A spike in thefts from parked cars over the holiday period has prompted Wollongong Police to issue a warning to residents.
A total of 53 thefts from vehicles were reported to police in December throughout Wollongong – with Woonona the hardest hit suburb with 15 separate incidents.
Wollongong Local Area Commander, Acting Superintendent Chad Gillies, said the majority of vehicles targeted were unlocked, while most of the thefts had occurred at night or in the early hours of the morning.
“There was an unusually high number of thefts from parked cars in December – and this can be an under-reported crime so there may be many incidents we’re not aware of,” A/Supt Gillies said.
“While it does coincide with the holiday period, it also highlights the fact that people are being very complacent and leaving cars unlocked in driveways and leaving valuables inside.”
Wallets, loose change, garage remote controls, house keys and mobile phone chargers were the most common items stolen.
“People are leaving valuables on seats or in consoles and thieves are ransacking these cars for these smaller items which they can keep or on-sell,” A/Supt Gillies said.
“There’s always the concern that further offences can then be committed after the initial stealing, such as using cards for fraud or to withdraw funds through payWave. Stolen remotes and keys could also be used later to break into homes.”
A/Supt Gillies said streets in and around Wollongong’s CBD had been targeted as well as streets in Woonona around Memorial Drive, including Royal Crescent, Lighthorse Drive, Liamina Avenue, Kareela Avenue, Park Road and Kialoa Road.
Woonona resident Gayle Hull was one of those targeted.
“Our car was parked on the drive,” she said.
“It was a shock to find the door open and the contents of our glove box strewn on the seats one morning.
“There was nothing of value to take but it’s a worry that this happened on what is normally a quiet street.
“We’d urge our neighbours to be aware and to make sure they don’t leave valuables in their cars.”
A/Supt Gillies added: “It’s definitely opportunistic and we are working on a number of lines of inquiry – we believe some of the incidents are linked but not all of them and are asking anyone with information about people or groups involved to contact Crime Stoppers or their local police.
“It’s frustrating for police as the majority of these thefts were preventable if people took some simple precautions, so we are asking people to refocus their attention to their home security and asking them to make sure they are locking their vehicles and not leaving valuables in them.”
A/Supt Gillies said Wollongong police would be conducting a community engagement session from 11am to 1pm on Friday, January 5 at The Circle at Woonona to highlight the issue. “Residents are also invited to bring up any other issues of concern with police.”