Waikato police are urging people to take more care with their cars in the wake of a successful police operation that targeted car thieves and burglars in the Huntly area.
Twelve people were arrested and 13 juveniles referred to youth aid as a result of Operation Hotwire, where police targetted known car thieves and burglars. The special operation lasted for two weeks earlier this month. Police interviewed a number of people, including several known to be active offenders. Those arrested face a variety of charges ranging from car theft and thefts from cars, to burglary and receiving. The juvenile offenders have been referred to youth aid for the same offences. They range in age from 13 to 16.
Waikato police District Commander, Superintendent Kelvin Powell, said the operation was organised in response to a growing concern about car thefts and thefts from cars throughout the region.
"Hopefully, police operations like this will act as a deterrent to offenders who think they can steal cars and take things from cars whenever they like. Our message to them is -- you will get caught eventually."
But Mr Powell said while police were doing their utmost to curb the problem of car crime, it was also important that the public took some responsibility. Last week (9-15 June) there were 67 thefts from cars in the Waikato region. Of those, 53 were in Hamilton City and 14 were in the regional towns. About one third of those offences were committed in a public place like car parks or on the street. In many cases, items had been left in cars in full public view -- "which is just an open invitation to steal," Mr Powell said.
So far this year, 336 cars have been stolen in Hamilton City alone, with 134, or 40 per cent, recovered by police. In the last month, there were 290 thefts from cars in the city. Mazda Familias and Subaru Legacys continue to be the most popular cars stolen. Police recovered 67 per cent of the Familias that were stolen, which Mr Powell said was an indication that they were probably being used for joyriding. Police are also concerned about a developing trend of utes being stolen, particularly Toyota Hiluxes and Mitsubishi L300s.
Mr Powell said people should carefully consider their options when it comes to their cars and preventing thefts.
"It is just plain common sense to lock your car wherever it is -- whether it is parked on the street, in a car park, in your driveway and even in your garage. Car thieves these days are very sophisticated. They work quickly and quietly and are often skilled in what they do. Car owners have to be aware of this and they should take precautions wherever possible."
Thefts from cars are also a major problem for police. Items stolen from cars range from sunglasses and clothing to wallets, computers, jewellery and cellphones. The most popular items stolen from cars though are radios and CD players.
Mr Powell said people should follow simple car safety measures: Always lock your car, no matter where it is; never leave anything visible in the car; lock any valuables or items in the boot if you must have them in the car; invest in a car alarm or anti-theft device; park in well-lit areas at night and never park in isolated areas.
It was also imperative that people reported any suspicious activity to police immediately, including car details like registration numbers and car models.