Three weeks into Op Nitro, launched in early June, there has been a dramatic drop in stolen cars and thefts ex cars in Christchurch.
Detective Inspector Malcolm Johnston says that he is delighted in the way concentrating police resources on known offenders and hot spots has resulted in a dramatic reduction in car offences.
"In April/ May there were on average 17 theft ex cars every day and on average 6 cars stolen," he says. "However in the three weeks since the operation began, only 2 to 3 cars have been stolen daily and about 6 theft ex cars reported each day. While the weather has helped us, the high visibility patrolling by uniform officers in the various shopping malls and central city is certainly paying off."
OP Nitro was set up to focus on unlawful takings and theft ex cars during June in a concerted effort to reduce these crimes.
Detective Inspector Johnston says that people are still helping criminals by leaving goods easily seen in vehicles.
"If you leave interesting looking items in cars you are inviting criminals in," he says. "The hottest commodities being stolen are lap tops. You can walk down any Christchurch street or around a Mall car park right now and see these lying on car seats. It is a sure way to have your vehicle broken into and lose your lap top."
There has also been a surprising number of radar detectors stolen over the last few weeks. Police are checking Trade Me, Buy Sell and Exchange and with second hand dealers in an effort to track these.
"Alternatively," advises Malcolm Johnston, "If you drive within the speed limits, you won't need one of these so it won't get stolen!"
"We have also good results with our some bait vehicles which we have left in various shopping mall car parks. We are warning people that if they break into them and run off from police, that we have police dog handlers on standby and they risk being bitten."
Detective Inspector Johnston said that a youth recently ran from a stolen car, did not stop when warned and was bitten by a police dog.
People at home are asked to report anything they see suspicious as they see it rather than waiting until a theft ex car or burglary is reported.
"Too often when we make inquiries around a burglary, we hear that someone was in the area asking about a lost dog, or inquiring about a fictitious person," he says. "Be vigilant and report suspicious behaviour. Time and time again police hear that someone saw something the previous day."
The four most common stories from people knocking at your door and probably looking to break into your home that should make you suspicious are:
Looking for a lost dog
looking for work
looking for a 'person' who could live there
checking the street number eg is this number 45 Smith Street?
"There are many highly professional female thieves out here too. Often young women are sent in on the initial approach to see if anyone is there. They are often late teens to early twenties, and tidily dressed. If no one is home these people will break into your home and text their mates to pick them up."
"Even if you are only going out for a short time, make sure your home is secure. Criminals will often be cruising in modern, (often stolen) vehicles and see someone going out. They will then drive into the address with a view to breaking in. If you are at all suspicious of someone cruising by, drive around the block and go back to check on your house to ensure the vehicle has not driven up your drive. If it has, note down the number and dial 111," Malcolm Johnston advises.