Land Rover headlamp

Police in Bradford are on the hunt for a gang of criminals that has been targeting and removing parts from premium 4x4s.

Numerous models have been attacked in the area in recent weeks, with cars such as the Land Rover Range Rover being singled out for its high-end LED headlamps.

Police believe the removal of these headlamps – which can take as little as 30 seconds – is connected to the production of cannabis in the area, with the high-powered lamps required otherwise costing hundreds of pounds.

As well as being quick, the criminals involved are not shy of violence, with one witness threatened with a knife when they interrupted a robbery in progress.

The recent spate of thefts has resulted in West Yorkshire Police setting up a new squad, codenamed Operation Emporia, to catch the gangs.

One victim, publican Michael Roper, had the lights and front grille stolen from his Range Rover Sport outside his establishment in Oxenhope. The theft, which was caught on CCTV, was carried out by three men who arrived in a small white van.

Speaking to the Telegraph and Argus, he said: "You have now got to think twice where you leave these cars. It is rife. But it is such an easy crime – it is so fast. It took them about ten minutes maximum. They put a crowbar in between the front wing and the headlights. They wrecked the wing. There was no noise. They know how to disable the alarm on the cars."

The damage caused to his car was estimated to cost between £7,000-£8,000.

Mr Roper continued: "It basically needed a new front end."

"I have heard the lights are being shipped abroad, then sold on eBay to come back over here."

He went on to say around 40 other vehicles in the local area had been vandalised in a similar manner.

Local garage owner Peter Earwaker laid the blame at the feet of car manufacturers: "The manufacturers have got to take the brunt of the blame," he said.

"It is far too easy – it can take 30 to 60 seconds to steal a full set of headlights and grille from a Range Rover.

"We have had quite a few in. There has definitely been an increase."

West Yorkshire police stated that it had made eight arrests in connection with the thefts and that it had recovered a number of stolen parts.