NISSAN is handing over new cars to persistent car thieves in a bid to encourage them to turn informer and aid the war against car crime.
The Japanese car manufacturer will supply cars to seven young offenders' institutions to help with the new national vocational qualification in car crime awareness.
In return, young offenders will be expected to divulge the tricks of their trade.
Inmates will be asked to fill out forms saying what time of day they steal cars, which ones they target, how long thefts take and whether alarms are a deterrent.
Research conducted during a pilot study showed car thieves who had completed the 30-hour programme were much less likely to reoffend. A year later, only 30 per cent of former inmates had re-offended compared to 80 per cent of all young offenders who reoffend within two years of release.
Stewart McKee of Nissan said: "We know that this programme is going to reduce car crime, but perhaps it will also help reduce the huge waste of these young people's lives who keep getting locked away."
But he admitted the company had a commercial interest in tackling car crime. He added: "Car crime costs a lot because we endure high insurance rates which affect car sales."
Car crime is higher in Britain than anywhere else in Europe, with a car stolen every minute.
The new programme will use shock tactics to educate young offenders about the impact of joy-riding. Paramedics will show films of simulated and real accidents and injuries. Neil Sowerby, a prison officer who is helping to develop the programme, said: "It's pretty graphic stuff. Young offenders aren't scared of death, but they are frightened of being maimed."