A jump in stolen cars is so worrying, police are now revving up owners who forget the basic rules.
Manurewa's Southmall shopping centre is a "hot spot" for car crime, along with Homai and Manurewa train stations.
Police are now stepping up patrols in these areas and will be looking inside cars for valuables and making sure doors are locked.
They'll also be leaving notices on windowscreens reminding owners to keep their valuables out of sight.
Thieves are committing easy crime because owners are forgetting basic rules, Counties Manukau police Sergeant Richard Bull says.
"People aren't always locking their vehicles and you do have offenders who are trying out door handles . . . if it's too tricky to steal they won't steal it, they'll move on to the next one.
"June to September is the traditional peak period in vehicle crime.
"We've seen an increase in the last month - more than in the last three years - and there is a certain degree of alarm."
Latest crime statistics for Counties Manukau show close to a 30 per cent increase in cars thefts between 2010 and 2013. A total of 3613 cars were recorded stolen in the area just last year.
Some cars are stolen for aggravated robbery and burglaries, but many cases are committed by young offenders during the winter months for "joy riding" and because "they don't want to get wet and it's cold", Bull says.
"We will be conducting extra patrols through the hot spots and people will see a police presence in these areas."
Prevention manager Inspector Richard Middleton says more work needs to be done to tackle the number of cars being stolen.
"We are putting a lot of work into reducing the number of car thefts and thefts from cars, but we need the public's help.
"We aren't seeing the decrease in thefts from cars that we would like to see. Taking a few simple steps to secure your valuables can ensure you don't become a target."
Data released by AA Insurance last month shows 92 per cent of theft claims were for cars older than 10 years.
The Honda Torneo and Subaru Impreza topped the list of most frequently stolen cars in the country.
AA Insurance customer relations boss Suzanne Wolton says car thieves are opportunistic.
"New Zealand has a large number of ageing, imported cars and our claims show that older models, which have less-advanced or no security features than newer vehicles, are easy targets.
"Thieves will always go for the easiest, fastest option, so if you make it just a little bit harder for them then chances are they'll lose interest in your car," she says.
Manurewa town centre manager Wendy Dunn says business association members are always keeping an eye on cars in the area and will leave notes reminding owners to be careful if windows are left down.
"We absolutely support the police in the proactive goal of reducing car crime," she says.
Meanwhile, Bull urges people to report any suspicious behaviour to police and to make use of crime prevention initiatives like SNAP which allows owners to register their valuable possessions.
Visit snap.org.nz for more information.
- Manukau Courier
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