Simple measure puts the brakes on thieves

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014
Geoff Austin
Kelly Dennett
SIMPLE SOLUTION: Neighbourhood Support Waitakere chairman Geoff Austin took part in the Safer Plates initiative with Waitakere police.

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Police and Neighbourhood Support Waitakere are stopping crime in its tracks by removing the very thing that enables it.

The pair joined forces at Pak 'n Save Lincoln Rd on Thursday to make some small adjustments to people's licence plates.

They're replacing standard screws with unique ones which aren't easily removed with a Phillips screwdriver.

Waitakere police Inspector Claire Humble says licence plate thefts can be a precursor to more criminal activity including petrol drive-offs.

"The crime often begins when criminals steal a number plate from another car, put it on their own vehicle, fill up at the pump and then drive off without paying," she says.

"They then have a full tank of petrol in their car to drive right across the greater Auckland area to commit more crime, such as stealing cars."

The Safer Plates initiative is part of a wider clampdown on what police call "volume crime".

Operation Vapour is headed by Mrs Humble and is targeting crimes such as petrol drive-offs, burglaries, car thefts and shoplifting.

Although they don't know why, police say volume crimes traditionally increase during March.

In response police are using a variety of methods to stop crime including having checkpoints at motorway off-ramps known to be used by recidivist offenders as well as utilising vans with automatic number plate recognition technology which alerts police to vehicles of interest.

Shoppers will also notice an increased police presence at shopping malls to target shoplifters.

Maori, Pacific and ethnic volunteer wardens will also be patrolling on foot through troublesome areas.

The operation will take place across Waitemata police district which encompasses West Auckland and the North Shore.

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