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