The number of short-term vehicle thefts hit a record low last year, the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) says.
Some 31,523 passenger and light commercial vehicles were reported stolen, down 6% on 2013, the insurance industry-backed group’s figures show.
Short-term vehicle thefts in Queensland fell 18% to 6074, while NSW dropped 15% to 8371. SA and WA fell 12% and 3% respectively.
Tasmania, the ACT and NT recorded negligible increases, but Victoria experienced a marked rise, up 11% to 8358.
NMVTRC Executive Director Ray Carroll says the rise in Victoria reverses declines in 2012/13 but mirrors a 10% increase in 2011/12.
The state’s increase is almost all attributable to a known group of young offenders in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, according to Mr Carroll.
“We do know that over that period there’s been a relatively small group of young offenders who go on crime sprees and they can steal more than 20 cars a week,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “We’re talking about a relatively small group of offenders who can have a big impact on [theft statistics] volatility.”
Mr Carroll says the cars are stolen for joy-riding and are also “enablers of crimes” such as burglaries and robberies.
He says the legal system has been unable to stem the thefts in Melbourne’s poorer northern suburbs. “The police are doing their jobs, they’re arresting the offenders; the courts are doing their jobs, they’re putting the offenders in jail. The problem is what we do with them when they get out of jail.”
Mr Carroll says the Victorian figures also reflect “worsening youth unemployment and the alienation of young people” in poorer suburbs.
He believes this may become a factor in other states, particularly NSW.
“How we deal with this issue is something that the whole community – not just the police or the politicians – has to address.”
Profit-motivated passenger and light commercial vehicle thefts increased 5% nationally to 10,438 last year. They were up in all states and territories, except SA and ACT, which experienced small decreases.