The recovery of twelve vehicles to Baltimore from Antwerp, Belgium announced yesterday illustrates a troubling trend in vehicle theft, the targeting of luxury vehicles in the United States for theft and export to foreign nations, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The luxury vehicles valued at more than $700,000, including Cadillac Escalades, BMWs, a Lincoln Navigator and a Mercedes CL 500, were on their way to Nigeria when the shipment was halted in Antwerp as the result of an investigation by the Baltimore County Regional Auto Theft Task Force, the FBI, Belgian police, the NICB and several other law enforcement agencies.

The vehicles, including one rental car, were stolen off the street and from car dealerships in Florida, Georgia and New York.

The value of this recovery combined with the similar recovery of ten additional luxury vehicles in Baltimore earlier this summer totals more than $1 million.

More than 1.2 million vehicles worth more than $8.2 billion are stolen in the United States each year with approximately 200,000 illegally exported out of the country, said the NICB.

"People who live in communities near ports and international borders need to pay special attention to protecting their cars and trucks from thieves," said Robert M. Bryant, NICB president and chief executive officer. He also noted that the decline in the recovery rate is particularly troublesome.

"The drop in recoveries of stolen vehicles indicates growth in well-organised, professional theft rings who direct stolen vehicles to 'chop shops' which dismantle them for parts or transport them out of the country," Bryant said.