DETECTIVES from the Mornington Peninsula and Frankston have charged 26 people as part of Operation Pandora which targets vehicle crime.
Seventeen of those charged since the operation began on 7 January have been remanded in custody and several stolen cars and large amounts of property recovered.
Charges include aggravated burglary, burglary, theft of a motor car, theft from a motor car, reckless conduct endangering life, and obtaining property by deception.
Those charged will appear at Frankston Magistrates’ Court at a later date. They include a Frankston North man, 25, on 40 counts, a Hastings man, 27 (10 counts), a Langwarrin man, 29 (30 counts), and a Baxter man, 23 (16 counts).
High-end cars stolen on the peninsula over the Christmas and New Year period included a Range Rover from Mt Martha and a Porsche from Safety Beach. Both cars had been left unlocked with the keys inside.
Detective Senior Sergeant Stephen McKenzie, of Frankston CIU, said the operation was started to “combat a large spike in vehicle crime”.
“The term vehicle crime does not adequately explain the danger and cost to the local community,” he said.
“In the holiday period we have had criminals entering houses in the middle of the night to steal car keys and being confronted by half-asleep occupants, causing emotional and occasionally physical harm.
“Police have been working extremely hard to identify and lock up those responsible, but need the public to help prevent it in the first place. We can forgive the forgetfulness, but we need to work harder together to minimise the harm.
“I ask the public to lock vehicles, not leave spare keys in vehicles parked at the same location, not leave valuables in vehicles, lock house doors and windows at night, and not leave car keys in obvious places.”
Detective McKenzie said stolen vehicles had been used in numerous crimes, such as ram raids, and were often found later “dumped and burnt out.”
“The majority of stolen vehicles are driven by criminals recklessly at high speeds, running red lights and often ramming police to evade capture,” he said.
“We’ve had criminals walking along an entire street, opening every unlocked vehicle and stealing cash, electronics, wallets and identification. They use stolen credit cards to buy goods before the owner even knows the card is stolen.
“They will use stolen identification to steal hire cars. They often steal registration plates and use them to avoid detection or commit petrol drive offs.”
Detective McKenzie said that while “prevention is largely the responsibility of the community, if the police need to be the cure then the criminals need to know we are active 24 hours a day”.
“We will find you, arrest you, and most likely find a prison cell to house you,” he said.
With Stephen Taylor