Hide your valu­ables – or they’ll be gone

How well are we do­ing at help­ing our­selves not to be­come the vic­tims of a com­mon but in­fu­ri­at­ing crime? Even though the num­ber of thefts from cars has taken a dive in the last year, po­lice still recorded 6792 in­ci­dents. Reporter Emma Whit­taker vis­ited car

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

If I was a thief I would be rub­bing my hands to­gether men­ac­ingly.

It’s a sunny af­ter­noon near a pop­u­lar Auck­land at­trac­tion and the pick­ings are rich.

The area around the Auck­land Zoo is a pop­u­lar hunt­ing ground for thieves look­ing to break into cars, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Other top spots in­clude the ar­eas around the Mt Al­bert shops, Western Springs Col­lege, the St Lukes shop­ping cen­tre and neigh­bour­ing Mega Cen­tre, and the Bal­moral Ware­house car park on Do­min­ion Rd.

Po­lice reg­u­larly pa­trol the sites as a way of putting thieves off and to ed­u­cate peo­ple about not mak­ing them­selves tar­gets.

So I am sur­prised at what I find on Great North Rd and in the zoo’s car parks.

There’s a good crop of GPS sys­tems still invit­ingly at­tached to wind­screens, what ap­pears to be a purse sit­ting un­der the back win­dow of one car, a hand­bag on a back seat, power tools, cig­a­rettes, iPhones or iPods plugged into stereo sys­tems, and a taxi with a lap­top and GPS in full view.

I man­age to get a good look through the taxi win­dows be­fore the driver wan­ders up the road to ask me what I’m do­ing.

In fact he is one of the few peo­ple who seems to no­tice me peek­ing and peer­ing into ve­hi­cles.

In St Lukes it’s a sim­i­lar re­sult and I don’t get ques­tioned once.

Even though I prob­a­bly don’t meet peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions of what a thief should look like, my be­hav­iour is ex­actly the type peo­ple should be re­port­ing to po­lice, Pon- sonby Com­mu­nity Polic­ing Team Sergeant Ge­off Med­land says.

‘‘It’s a bit of a fail­ing if no­body called po­lice. A lot of peo­ple don’t want to call. They think it’s an emer­gency if they’re hurt, or if some­one is beat­ing them up, but if some­one is look­ing into cars they are prob­a­bly go­ing to com­mit a prop­erty crime and we want to stop them.’’

Prop­erty crime, in­clud­ing thefts from cars, tends to dom­i­nate crime sta­tis­tics in the Auck­land City Po­lice Dis­trict and is a fo­cus for of­fi­cers.

An­nual crime fig­ures for the year end­ing in June show there were 2990 fewer thefts from cars than in the pre­vi­ous year, but there were still more than 6000 in­ci­dents. The cost of this type of crime is not in­signif­i­cant.

AA Insurance alone re­ceived 450 claims for theft from ve­hi­cles in the past year with the av­er­age claim cost­ing about $1930.

Head of cus­tomer re­la­tions Suzanne Wolton says cus­tomers are ex­pected to try to se­cure their prop­erty.

Items which are not part of the car, like sun­glasses and cloth­ing, are not cov­ered in car insurance and in­stead a per­son would need con­tents insurance to re­place them, she says.

Pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and an in­creased pres­ence in prob­lem ar­eas are ways the Pon­sonby Polic­ing Team is try­ing to tackle the is­sue as well as look­ing at en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors like light­ing and signs in trou­ble spots.

‘‘Ev­ery area is unique and one so­lu­tion won’t work in ev­ery area. We need to be thought­ful about what is caus­ing it – is there just one bad house of crim­i­nals nearby, or is it some­thing else?’’

Ul­ti­mately in­di­vid­u­als need to get on board.

Even the small­est items are enough to at­tract an op­por­tunis­tic thief and driv­ers need to be cau­tious in all ar­eas.

Re­cently there was a spike in thefts from com­mer­cial carparks in New­mar­ket.

‘‘Crim­i­nals knew that all of the busi­ness­men were leav­ing their lap­tops in the car.

‘‘Don’t give an op­por­tunis­tic thief the chance, put valu­ables away and out of sight.’’

Photo: EMMA WHIT­TAKER

A prob­lem: Theft from cars is drop­ping but it is still a ma­jor is­sue in Auck­land.

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