By Bonnie Malkin
Australian motorists who fail to lock their cars are risk not only being targeted by thieves, but also being stung by the police.
In a move that has been branded cruel and over-the-top by drivers, officers in the Yarra Ranges north east of Melbourne have warned careless car owners that they will be fined $358 (£216) if they don’t properly secure their vehicles.
The police have introduced the fine in an attempt to slow the spiralling number of car break-ins.
Thefts of valuables from cars in the region jumped 10.1 per cent in the past year, with 68 break-ins since the start of April, according to the Yarraville Leader. Almost 40 per cent of those thefts were from unlocked cars, police have estimated. Valuables stolen from cars include laptops, wallets, satellite navigation systems, cash and bags.
Leading Sen-Constable Graeme Rust, from the Yarra Ranges traffic management unit, said police had repeatedly warned people in the rural towns of the Yarra Ranges to lock their cars, but were largely ignored. As a result, police have decided to get tough, using a Road Safety law passed by the Victorian state government which allows the authorities to levy a fine on unattended unlocked vehicles.
“Did you know that if you do not switch the engine off, apply the hand brake, close the windows and lock your car you could be fined?” Sen-Constable Rust said.
“I urge everyone to look to see that valuables are removed or out of sight and make sure your car is locked before leaving it unattended.”
But the move has been strongly criticised by locals.
Commenting on the Yarraville Leader website, Peter Roehlen said: “Great country we live in. Make a simple mistake and if the crims don’t make a victim of you the cops will do it for them.”