Seventeen people have been arrested in five cities in the United States and Mexico today as part of the FBI's 'Operation Dual Identity', a campaign to shut down one of North America's biggest car cloning rings.

Car cloning is the practice of making a stolen car appear to be legal by 'cloning' legitimate identification such as license plates and VIN numbers.

People in Tampa and Miami, Florida, Chicago, Illinois and Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico were part of the ring, which the FBI says has been in operation for over 20 years and has stolen and cloned over 1,000 vehicles worth a total of about $25 million.

To help prevent such a ring from forming again, and to eliminate the practice of car cloning on any scale, the FBI is implementing a National Motor Vehicle database. The system basically lets each state share its vehicle registration and identification data with the others.

Currently, each state operates on its own and sharing data is difficult or impossible on a wide scale. With the new network of state information, finding cloned cars will hopefully become so quick that it won't pay for thieves and re-sellers to go through the costly and time-consuming process.

The end goal of the program is to reduce vehicle theft by making it unprofitable - if the stolen cars can't be sold, there's no business in it.