Car theft is driving Ballarat’s rising crime rate, while the number of homicide and rape offences have decreased.
Ballarat police are employing a number of taskforces to target the recidivist offenders who they say are largely responsible for the 21.6 per cent rise in theft.
“The recidivist offenders are hitting us hard and we are aiming our resources at them,” Ballarat Inspector Bruce Thomas said.
Crime Statistics Agency quarterly statistics show property and deception offences have increased by 21.1 per cent since 2014.
The total number of offences in the Ballarat region increased by 10.1 per cent. The number of offences per 100,000 was up 7.8 per cent, compared to the statewide change of 6.2 percent.
Inspector Thomas said police figures showed theft of motor vehicle and theft from motor vehicle made up a high percentage of the property and deception offences. The rise in the number of offences was directly linked to a rise in theft of and from motor vehicles, he said. Crime against a person, which include homicide and rape, was down 6.4 per cent while drug offences were down 12 per cent.
“Theft from motor vehicle and theft of motor vehicle is up considerably,” Inspector Thomas said.
“(Those thefts) make up for most of the increase. A large percentage of the cars are unlocked.
“People that steal from motor vehicles are opportunists. If they see something that catches their eye, they will try to get into the car.”
The rise in theft is reflected statewide proving, said Inspector Thomas, that it is “not just a Ballarat problem”.The majority of these offenders across Victoria are young. Statewide, stealing from a motor vehicle was highlighted as a key factor in the rising number of thefts, with a 22.6 per cent increase over the past five years. Theft of number plates rose 18.2 per cent.
Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said this statewide trend showed the majority of offences were committed by re-offenders, a trend reflected in Ballarat. He said opportunistic thieves would check hundreds of cars before they found an unlocked vehicle to target.
He said 90 per cent of motor vehicle offenders are young offenders who have a history. Thefts of number plates are also common, with the plates utilized to commit other crime. Inspector Thomas admitted the statistics were “concerning” but said police were engaging all resources to reduce crime.