WELLINGTON Shire has recorded the highest insurance bill for malicious damage to vehicles in Gippsland.
Figures from RACV Insurance show of 53 malicious damage incidents in Gippsland last year, there were 23 claims in Wellington, with a total bill of $50,240.
Claims in Gippsland totalled more than $136,000.
Malicious damage was most often the result of vandals breaking into vehicles, smashing windows, keying or scratching and denting bonnets or car roofs.
Baw Baw recorded 11 claims, costing $18,087, while South Gippsland had just three malicious damage incidents, but recorded the second highest insurance claim payment total of $27,178.
East Gippsland recorded 10 claims amounting to $21,739, while there were two claims in Latrobe City, totalling $2611.
RACV Insurance general manager Paul Northey said deliberately causing damage to another person’s vehicle was a criminal offence.
He said collectively, deliberately damaged vehicles cost millions to repair and caused significant inconvenience for motorists.
“Last year, RACV Insurance paid out more than $3.5 million to members whose vehicles had been maliciously damaged,” Mr Northey said.
He said while it may be difficult to stop a determined vandal, motorists could take steps to protect their vehicles.
“With the average malicious damage claim costing $3000, motorists should ensure they have the right insurance cover to avoid a hefty repair bill,” he said.
“One of the best preventative steps to protect your vehicle is to park off the street in a secure garage but if you have to park on the street, do so in a well-lit, busy location.
Mr Northey said global positioning system devices were growing in popularity and a target for thieves.
“Leaving your GPS holder fixed to the windscreen or iPod charger plugged in is like leaving your wallet on the dashboard.
“Always remove the GPS from display, as well as the support bracket and suction pads if possible,” he said.
Mr Northey said data showed most attacks were between 6am and midday.
“Many people assume night is the danger time for damage to be inflicted, but the evidence shows that vandals can strike at any time, so we encourage motorists to identify safe places to park at all times,” he said.
“Take your valuables and accessories out of the car, make sure your windows are up and lock your vehicle.
“These simple steps may prevent a motorist becoming a victim of crime.”
Sale Senior Sergeant Mick Morris said Victoria police received more than 48,000 reports of theft from motor vehicles in 2013-14.
He said frustratingly, in 7351 of those cases, there were no signs of forced entry, that is, more than 7000 people failed to lock their vehicles or close their windows.
“We know this sort of crime is opportunistic,” he said.
“These crimes occur when doors and windows are left unlocked, but thieves will also smash a car window or break locks if they see valuables left in plain sight.
Sen-Sgt Morris said many other crimes followed on from thefts from cars including deceptions, where wallets and credit cards were stolen and then used to buy goods.
“Police across the state are actively targeting thieves with proactive investigation teams operating in areas where thefts are expected to occur.
“But we’re also asking for help from the community,” he said.
“There are a number of simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of theft.
“Lock your car at all times, even when parking at home in the driveway or garage.
“Don’t leave valuable items in full view of passers-by – take them with you if possible.
“Park in well-lit and secure areas if possible and report suspicious behaviour to police immediately via triple zero.
“Leaving your vehicle unsecured is actually an offence with a $148 fine.
“It is not a fine we issue often, and we don’t want to fine people over something that is so simple to prevent.
“We want people to hear our simple message — remove your personal items and lock up,” he said.