CAR thefts in Cardinia Shire during the past year have increased by almost three times the overall state rise.
The figures come as Victoria overtook New South Wales to become dubbed the nation’s stolen car capital.
Police statistics show that Cardinia saw a 14 per cent rise in thefts after 187 cars were stolen in 2014-15, up from 163 in 2013-14.
Over the same period Victoria recorded a 5.3 per cent increase in car thefts with more than 13,600 cars stolen across the state, taking it to the top of the list for car thefts Australia wide.
In the latest Cardinia theft spree four cars were stolen over the space of four days in Pakenham and Officer.
Cardinia Crime Investigation Unit (CIU) Detective Senior Sergeant Trevor Smith said three cars were stolen between noon on Sunday 22 November and early the next morning.
In one case, thieves entered a commercial premises in Officer South Road during the day on Sunday 22 November by cutting a hole in the fence before breaking into a 2004 Kia Ute which they then used to ram open the gates to make their getaway.
And a luxury car was also taken from an property in Eagle Drive, Pakenham, between 11pm on Sunday 22 November and 6.10am on Monday 23 November.
The owner told police they did not hear the white A5 Audi, registration XUU UUX, being taken despite it being fitted with an alarm.
CIU Detective Sergeant Phil Jury said thieves did not have a preference for any particular car model but warned owners that unlocked cars made easy pickings.
He said the number of auto crimes has increased significantly in recent years and blamed owners who left their cars unlocked for the rise.
Sgt Jury also said the corresponding increase in unlocked homes was contributing to the problem.
He said thieves were getting into unlocked homes and making off with loot which included keys to cars that had been left in the garage.
“It’s becoming fairly common,” he said and suggested car keys should be left out of sight in the home.
In one case thieves rummaged through a home in Flinders Park Drive, Officer, at 2.15am on Tuesday 24 November, taking off with the keys to a 2006 white Toyota Corolla which they stole and later used in a petrol drive-off.
In another incident four days before thieves stole a car after gaining entry to a home through an open laundry window and found car keys.
There was no difference in the rate at which cars remained permanently missing with 63 per cent of stolen cars, or 118 vehicles, recovered in 2014-15.
Despite the rising theft rates, police figures show that police are getting better at finding stolen cars with 25 per cent more cars being returned to their owners in Cardinia Shire in 2014-15 compared to 2013-14.
Police have reportedly asked the government to ban cash for scrap metal because they say that the trade provides a lucrative outlet for stolen cars.
It is believed stolen cars are being traded in to unlicensed operators for as little as $50 to support ice addiction or fuel criminal activities.
The report is due to be handed down by the Victorian Law Reform Committee.
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