DANGEROUS TREND: A car crash involving a stolen BMW on Stafford St, Silkstone.
DANGEROUS TREND: A car crash involving a stolen BMW on Stafford St, Silkstone. Sarah Harvey

Hide the keys! Thieves targeting high-end cars

BRAZEN car thieves are breaking into homes and stealing keys so they can commit crimes and go on joyrides in luxury cars.

Police are fighting the trend but officers are frustrated their hands are tied by the policy of not pursuing cars escaping arrest.

Inspector Dave Preston said there had been an increase of about 35% in stolen cars in the Ipswich police district since July.

"There is an increase in relation to the higher end vehicles," Insp Preston said. "We've seen the likes of BMW, Mercedes, SS Commodore; they have anti-theft devices built in but if you've got the car keys, they don't work.

"So the easiest thing for these people to do is do a sneak break on a house and take the keys.

"We're developing strategies and putting messages out to get people to realise they can't leave their keys on benches or on hooks because of the sneak grabs. We want people to hide their keys; we started a campaign that last year.

"We've picked up that more than 50% of the cars stolen this year have been stolen using their keys."

He said there was also an increase in stolen cars being used to commit other offences including ram raids to steal alcohol or food.

Often, if the car runs out of fuel, another car is stolen or the people fill up with fuel at a service station then drive off without paying.

To combat petrol drive-offs, police are working with service stations to alert them to suspicious vehicles.

"With the assistance of the Safe City cameras and the console operators we feel we're having a bit of a win; we've noticed a decrease in recent times because of the resources we've poured into it," Insp Preston said.

Officers have told The QT police are frustrated they are not allowed to pursue stolen cars but Insp Preston is comfortable with the policy.

"We're not going to put our officers at risk or anyone in the community at risk and pursue them unnecessarily but we've identified other ways of stopping them and we will take that action; every car carries stingers," he said. "We've also got the Automated Plate Recognition Vehicle here and every time it passes a vehicle, within a split second it brings up the registered owner and it also brings up stolen vehicles.

"We have guidelines we are bound by and that depends on the circumstances that have led up to police attempting to intercept that vehicle.

"While the majority of the time we don't pursue, there is policy there that allows us to do so but under the right circumstances."