CAR thefts on the Mornington Peninsula shot up to 356 in the year to March – compared with 265 last year and 290 in 2014.
At the same time there were 318 reports of malicious damage to cars on the peninsula – up from 260 last year and 244 in 2014.
Despite this increase, claims by RACV insurance policy holders on the peninsula for stolen cars have dropped over the past year, according to acting general manager Insurance Mark Geraghty.
The insurance provider said it had received 10 claims for stolen cars and 20 claims for deliberately damaged vehicles.
Mr Geraghty said the figures “represent a welcome decline in car thefts”.
However, figures from the Crime Statistics Agency on Thursday show car thefts have jumped 30 per cent.
Victoria Police recorded 18,853 vehicle thefts across the state in 2015 – 13.5 per cent higher than the previous year.
Thefts from motor vehicles also jumped to an average of more than 150 a day, with 89 per cent of those offences not being solved, according to a Crime Statistics Agency news release in March.
Mr Geraghty said the data highlighted the need for motorists to take steps to protect their cars.
“Don’t underestimate a thief’s determination,” he said. “More than five per cent of RACV vehicle theft claims last year involved the thief stealing car keys from inside a house before taking the vehicle.
“Don’t leave your car keys in plain view – even inside your own home.”
Mr Geraghty said that keys were sometimes left in the car’s ignition or elsewhere in a car in a locked garage, making it easy for a thief who has broken into the garage.
The cost of vehicle damage caused by vandals and thieves also rose last year. The average RACV claim increased to more than $3000 and more than $3 million was paid to cover claims from its members.
Mr Geraghty said most malicious damage resulted from vandals breaking into vehicles, smashing windows, keying or scratching and denting bonnets and car roofs.
“Car thieves favour the Nissan Skyline3, but the vehicle most frequently targeted by vandals was the Mazda CX-7,” Mr Geraghty said, using figures based on the number of RACV insurance policies on each model, compared to the number of insurance claims for theft.
“Many people wrongly assume night is the danger time for damage to be inflicted and for cars to be stolen, but RACV claims data shows that car thieves are most active between 6am-noon and vehicle vandals are mostly active during daylight. However, they can strike at any time and motorists should identify safe places to park at all times.
“If you have to park on the street, do so in a well-lit, busy location. It’s important that you take your valuables and accessories with you, make sure your windows are up and lock the vehicle.”
Mr Geraghty said that with the average car theft claim costing more than $12,000 and malicious damage costs escalating, motorists should ensure they have the right insurance cover to avoid costs.
Frankston was rated 10th among RACV car theft insurance claim areas, with 31 claims.