Senior Constable Ben Johnson and Sergeant Ian Grigoris are warning people to lock their cars or face a $40 fine.
Senior Constable Ben Johnson and Sergeant Ian Grigoris are warning people to lock their cars or face a $40 fine. Karleila Thomsen

Lock it up or cop a $40 fine

LOCAL police have begun slapping $40 fines on people who leave their cars unlocked, under a new campaign that warns drivers to “Lock It or Cop It”.

Officers are hoping the threat of the fine will get people to stop and secure their belongings as the number of vehicle break-ins across the region, particularly on Hervey Bay’s Esplanade, continues to soar.

Driven by dog squad officers Ian Grigoris and Ben Johnson, the unique campaign is being carried out by all officers in the Maryborough police district, in accordance with the crime prevention unit.

Crime prevention co-ordinator Senior Constable Melanie Ryan said stealing from vehicles was up by 30 per cent this financial year.

“We’ve tried educational methods, flyer drops, getting the media to tell people not to leave their cars unlocked, but nothing seems to have worked,” she said.

Snr Const. Ryan said police could issue the fines under the Transport Operations Road Use Management Act to drivers who failed to lock their cars and walked away or left their keys in the ignition.

Those who left their windows down more than five centimetres also risked the fine.

When asked whether people slipping out of their vehicles momentarily, for instance to use an ATM, would be fined, she said that was up to the discretion of police.

“Police will be looking around and conducting patrols and if they deem a vehicle to be insecure, they will issue a fine,” she said.

While drivers could expect to be fined anywhere or anytime, the operation would also target crime hot spots like the beachfront and major shopping precincts, Snr Const. Ryan said.

Within the first half hour of the new campaign, a total of six drivers were fined by the dog squad.

“That was just from us walking past and seeing people’s windows down,” Sergeant Grigoris said.

“We are just astounded by the way people are so careless about their belongings.”

This month alone, more than 30 vehicles have been broken into in the Maryborough district, and those are just the ones that have been reported.

“People keep their rego (details) in the glove box, which has their home address on it for anyone to come along and find,” Sgt Grigoris said.

“It’s amazing how much personal information is left on a platter.

“We’re just trying to make people more aware and alert and not foolhardy.”

Sgt Grigoris said he and Senior Constable Johnson would also be doing “walk-throughs” of caravan parks to warn tourists about vehicle crime and the new campaign.

Police are also hoping to reduce the number of hours spent investigating vehicle break-ins, he said.

“If we can get people to spend an extra 30 seconds or a minute locking up, then the amount of crime will go right down.

“And the number of police hours spent writing reports and filing paperwork will be lowered and we can get the officers back out on the streets where they belong.”

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