Late last night I had a depressing ‘phone call from my uncle, who lives in Little Venice, close to London’s Paddington Station.

It’s a pretty smart area, and the roads are lined with some pretty attractive upmarket metal. However over the last couple of days one street in particular has suffered the loss of some serious upmarket plastic.

He told me that sometime on Saturday a BMW 330Ci had its front bumper stolen. Apparently, the whole lower front end, including the numberplate and fog lamps, had been neatly removed at the roadside.

Then, on Sunday evening, a previous-model M5 suffered the same fate. At 2pm, the M5 was in one piece. By 6pm, it, too, had lost its front bumper, fog lamps and numberplate.

Removing a front bumper at the side of the road is impressive, never mind pulling it off in broad daylight.

I thought this sort of sub-scum behaviour was all in the past. Back in the early 1990s, Golf GTis were particularly targeted. The wife of one motoring hack had the windscreen taken out of her Golf overnight and my brother’s Mk2 GTi 16v lost its side rubbing strips.

Those simple black plastic strips were targeted because they were otherwise unobtainable factory-issue and identified by a red ‘16V’ logo.

A few years ago I suffered my own component theft. I had a nice 1989 BMW 318 auto, which herself used for commuting into central London. It was particularly nice example, which had spent all its life in rural Hertfordshire.

Some clown ran a screwdriver along the bonnet, so I took it local, family-owned, garage to have it re-painted. When the car came back, somebody had swiped the immaculate front bumper and replaced it with a bashed-up version.

The garage mumbled something about ‘parking damage’ and replaced it straight away. But we all knew some scumbag in the paint shop had nicked it. Immaculate factory E30 bumpers are very rare.

Anyway, it seems that the trend of nicking the desirable (and detachable) bits of upmarket cars may have returned to our streets.

Apparently, we should expect a rise in crime during a recession, but the only thing I expect is that the scumbags won’t get caught.

So if you see a base-model 3-series Coupe wearing an upmarket front-end, don’t bet on the driver having ordered it from his local BMW dealer…