New crime figures reveal Victoria’s car theft hotspots

Suburban house with car parked out front.

Sue Hewitt

Posted October 22, 2019

Car burglary statistics reveal the train station might be safer than your driveway.

The safest place for your car is at home, right? Wrong. New Victorian crime statistics show thieves target cars parked at private residences, including houses and flats.

Almost half the 18,627 cars stolen across the state in the year ending June 30, 2019 were taken from the home, including the driveway, garage and front yard, according to Crime Statistics Agency figures.

Carparks are another hotspot, with 1062 cars stolen from both single-level and multi-storey carparks, 358 from railway carparks and 267 from shopping centres.

Thefts from vehicles were also more likely to happen at home. Of the 56,284 incidents reported, 26,427 happened at residences, compared to 17,105 from cars on the street.

The top five municipalities for car theft were the cities of Hume, Casey, Greater Dandenong, Whittlesea and Moreland.

While recent models, especially top-end cars, have sophisticated security systems that make them difficult to break into, about 70 per cent of stolen cars made after 2001 are taken using the owner’s keys, according to Neighbourhood Watch Victoria chief executive Bambi Gordon.

She believes hype linking home invasions to thieves breaking in to search for car keys may be causing some people to leave their keys out in the open to avoid intruders. 

“It’s not protecting you; it’s giving your car away,” she says. “Most car thieves are opportunistic, lazy and run away if they’re seen. If you put your keys out of sight and lock your doors and windows when you are at home, they will just move on.”

Geoff Hughes, who heads up the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council agrees that most thieves are opportunistic. He says most cars stolen are valued under $10,000 and are stripped for parts or scrap metal to be sold locally or overseas.

The council compiles its own statistics which, unlike the Crime Statistics Agency figures, exclude vehicles that have been recovered. The council’s figures show 12,889 cars were stolen and not recovered in Victoria in 2018-19.  

The most common car stolen in Victoria in the 2018-19 financial year was Nissan Pulsar 1995-2000 models. Next in line was the Holden Commodore VE (2006-13), followed by two versions of the Nissan Navara – the D22 and D40 (2001-15), and finally the Holden Commodore VY (2002-04).

The council found that 43 per cent of vehicles stolen in Victoria were worth less than $5000.

In contrast, models worth more than $50,000 made up only two per cent of vehicle thefts in the state – even if the combined value of the 375 cars in this category was more than $29.4 million.

Overall, the total value of passenger and light commercial vehicles stolen in Victoria in the last financial year was more than $164 million.

Thief attempting to break into a car.

Thefts from vehicles are more likely to happen at home.


RACV’s head of vehicle engineering Michael Case reveals five ways you’re making your car a target for thieves:

  • Leaving the keys in the ignition. As obvious as it seems, leaving the keys in your ignition, even when the car is in your driveway, is an invitation for opportunistic thieves. Michael warns drivers not to fall into this common trap when ducking into a convenience store or petrol station for a few minutes.

  • Placing car keys in obvious spots inside the house. Michael says we must break the habit of leaving our keys in places like a hall table, kitchen bench or wall hook. He says you should choose an unusual place.

  • Leaving valuables in the car. If you can see that smart phone in the console, so can a thief. Valuables are a temptation to criminals and once they’ve broken in, they can steal your car. 

  • Not using the garage. Michael says every bit of added security that delays a thief may put them off. If you have gates or a garage, lock the car behind them. (Security cameras and home security systems can also be a deterrent.)

  • Letting your garden overgrow. Thieves look for overgrown gardens to hide in when stealing a car from a yard or driveway.