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Absent-minded motorists in Oamaru are being told they are making it too easy for thieves, after a police information campaign intended to encourage car-owners to lock vehicles found seven cars unlocked in the space of just 10 minutes.
Following a spate of thefts of vehicles and unsecured belongings police have conducted a leaflet campaign and issued a ''lock it or lose it'' warning to motorists in the town.
Senior Constables Carrie Hamilton and Graeme McPherson yesterday carried out checks on parked cars in central Oamaru, and were staggered by the number of vehicles left unsecured.
In just 10 minutes they discovered seven cars left unlocked, including one with the keys in the ignition and one with a purse on the passenger seat.
Snr Const Hamilton said she was ''surprised'' that so many people had left cars unlocked.
Snr Const McPherson said it was ''just too easy'' for thieves.
Unattended vehicles should be kept locked at all times, and valuables hidden from plain sight, even if the driver had just gone into a shop for five minutes, he said.
He said he was also concerned that although some cars had been locked, purses and handbags, which presented a tempting target for thieves, had still been clearly visible.
Detective Sergeant Dan Keno said for the past three to four weeks, the area around Fleet, Exe and Ouse Sts had become a ''hot spot'' for thefts of vehicles and belongings.
''There have been about 30 cars broken into and probably in excess of 40 dishonesty offences.''
Det Sgt Keno said the problem had been made worse by many people leaving vehicles and car garages unlocked.
He said all the incidents would now be reviewed to see if there was a ''common denominator'', but in the meantime, it was necessary to educate the public on the importance of securing vehicles and ensuring valuables were not left on display.