Cairns police determined to put an end to free rides
THE rising rate of car thefts in Cairns has prompted police to launch a fresh campaign against offences that, in part, uses sarcasm to drive home common sense about vehicle security.
In the past six weeks, police have laid 55 car-theft charges. Five youths were charged with a combined 40 offences on Friday, hours after a 13-year-old Aurukun boy terrorised a Manunda neighbourhood in a stolen vehicle.
The juvenile crime problem has forced police to launch a new anti-car-theft campaign one that puts the onus back on vehicle owners to keep their car keys safe.
"Spare a thought for the thieves in our community just like you they probably need personal transport at Christmas time as well," the police statement says.
"Will you be prepared to extend the seasonal goodwill to the point of surrendering your car to opportunistic thieves?"
Cairns police acting District Officer Peter Mansfield said one in three car thefts was linked to house break-ins and 20 per cent of vehicles was generally left unlocked.
"So there is a direct nexus between some of these break-ins and unlawful use of motor vehicles," he said.
The campaign comes as furious victims have warned of the potential for rough justice if the crime wave continues.
A Kanimbla man, who asked not to be named, had his car stolen while away on holiday, despite hiding the keys securely inside the house.
"These kids think it's fun, but for us to have to turn around and pay a big (insurance) excess, it's just a joke," he said.
"I've now got a $1200 bill to pay after coming back from overseas.
"Something has got to happen really quickly because people are going to start taking matters into their own hands."
Cairns Child Protection and Investigation Unit Detective Sen-Sgt Glenn Horan said no part of Cairns had been left untouched during the spree.
"It's just random. There's no rhyme or reason as to why," he said.
"They've moved to Redlynch, White Rock, Edmonton, Manunda and everywhere in between including the northern beaches.
"It's ridiculous that people have to hide their keys but that's just what this has come to."
RACQ Insurance figures show almost 50 per cent of car thefts come from the owners' home - either the driveway, garage or the road in front and spokesperson Mike Sopinski said there had been a number of claims in Cairns over the past fortnight.
"Our latest research indicates the emergence of an alarming new trend in vehicle theft with thieves now targeting cars parked at homes," he said.
"We have observed a significant increase in the incidence of thieves now targeting car keys.
"Keys have been frequently stolen during home break-ins, either as an opportunistic "find' or as a deliberate theft target, thereby enabling vehicle theft, too."
Cairns police Sen-Constable Russell Parker said 80 per cent of cars stolen were recovered, "but in what state they'll be in is anyone's guess," he said.
"But they need the keys. They haven't got the know-how or the ability to hot-wire a modern car.
"People have just got to start taking responsibility. If they want their cars stolen, we can give them plenty of ideas how to make it happen."
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Warning: Sen-Constable Russell Parker with a damaged car. Picture: MARC McCORMACK