24 Apr 2024

Hamilton cars stolen at a rate of six a day

4:52 pm on 24 April 2024

By Mayane Garcia of NZ Herald

Close up on car thief hand pulling the handle of a car. Car thief, car theft concept

Police also recorded 50,791 instances of "illegal use of a motor vehicle" across the country in 2023. Photo: 123RF

Data released in response to an Official Information Act request made by the Waikato Herald showed 2289 vehicles were reported stolen in the Hamilton City area between 1 March, 2023, and 29 February this year.

The number equates to an average of 190 vehicles reported stolen each month or six per day.

The 2289 stolen vehicles included 560 Toyotas, 367 Mazdas and 349 Nissans. A total of 1754 stolen vehicles were later recovered.

Vehicles were most often stolen from Ulster St (nine reports) and Victoria St (eight reports).

The news comes as the latest publicly released victimisation data showed 30,109 thefts of motor vehicle parts or contents nationally in 2023.

Police also recorded 50,791 instances of "illegal use of a motor vehicle" across the country in the same period.

Hamilton resident Patricia Goh said she was not surprised by the numbers.

"Before moving to Hamilton I had never had my car stolen," Goh said.

"I lived in Dunedin, Wellington and Nelson and had no issues whatsoever."

Then Goh moved to Hamilton. Just before her first Christmas in the city, her car was stolen off the street while she was at work.

"It was devastating."

Police later found Goh's Toyota Fielder abandoned in a cul-de-sac. Its engine was still running.

"There was a Santa bag left behind in the car but they'd thrown my belongings out and scratched up the inside."

Goh lived for two months without a car while her vehicle was repaired. Two months later, the car was broken into again at a different location.

"It was really frustrating. They tried to hotwire it and it didn't work. But they damaged the ignition so I had to get it fixed again."

After the second break-in, Goh decided to sell the vehicle to a friend.

She purchased a car with a keyless start instead because it was the only way she felt safe leaving her car parked on the street.

Brothers Jakub and Alex Dowd said it was "crazy" to think six cars could be stolen in Hamilton a day.

Jakub, 19, said his car had been broken into while on a walk with a friend mid-last year.

"They broke through the small back window and they just took everything inside the car and then just left."

Jakub, a sport and human performance student, said the most valuable thing in his bag were a year's worth of lecture notes he'd written out by hand.

"It felt like a violation of my privacy. It makes you feel not really safe, to be honest ... that someone can have the drive to just do something like that."

Jakub's bag was found and returned to him empty. He had to go through all his past lectures and rewrite his notes.

"That was the most painful thing to come out of it."

Alex, 17, usually parks his car 10 metres away from the family driveway. Last year, he got up at 6.30am to go to his Wintec course early only to find he couldn't get into his own vehicle.

"They fully stuffed the locks but they might have seen it was a manual and been like, 'Nah, we can't drive that'."

Alex said not even one car should be stolen in Hamilton per day, let alone six.

How to avoid your car being stolen

In a statement, the police media and communications team said vehicle owners needed to be vigilant and always ensure their vehicles were locked and keys removed.

"Where possible, park your vehicle in a secure area, preferably off the street or better yet in a garage or a well-lit area," the statement said.

"Remember to remove all valuables including important documents from the vehicle and keep them out of sight. Items left in plain sight can make a vehicle more appealing to offenders."

The advice also included investing in an alarm, steering lock, wheel clamp or other theft-prevention devices.

"Consider installing CCTV cameras around your home and garage or driveway area where you are likely to park your vehicle," the statement said.

"Keep bushes and trees edging your home trimmed so that there is more visibility and less opportunities for offenders to hide."

The statement said police understood that having a vehicle stolen or items taken from vehicles could cause major stress to people and impact their everyday lives.

"Police take this offending seriously and encourage people to always report any stolen vehicles or suspicious behaviour to police," the statement said.

"We also need the public's help when it comes to preventing this offending. It's important that vehicle owners take steps to ensure their vehicles are locked, securely parked and valuables removed to lessen the attraction for offenders.

"Removing items such as wallets that contain bank cards with payWave can also protect people from a spate of further financial losses."

- This story was first published by the New Zealand Herald.

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