POLICE will take to the streets next week in an effort to encourage the community to be vigilant about employing security measures to protect their property in an effort to drive down vehicle crime.
While many police operations target offenders, this one is different - it is a proactive operation aiming to educate the community about the risks associated with leaving valuables visible inside vehicles and with leaving doors unlocked.
With a high number of residents becoming victims of crime due to leaving their parked cars unlocked or with valuables such as laptops, wallets and GPS units visible within them, Ballarat police's proactive unit will be running Operation Help Yourself next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The role of the proactive unit is to work with members of the community in regards to different issues, including crime prevention. This includes ensuring the community is equipped to make decisions that reduce their chances of becoming a victim of crime.
Reducing vehicle crime is a priority across the police division but an important factor is the community ensuring they are not complacent about security measures, be it when parking in their own driveway or in the central business district.
Sergeant Lisa Macdougall said that offenders look for easy targets.
"Generally they look at any number of vehicles and the ones that seem to be an easy target are the ones that will end up being broken into, or if it's already unlocked, then it's even easier for them," she said.
Throughout the operation, police will target areas of high vehicle crime to not only increase the visible police presence in those areas and to reassure the community, but also to provide advice to vehicle owners.
Police will focus on areas such as car parks, including at the Ballarat Station, as well as main roads within the CBD.
By checking car doors and peering into vehicles, police will identify people who have left their vehicle in a vulnerable state.
Sergeant Macdougall said police would then attempt to contact the owner, either by knocking on their front door or by contacting them by phone, before sending them an information pack in the mail containing tips about how to remain vigilant about security to prevent being an easy target for an offender.
"While we will always have our investigation unit that targets offenders, from our perspective in the proactive unit, it's about engaging with the community and providing education opportunities," she said.
"This is a way to increase the police presence and to be able to educate the people whose vehicles may be left in a vulnerable state."
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