Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Police track where criminals most likely to break into cars

Highlighting the 'crime corridors' is helping to keep most forms of offending down, but car theft is going against the trend and showing a worrying increase

The back window of Graham Stride's car was smashed in, and the contents ransacked. Photo / Dean Purcell
The back window of Graham Stride's car was smashed in, and the contents ransacked. Photo / Dean Purcell

Busy retail areas in Takapuna, New Lynn, Silverdale and Henderson are the "hot spots" in Waitemata where motorists are most likely to have their cars stolen or broken into.

There are 132 vehicles broken into or stolen in the Waitemata district each week - the worst strike rate in the wider Auckland region - so police are sending more patrols to the high-risk zones to drive down the crime numbers.

As well as finding the areas most targeted by thieves, the intelligence-led policing tactics are also identifying who the recidivist criminals are most likely to be.

Analysis of the maps has also highlighted "crime corridors" where spates of crimes are committed by burglars or thieves as they travel across the city.

Total crime is tracking down in Waitemata - made up of Waitakere, Rodney and the North Shore - in spite of a population increase. But car crime keeps rising.

Last year, there were 6895 cars either broken into or stolen in the district.

Of those, 3967 were reported in Waitakere, 2055 on the North Shore and 855 in Rodney.

That's an increase of 19 per cent on the three-year average, according to Superintendent Bill Searle, Waitemata district commander.

Overall, property crime made up 55.7 per cent of the district's total crime and Mr Searle said this was being aggressively addressed.

"Overall, we're doing pretty well. But the pressure point is the unlawful takings [of cars]. It's nothing new, it always has been. We're not exactly sure why there's been a specific upward trend, particularly when we look at the fact that burglaries have gone down.

"What we have had is a number of groups of people who have been targeting cars. We've identified who they are and we've been targeting them as well. But I don't think there's a general reason for the trend," Mr Searle said.

The "hot spots" identified by police analysis of the crime statistics include McLaren and Stirling Parks near the Henderson and New Lynn central business areas in Waitakere; around the "main drags" of Hurstmere and Lake Rds in Takapuna on the North Shore, and the Silverdale retail area in Rodney.

Inspector Gary Davey, who heads the team focusing on property crime, said busy retail areas were often easy pickings for thieves because of the number of people and cars that moved through every hour.

"We can look to put patrols in place at the right time," he said.

"The more eyes and ears we have, the better. We're pushing hard for more eyes and ears."

To thwart thieves, protect people's property and bring the numbers down, Waitemata police were improving their information gathering and sharing methods and getting more cops into hard-hit areas at peak times.

"We've got better in our intelligence processes and we're targeting resources to greatest risk areas. We're getting very good at that," he said.

"It's all about proactive and preventive policing."

Police were also putting a lot of effort into attending as many "suspicious" activity reports as possible.

Mr Davey said anyone acting suspiciously could be a potential burglar or car thief and he encouraged the public to report anyone acting out of the ordinary, at any time of the night or day.

The police also sought to identify the "drivers of crime" in each area, such as family violence, youth crime and organised crime, in a bid to prevent crimes from happening.

"Rather than being at the bottom of the cliff, being at the top of it. We're looking at the underlying drivers. If we can prevent reoffending and people being revictimised, we can make a real impact," Mr Searle said.

"If we can get on to apprehending offenders quickly, we prevent further offending and further victimisation," he added.

Another way police identified the way criminals were offending was to look at their corridors of crime - the areas people offended in as they moved across the district.

Car thieves often gave good insight into crime corridors.

"We know that sometimes they steal a car and then commit burglaries on the way.

"We look at where the car was stolen and where it was recovered. That can give you an idea of where they may be travelling and what roads they are taking," said Mr Davey.

Thieves strike in busy carpark

A trip to the beach on a hot Sunday afternoon turned out to be more trouble than it was worth when Graham Stride's car was broken into and ransacked by thieves.

He drove to Anawhata Beach on Waitakere's west coast and went for a walk with his family. When he returned about half an hour later, he discovered the break-in.

"The carpark was really busy, it was pretty jammed. There were people coming and going all the time," he said.

"So we were pretty surprised."

The thieves smashed through the back windscreen of the Honda CRV, showering broken glass all over the kids' car seats.

"They just ransacked the car, but they didn't take anything. Ironically, the car has a tray underneath the passenger seat and that's where we'd left all our valuables. When we got back the cellphones and everything were still there."

Mr Stride said his car was the only one in the carpark broken into.

"It was incredible really, because there were so many people around."

Now, he leaves nothing in his car when it is parked. He has even resorted to leaving the glove box hanging open so any potential thieves will see very quickly that there's nothing worth breaking in for.

Getting the window replaced and dealing with insurance was the most annoying part, he said, and he wanted to avoid going through it again.

Cracking down on the sellers

Waitemata police are also clamping down on the sale of stolen goods. District commander Bill Searle said the harder it was to shift hot property, the less attractive it was to thieves.

Officers were working with second-hand dealers in a bid to crack down on what thieves could pass on.

"We are working with traditional second-hand dealers, also scrap metal merchants, [the] scrap metal recycling association and gold buyers," Inspector Gary Davey said.

"There are a number of burglaries where gold is stolen and we're looking to identify the related sales of gold to try and identify the offenders.

"We are consistently checking those second-hand dealers and their records."

Police were also working with victims of crime to prevent them being targeted repeatedly, which often happened.

"If someone has been burgled once and then burgled again, they get a high level of service and advice in trying to stop them becoming a victim again."

Prevent car crime
* Always lock your car, even when parking at home
* Keep all valuables and your car keys out of sight
* Park in a well-lit street or secure car park area
* Install visible security such as an alarm light or steering lock
* Never leave your car running when unattended

Top 10 Stolen Cars
1 Honda Torneo
2 Nissan Elgrand
3 Subaru Impreza
4 Subaru Forester
5 Subaru Legacy
6 Nissan Skyline
7 Nissan Presea
8 Mitsubishi Libero
9 Nissan Cefiro
10 Nissan Sunny
(Source: AA Insurance claims data 2007-2011)

- NZ Herald

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