Only a fraction of Suffolk car criminals are brought to justice - but police insist they are taking vehicle crime seriously
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Police chiefs today insisted they do take car crime seriously – despite figures showing that hundreds of car vandals and thieves have been getting away with the offences in Ipswich.
Despite hundreds of vehicles being damaged in the town every year, less than 6% of vandals were charged and only 2.5% of thefts from vehicles saw anyone charged for the crime since 2010. In the 12 months to May this year alone, more than 700 thefts from cars were reported to Suffolk police, of which only 18 saw any justice, while 798 reports of criminal damage resulted in just 41 people being charged.
Now senior police figures have insisted that criminals will not get getting away lightly - and have called for the public to be more vigilant and security-conscious.
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: “The figures show that overall crimes of this type are decreasing which is good news, however I can appreciate that the solved rates for these types of crime are not good.
“The number of people charged is disappointingly low but it is really important that we don’t give the impression that this type of loutish behaviour is tolerated, it certainly is not.
“The Constabulary has continued to promote the ‘Close it, lock it, check it’ campaign to encourage drivers to ensure their parked vehicles are left locked and secure, with items out of view. We need to do all we can to protect our own property so it is important that we remove sat-navs, cameras, handbags and laptops from our vehicles if they are parked.”
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer added: “Car crime has come down dramatically in the last 20 years but one crime is one too many, so I hope that these remaining thefts are dealt with by the police with the urgency they demand.
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“It feels like a gross intrusion when someone takes something important and there is clearly more to do.
“I certainly wouldn’t want people to think they can get away with it because they can’t.”
The figures, released under Freedom of Information laws also revealed that the number of thefts had reduced by 260 incidents of car vandalism has reduced by around 242 incidents in the last five years, but officers are aware that for most people, one violation is enough.
Detective Chief Inspector Barry Byford of Suffolk Police, said: “We recognise that having your vehicle damaged, stolen, or having items stolen from it can be upsetting, annoying and inconvenient, and any incident reported to us will be investigated, but it is often a difficult crime to solve without forensic evidence and witnesses.
“This is one of the reasons we make appeals for drivers to remember to lock their vehicles and to remove all valuables before leaving cars and vans unattended, as this can make a real difference.
“Where possible forensic evidence does exist, crime scene investigators will examine the vehicle and officers will carry out enquiries if CCTV or witnesses can give a description of the offender.”
The AA regularly experiences call-outs to cars that have been broken into or vandalised, with common problems including valuable items being left on show, catalytic converters being stolen and drivers accidently unlocking the car with the key buttons by mistake.
AA Spokesman Ian Crowder, added: “It can be surprisingly common because buttons on remote devices can be quite sensitive, and we find that fuel is often stolen by someone piercing a hole in the fuel tank as well.”
In light of the news, police have urged car-owners to take action and not leave their cars at risk.
DCI Byford added: “We have many cases where one or two offenders are responsible for a series of crimes – for example someone who goes out and knocks wing mirrors off a series of cars in one road or who tried door handles until they find vehicles which are unlocked and then make a search.
“However, you can take some simple, inexpensive steps to make your vehicle less attractive to thieves. The easiest of these is to make sure you’ve locked and check you have locked your car – and by not leaving any valuable items on view.”
Police officers are also urging car-owners to lock their cars in garages where possible, postcode their property and fit immobilisers.