Police target owners rather than thieves in car crime battle
A NEW tactic in the war on thieves appears to be paying off.
After a big rise in the number of thefts from vehicles, police in Mutley and Greenbank have started targeting the owners rather than the criminals.
Since the middle of November they have been writing directly to people who leave their property on view in their vehicles.
PCSO Kirsty Down said a jump in the number of thefts from motor vehicles prompted the new tactic.
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Since the start of this year there have been 149 recorded break-ins to vehicles in Mutley and Greenbank, compared with 104 in 2011. Items stolen include laptops and Satnavs, stereos, CDs, bags and clothing.
Nothing on view is safe: in one break-in the thief escaped with just 15p.
Operation Broadleaf, the latest idea, started on November 21.
Since then there have been no vehicle break-ins in Greenbank and just five in Mutley. More than 13 would have been expected based on the year's figures.
PCSOs in Mutley and Greenbank have been going from street to street checking for cars whose owners have left their property on display.
When they find one, they write directly to the owner pointing out the risk.
"We warn them that they are parking in an area of high crime, and tell them about Operation Broadleaf," PCSO Down said.
In a month they have written 137 letters about items ranging from Satnavs to sports bags.
"One vehicle had a Satnav attached to the window. It was switched on and the door was unlocked," PCSO Down said.
"Mobile phones and iPhones are common, and we have seen handbags on front seats and golf bags on view."
She said many of the vehicles were owned by students, so the thefts tail off in the summer when they are away.
Addison Road in Greenbank appears to have the most careless drivers. The PCSOs found 20 vehicles with property on show in a street not much more than 400ft long.
One owner was apparently unmoved by the personal attention: he or she has already had two letters.
"It's hard to say which is the most risky area. I wouldn't say one road is more likely to be targeted than another," PCSO Down said. "We have had so many break-ins all over our patch.
"We advise people to try to park in well lit, overlooked areas, or well used streets, if they can.
"If you are going to park in a back lane, then we advise you to take everything out of your car."
Before the personal letters, the police tried using general mailshots, the police website, Twitter and Facebook with no apparent success.
"Now Operation Broadleaf targets owners directly so we hope our letters are not thrown away as junk mail."
The success of the operation is set to spread to other parts of the city. It is being taken up by PCSO Paul Stewart in Stonehouse.