot spots in the U.S. are in counties bordering Mexico and those with busy ports (Highway Loss Data Institute, 2008). This pattern has become more pronounced in recent years, suggesting that theft for export might be a growing problem. It might even be the case, as many law enforcement officials believe, that stolen vehicles are being exported to pay for drugs imported from overseas.
Beyond the United States, the demise of the Soviet system resulted in large numbers of cars being stolen in Western Europe and exported to Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe. The emerging market economies in those countries created a demand for cars (especially luxury models) that could not be met by domestic producers, and criminal entrepreneurs moved in to fill the gap. Increasing globalization has created similar conditions in other parts of the world with the result that many other countries have become markets for cars stolen abroad. Thus, the Middle East is now a destination for cars stolen in Europe, West Africa for cars stolen in the U.S. and the U.K., and China for cars stolen in the U.S. and Japan. Regional theft markets have also developed. For example, Bolivia is the destination for cars stolen in Brazil and Argentina, Nepal for ones stolen in Northern India, Indonesia for ones stolen in Malaysia, Cambodia for cars stolen in Thailand, and other parts of Africa for cars stolen in South Africa. Japan has been a major source of exported stolen vehicles to Indonesia, the Russian Far East, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, and even the U.K. (Clarke & Brown, 2003).