Technology can help take on Victoria’s plague of car thieves
By Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill
THEFTS of and from motor vehicles continue to challenge authorities. Over the past two years we have seen dramatic changes in the way criminals steal cars and an unprecedented spike in the theft of number plates.
Although the high number of offences is of concern, the good news is that we have seen a significant reduction in these crime categories over the past six months and this downward trend is continuing.
Vehicle-related crime impacts the community both socially and financially and Victoria Police is working closely with key partners, including government and industry, to identify and implement effective solutions to the problem.
Victoria Police has revised the way it prioritises vehicle-related theft and is committed to continually improving its understanding of what is driving the problem.
The efforts of police have been supported by our partners, through the establishment of co-operative arrangements and appropriate sharing of information. These arrangements have significantly enhanced awareness of vehicle-related theft — and how to avoid becoming a victim of it — across industry and a broader community base.
Credit also goes to the people of Victoria, who have an improved sense of understanding and awareness in regard to vehicle theft and increased acceptance of responsibility for the security of property.
Victorians rely heavily on motor vehicle transport in their daily lives. The cost and inconvenience of having a car stolen can be particularly disruptive and can significantly impact livelihoods and quality of life.
The change in the way criminals are stealing cars has largely been driven out of necessity — as offenders have had to overcome increased vehicle security technologies in order to commit their crimes.
Change has also occurred in regard to where vehicles are being stolen. In the past, shopping centre and railway station car parks provided the main target for car thieves.
More cars than ever are now being stolen from residential streets — outside homes or from driveways, carports and household garages.
Vehicle owners are more aware of the risks associated with leaving vehicles unsecured and leaving valuables in them.
There is also increased awareness in regard to leaving car keys in obvious places in the home, with a broader understanding that some car thieves are prepared to break into houses in order to acquire keys.
There is certainly an organised, profit-motivated aspect associated with a number of vehicle thefts.
Many of these vehicles are never recovered and end up being sold for scrap, parted out or even shipped overseas.
Others are used for serious criminal activities, including the commission of armed robberies, commercial burglaries and shootings.
The majority of recovered stolen vehicles have been used for short periods of time, often by young offenders who engage in high-risk behaviours such as hoon driving or evading police. These activities place the community and others, including police and the offenders, at significant risk of being injured or even killed.
As a police officer I see far too many incidents of car theft and the impact it has on innocent people, particularly the victims of these crimes.
I am personally aware of offences that have occurred in my own neighbourhood, resulting in changes in the way our family goes about daily life.
We never leave anything of value in our cars. Our cars are always locked, even if they are in our locked garage, and we no longer leave our keys in obvious places such as the kitchen bench or on the hook by the back door.
I can assure the community that Victoria Police is committed to reducing the harm caused by vehicle-related theft. This commitment has resulted in the establishment of dedicated vehicle crime teams, networked across state, targeting thefts of and from vehicle offences and the criminals who commit them.
Our crime teams are supported by enhanced forensic examination processes and intelligence capability, specifically focused on disrupting offending and targeting criminal individuals and networks. We are now apprehending and putting more car thieves before the courts in Victoria than ever before.
Our policing effort is set to go to the next level. In partnership with the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council we will introduce a GPS vehicle-tracking trial before the end of the year. This is a potential game-changer in terms of eliminating vehicle theft.
These trackers will enable police to monitor, track and recover vehicles quickly and effectively and also reduce opportunities for stolen vehicles to be used to commit other crimes.
Vehicle-tracker technology can be activated using a mobile phone application, which the owners of stolen vehicles can use to alert police who now have the capability to track the movement of the vehicle from the state monitoring centre.
While Victoria Police and our partners continue the work to further reduce vehicle-related theft, we encourage the community to reduce their chances of becoming victims of crime.
You can prevent your car being broken into or stolen by following these simple tips:
ALWAYS be conscious of the security of your car keys and your vehicle.
PARK your car in a well-lit area or a locked garage if possible.
ALWAYS store your car keys in a secure and hidden place at home.
NEVER leave valuables in your vehicle and ensure it is always locked.