Police Apathy Over Stolen Cars ‘Just the Tip of the Iceberg’ for Auckland Man

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Article Source Stuff

A man who has had multiple cars stolen from his South Auckland business says police “just don’t want to know about it”.

Six cars were stolen in broad daylight from Ian Charlton’s Manukau rental car company, Rent a Dent, over a period of two years – putting him more than $20,000 out of pocket.

But Charlton said when he reported it, police had no interest in doing anything.

The 46-year-old father of four came forward after news on Sunday of a Wellington man taking justice in to his own hands to recover a stolen trailer, and claiming similar police apathy.

Charlton said his experience with police is worse.

“We had five cars stolen last year and one so far this year. I’m not talking about late at night, breaking glass and hot wiring the car. People come in and rent a car off us … and literally just don’t bring the car back.”

He said crooks would present false details and stolen credit cards, and there was little way of knowing they were fraudulent until they didn’t return the car.

Police insisted they were actively investigating two reports of stolen vehicles from Charlton’s business.

But Charlton said he has never seen any evidence of a police investigation.No police officer has ever turned up at his company to get even basic details of the thefts, he said.

“If there was an ongoing investigation they would come and get a statement off us, they’d get information, but they just don’t.

“I can honestly say we’ve never actually dealt with a policeman regarding any of the cars that have been stolen off us; not once has one police ever came to my yard and said ‘we’re investigating this case, can we have more information?’.

“All you can do is go to the front desk of the Manukau police station and leave a statement and get a form to fill out for insurance purposes.”

A police spokeswoman said: “We are following lines of enquiry and efforts to locate a person of interest are ongoing.”

Charlton is unconvinced. “The police are useless and do not want to know at all.”

He said it is only through his own investigations, or coincidence, that the cars come back to him.

Taking matters into his own hands by tracking down offenders using Facebook was the most effective, and once came down to chasing a crook through a crowded mall to get rental vehicle keys back off him, he said.

But he said his most recent experience was the worst.

“A girl rented a car with a stolen credit card and paid online, $550, but the money eventually got clawed back off us because of the stolen credit card.

“She took the car and sold it on Facebook, pocketed the money, and then they sold it to a car dealer in Hunters Corner. During this time we reported the car as stolen because we couldn’t get a hold of her.”

They only got their car back when the car dealer went to change the ownership, and realised the car was stolen and brought it back to the yard.

He thought he had bought it legitimately, for $4000 cash.

“We rung the police … but you can’t get a hold of anybody and when you do they’re just not interested.”

“We got the car back, so we wore the losses and the dealer who bought car has just written the money off – and she’s still on Facebook, still out there in the community.”

Once Charlton gets a stolen car back, he notifies police who he says just close the case.

“There is no interest in apprehending or charging the offender after a case is closed. But the person still stole it, the person is still guilty – it was just our good luck that we’re able to find the car.”

Charlton said it got to the point where he wanted to close the rental car business down and walk away because of the amount of fraud that was happening.

“It’s definitely getting worse, I’ve had the business for eight years and last year was the worst we’ve ever had.

Charlton also says police at times tell him when he believes a car has been stolen that it is not a crime, but a civil matter that he has to pursue through the courts himself.

These are cases when a person has rented a car with a legitimate credit card, but then fail to return it.

Charlton said he was told in that instance the car is not regarded as stolen, the person renting it just owes more money for the extra days. He insists that is wrong and police are trying to avoid calling a crime a crime – to fudge crime stats.

“They’ve got permission to use it [the car] during the dates stated on the contract and that’s it. Anything beyond that is criminal.”

The Rental Vehicle Association of New Zealand agree police should treat such matters as a crime.

“Saying it is a civil matter when a crime appears to have been committed is not acceptable,” said chief executive, Barry Kidd.

And the law is on Charlton’s side. Auckland University Associate Professor of Law Kenneth Palmer said the offence being regularly committed is called car conversion under the crimes act.

“It’s quite clearly a criminal offence. So the question is why the police are not pursuing this offence,” Palmer said.

“Over all, in a perfect world, and with an effective police force, these people would be tracked down and apprehended.”

But it looks better on police crime statistics if these things are not reported, Palmer said.

He said it was similar to recent police decisions not to prosecute dine and dash cases – where people eat a meal at a restaurant and then run off without paying.

Police have told restaurant owners that is also not a crime, but a civil matter.

Rent a Dent Manukau’s insurance premiums have doubled from 2015 to 2016 due to the losses.

Article Source Stuff

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