An alarming increase in burglaries has Oamaru police issuing a stern warning to "lock it or lose it".
Over the past two weeks more than 30 vehicles have been broken into and had items stolen from them.
Oamaru police Senior Constables Graeme McPherson and Carrie Hamilton turned heads yesterday as they tried door handles and peered through the windows of cars parked in central Oamaru areas to alert owners to the spike in crime.
They placed leaflets on the windscreens of insecure and secure vehicles, informing drivers of the increase in the number of thefts of, and from, unsecured vehicles in Oamaru and urging them to pay attention to security.
In the first 10 minutes, eight vehicles were found to be unlocked.
Of those found insecure, one had the keys in the ignition and another had a wallet on the front seat.
The officers reported a long list of valuables that could have been taken.
Smartphones, handbags, cash, wallets, GPS devices and iPods were all among the potential haul, left in clear sight in empty vehicles.
Oamaru police Detective Sergeant Dan Keno said the break-ins had been occurring right across Oamaru and at all hours of the day and night. The majority of the vehicles that had been broken into were left insecure, enabling thieves to carry out the thefts in a matter of minutes, he said.
"This kind of crime is opportunistic. Some simple good habits when it comes to securing your vehicle and finding a safe place to park can be all it takes to stop your vehicle becoming a target," he said.
In addition, more than 40 dishonesty offences have been reported to Oamaru police, all within the same areas.
"The areas that have been targeted in the last three to four weeks are Fleet St, Exe St and Ouse St, and around Colne, College and Clare Sts," Mr Keno said.
He said police were in the process of reviewing all of the cases to determine if there was any common denominator.
There was a common misconception among locals that small towns were immune from such offences, he said.
Mr Keno said the community could put a real dent in vehicle crime in Oamaru, by taking heed of some simple tips:
- Don't leave things on display in your vehicle.
- Keep valuables (money, mobile phone, cheques, credit cards) on you, or at home - not in the glove box or under a seat.
- Keep bags, luggage, coats etc locked out of sight in the boot.
- Keep a record of car stereo serial numbers.
- Install a car alarm and electronic engine immobiliser.
- Use a steering wheel club or lock, lockable fuel cap and wheel nuts.
- Etch your registration or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on windows, windscreens and headlights.
"If you follow these simple tips you can reduce the opportunity, frustration, expense and inconvenience of vehicle crime. Remember that if you see someone behaving suspiciously in your neighbourhood, call 111 immediately at the time you see it happening," he said.
"If you are going away over Christmas, it is important to talk with your neighbours or someone you trust to let them know and ask them to keep an eye on your vehicles and house."
Anyone with information on any of the offences can contact the Oamaru police on 03 433 1400 or Crimestoppers line 0800 555 111.