Thieves target easy prey

By Sandra Conchie

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Tauranga car owners are making it far too easy for thieves to make a quick buck by leaving valuable items on show in their parked cars.

A Bay of Plenty Times Weekend survey of 200 cars in regular shopping areas at Fraser Cove Shopping Centre and downtown Tauranga in Elizabeth and Grey Sts found that in 147 vehicles there was nothing of real value on show.

But in the rest there were plenty of expensive goodies up for grabs.

These items included four backpacks; nine handbags; two computer bags; three mobile phones, one of which was on its charger; four bunches of door keys; a Kindle electronic book reader; packed suitcases and camping gear; a newly purchased foot massager; and expensive sporting gear.

Five cars were also loaded with groceries, including booze as well as wrapped presents.

Several cars contained backpacks and a Land Rover was packed full of suitcases, bedding and loads of gifts already wrapped for the recipients.

On display in one car was a newly bought free-standing fan and rice cooker, in another shopping bags containing expensive Alonso Andretti shoes and lingerie.

There was a pile of rented DVDs on the back seat of one vehicle and inside another was a surfboard, backpack and camping gear.

Two cars had a portable audio device cords or a phone charger in view which could have aroused a thief's curiosity and may entice them to break in to see if there was anything in glovebox or boot.

Nationally there were 35,976 "theft ex-car" (theft from car) offences for the 2011/2012 year compared to 37, 954 the previous year, which accounts for slightly more than nine per cent of all recorded crimes last year. There were 2,443 thefts from cars reported in the Bay of Plenty region for the same period, down from 2,575 in the previous year. That's slightly more than 7 per cent of total recorded crime in the region.

Suzanne Wolton, head of customer relations at AA Insurances, said new items were often left in parked cars and people hurrying to make last-minute Christmas-New Year purchases sometimes did not follow the safety precautions they normally would.

"Thieves will steal brazenly from under your nose, especially if you make it easy for them or leave tempting items on display," Ms Wolton said.

She said it was not just fashion items or high-tech gadgets but also Christmas/New Year groceries and gifts at this time of year which were tempting to thieves. "[Most] car break-ins occur in and near people's homes, so it's important that you lock your car and remove anything valuable from display, even if you think it's parked somewhere safe, and that includes your driveway," Ms Wolton said.

AA Insurance's message was to take extra care with your belongings this summer.

"Ensure that your house is well locked up, take all your valuables out of your parked car, and make sure that you can't see anything worth taking. It would be a shame to have your holiday ruined by thieves looking to make a quick buck," she said.

Tauranga police Senior Sergeant Nigel Ramsden agreed. Most car break-ins related to insecure cars or people leaving their valuables on display.

"It only takes a second for a someone to smash the window and grab what they want ... There are people out there wandering the streets looking for something to steal. That's their job," Mr Ramsden said.

If people had to leave valuable items in their vehicle they should store them in the glovebox, boot or under the seat and should also ensure their car was locked and the windows were shut, he said.

"It's important to minimise the opportunity by removing the temptation for thieves," he said.

Mr Ramsden also suggested people park their cars in well-lit and well-populated areas. Although there had only been five car break-ins reported to Western Bay police since December 20, often people did not report this type of crime.

He said it was important that any criminal offending was reported to police as the victim might help solve other crimes under investigation.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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