Unlocked cars are an invitation to thieves, according to latest figures from An Garda Síochána.
One-third of all vehicles broken into in residential areas had been left unlocked by the owner, and An Garda Síochána is appealing to motorists to park smart.
Figures show that 8,571 vehicles parked at residential locations were broken into between 2015 and 2017. Of those, 2,824 were reported to be unlocked.
The analysis also shows the most common location for these thefts was in driveways, and that half occurred between midnight and 7am. Such thefts are happening throughout the country.
On average, more than €340,000 worth of property was stolen from vehicles each year. Property stolen included cash, laptops, tools, sunglasses, jewellery and sports equipment.
Gardaí are appealing for all vehicle owners to ensure they lock their vehicle no matter where it is parked, and not to store valuables in the car, but if necessary, then to keep them out of sight.
Sgt Kelvin Courtney from the Garda crime prevention national centre of excellence says most are avoidable.
“Wherever you park your car or van, we would always advise you to take your property with you and ensure the vehicle is locked, alarmed and parked in a secure, well-lit location," he says.
“Many of these thefts, particularly at residential locations, are avoidable with an average of 33 per cent of vehicles being left unlocked in the last three years. Unfortunately, this poor practice has risen as 38 per cent of vehicles were unlocked when they had property stolen from them in January 2018. We’ve even seen cases where two vehicles from the same household were unlocked and broken into.
Sgt Courtney says sometimes it is impractical to remove tools and equipment from vehicles, but in such cases, owners should take extra steps to ensure the safety of their property.
"Additional locking mechanisms to vehicles should be fitted. Consider a monitored vehicle alarm and tracking devices for valuable property. Reduce the payoff to the thief by marking and photographing the property and take a record of serial numbers, makes and models. Download the household property register for free from the Garda website for records.”
According to the Garda's stolen motor vehicle investigation unit, the vast majority of cars illegally entered are done using the vehicle’s key. The vast majority of vehicles stolen continue to be taken with keys obtained in burglaries. And An Garda Síochána advises car owners to avoid leaving keys them on the hall table or near a door/window where they can be easily taken.
Regional breakdown of thefts from unlocked vehicles between 20015 and 2017:
Dublin: 1245; Eastern: 532; Southern: 411; Western: 261; Northern: 234; and South Eastern: 141.