Car theft: 25,168 taken for a ride28 July 2003 - DANDENONG, Preston and Sunshine have emerged as Melbourne's leading hot-spots for car theft in the past year, a report has found.
An study of RACV claims showed outer suburban locations are key targets for the organised criminal gangs and opportunist thieves who generate Victoria's vehicle theft problem.
New road and transport initiatives have dramatically lowered the rate of thefts since June last year, with figures down 27 per cent in the 12 months to the end of May this year.
The report found introduction of a 15-member motor vehicle theft squad and a nationwide register for written-off vehicles were the key factors behind the dramatic turn-around.
Stolen vehicle recovery rates have improved and are now up to 79 per cent, the survey revealed.
But Australia still has the second-highest rate of car theft in the industrialised world behind Britain, and Victoria's 25,168 thefts represent one car stolen every 21 minutes. The massive shopping centres, which sprinkle the suburbs, offer car thieves a smorgasbord of vehicles ripe for the picking.
Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons head the list of stolen cars, most from the early-to-mid-90s and many without built-in immobilisers. Experts say the availability of these cars and lack of security measures in older models mean they are easy targets.
About one-quarter of cars stolen are taken by professional thieves, with the remainder often more likely to be in the outer suburbs and recovered quickly.
Ray Carroll, head of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, said the statistics were encouraging, but could still be cut significantly.
"The signs are pretty good in Victoria. Certainly the Victoria police have stepped up their attention to car theft and there is a lot more attention to car theft."
Mr Carroll said that of the 3.4 million Victorian cars on the road, two million were not equipped with engine immobilisers.
"Even if they don't have keys, thieves can break in and break the steering wheel lock, and break the ignition lock and still do it in under a minute. The good ones can do it in under 30 seconds."
He said most mid-to-late '80s cars were almost comically easy to steal.
"The key profile is so worn that if you had a key of a 1985 Holden it would probably start half the 1985 Holdens around.
"If you had half a dozen keys on a ring, you could almost steal any of those types of cars."
RACV chief engineer Michael Case said the drop in car thefts came off a record high only two years ago.
"It is very encouraging, but it has gone down from a record base. There is still a lot more to be done,"he said.
Figures for June 2002 to May 2003
Car theft danger zone
Top 20 stolen vehicles
Car | Stolen | Recovered
1 Holden Commodore VL/1482/84%
2 Holden Commodore VK/1209/89%
3 Ford Falcon XF/1033/87%
4 Holden Commodore VH/720/91%
5 Holden Commodore VB/581/91%
6 Ford Falcon EA II/551/87%
7 Ford Falcon XE/537/89%
8 Holden Commodore VN/452/77%
9 Ford Laser KB/434/91
10 Ford Telstar AR/401/90
11 Holden Commodore VC/377/91
12 Ford Falcon EA/367/87
13 Ford Laser KA/336/92
14 Toyota Corona/265/89
15 Ford Laser KC/249/91
16 Toyota Tarago/244/91
17 Nissan Pulsar/243/89
18 Holden H Series/235/79
19 Ford Laser KE/222/90
20 Holden Commodore VT/219/60
Car theft hot spots
Car | Stolen | Recovered
4 St Albans/487/82%
7 St Kilda/425/83%
9 Richmond, Burnley/356/82%
10 Coburg, Moreland/346/79%
13 Sth Melbourne/292/77%
14 Broadmeadows, Dallas/276/74%
16 Prahran, Windsor/259/81%
17 Sth Yarra/242/81%
18 Fountain Gate, Narre Warren/229/82%
20 Nth Melbourne/226/83%
By JON RALPH
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