Gaming experts are tipping that the next instalment of the hit car theft game will go on sale in 2012. And theft experts believe GTA and similar games are behind a dramatic drop in car stealing. Mainly because thieves have turned into couch potatoes with the rest of us.
National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council executive director Ray Carroll says the number of car thefts in Australia has plummeted 65 per cent from a peak of 129,923 in 2000/01.
"One of the reasons I believe is that youth culture has changed over the last decade," he says. "Where stealing a car on a Friday or Saturday night used to be the thing to do for bored youths, now they have moved on to a more electronic world and are just as likely to be home playing Grand Theft Auto on the Xbox than out doing the real thing. It's one of those things we think is happening; we can't be definitive. But a lot of car theft was spontaneous theft for joyriding by young people. Now they are doing a lot less physical things."
The latest National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council report shows most stolen and recovered vehicles are still taken by local thieves for short-term purposes, such as joyrides.
The most dramatic falls have been in short-term thefts for joyriding (down 70 per cent from 114,766 in 2000/01 to 34,155 last year), rather than profit-motivated thefts by professional crooks (down 23 per cent from 15,157 to 11,659).
In the last financial year, more than 60 per cent of cars were recovered within 10km of where they were stolen and 45 per cent were in the same suburb.
Cars stolen and dumped in the same suburb were more likely to be recovered within one day and two out of 10 after 14 days. Local joyriders target cheaper cars which are easier to steal, the research found.
Carroll says another key ingredient in reducing car theft is that they have been made more difficult to steal with the introduction of immobilisers in all new cars from 2001.
"You can't hot wire a modern vehicle, so thieves have had to get smarter by stealing keys and transponders. There are also still about five million older, unsecured cars on Australian roads without immobilisers. So you can't necessarily stop someone from stealing a car but you can make the effort of disposing of it or turning it into cash more difficult or risky."
Carroll points to tougher state registration laws regarding written-off vehicles.
However, he says most stolen and non-recovered cars are taken for profit so crooks will "modify their behaviour" to find a way around the legislative barriers.
"They are shifting to new methodology such as theft for scrap or parts," he says. "They often steal a car off the side of the road and are not worried about re-registering. We think the crooks will switch to methodology such as using stolen parts in the legitimate and non-legitimate repair trade and then scrapping what's left of the car."
While car theft has decreased, theft of motorcycles has increased over the past five years with the growing popularity of two-wheeled transport, Carroll says.
"They are particularly difficult to deter crooks because half of the bikes stolen are off-road bikes and not registered," he says. "It's like trying to stop people stealing TVs which are not part of any registration system. They're also particularly open to dismantling and selling for parts. People can dismantle one in their loungeroom if they want to. And the parts are really popular especially for more expensive road bikes which only have to fall over in the garage to damage expensive fairings. So there is a very active and lucrative black market in bike spare parts."
He says bike portability also makes them prime theft targets.
"You can have immobilisers, but two people can just pick one up and throw it in the back of a ute. We suggest people chain them to something strong and immovable, although the crooks just come along with powerful bolt cutters, anyway."
The council report shows that almost 60 per cent of all stolen and recovered motorcycles are found within the same suburb, indicating they are stolen for local transport. Carroll says light trucks, vans and trailers are greater theft targets than big prime movers.
"Very few prime movers are stolen and not recovered. However, trailers are big targets," he says. "Truckies leave them parked at the side of the road and thieves usually steal trailers for its cargo so it usually turns up abandoned."
|DISTANCE FROM THEFT TO RECOVERY
|CAR THEFTS (includes light commercial vehicles)
||Short term thefts
||Theft for profit
||Short term thefts
||Theft for profit