OVER 200 charges have been laid as a result of a Frankston and Mornington Peninsula police crackdown on thieves who gain access to cars and break into homes by opening unlocked doors.
26 offenders were arrested during the first three weeks of Operation Pandora, with 17 of those remanded in custody. Charges laid include aggravated burglary, burglary, theft of a motor car, theft from a motor car, reckless conduct endangering life, and obtain property by deception.
Frankston Crime Investigation Unit Detective Senior Sergeant Stephen McKenzie said the operation was started to “combat a large spike in vehicle crime”.
“The term vehicle crime does not adequately explain the danger and cost to the local community. In the holiday period we have had criminals entering houses in the middle of the night to steal car keys and being confronted by half asleep occupants, causing emotional and occasionally physical harm,” he said.
“Police have been working extremely hard to identify and lock up those responsible for vehicle crime, but need the public to help to prevent it in the first place. We can forgive the forgetfulness, but we need to work harder together to minimise the harm.
“I ask the public to protect themselves by locking vehicles, not keeping spare keys in vehicles parked at the same location, not leaving valuables in vehicles, locking house doors and windows at night, and not leaving vehicle keys in obvious places.”
Det Snr Sgt McKenzie said that stolen vehicles had been used in numerous crimes such as ram raids, and were often left “dumped and burnt out.”
“The majority of stolen vehicles are driven by criminals recklessly at high speeds, running red lights and often ramming police to evade capture,” he said.
“We’ve had criminals walking along an entire street, opening every unlocked vehicle and stealing cash, electronics, wallets and identification. They use stolen credit cards to buy goods before the owner even knows the card is stolen. They will use stolen identification to steal hire cars. They often steal registration plates and use them to avoid detection or commit petrol drive offs.”
Among the cars stolen over the Christmas and New Year period were a Range Rover from Mount Martha and a Porsche from Safety Beach. Both cars were left unlocked with the key inside the vehicle.
Det Snr Sgt McKenzie said that while “prevention is largely the responsibility of the community, if the police need to be the cure then the criminals need to know we are active 24 hours a day. We will find you, arrest you, and most likely find a prison cell to house you.”