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Taranaki thieves after utes

A spate of vehicle robberies across central Taranaki has local police urging residents to be vigilant. 21 vehicles were reported stolen in 30 days, including four quad bikes and a trailer.

In a statement published on Facebook, Central Districts Police said thieves are targeting Ford, Mazda and Hilux utes made between 1990 and 2000.

“We ask that people take extra care to always lock their vehicles when they leave, and if possible park them in a garage or up a driveway,” the police said.

“Installing immobilisers and security alarms are a great idea, as well as removing any personal items from your vehicle.”

Senior Constable Peter Lawn told the Taranaki Daily Times the majority of vehicle thefts were from New Plymouth and the surrounding Inglewood and Waitara townships. Nearby towns Eltham, Stratford and Opunake were also hit by the thieves.

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Police arrest Trade Me fraudster

Richard Mark Wallace has been arrested by New Zealand Police last week following numerous complaints of fraudulent Trade Me vehicle sales.

Wallace was arrested on April 12 on 13 counts of fraud after his case appeared on Police Ten-7 on April 6.

At least 16 customers were left out of pocket after paying a 50 per cent deposit to Wallace, who claimed to import cars from Japan.

Trade Me head of trust and safety Jon Duffy said some customers have received partial refunds, but the majority received nothing, and at least $55,000 has been taken.

Wallace, also known as George Auckland, used over 30 different names to defraud customers and several different companies, including ‘I Love Cars’, ‘Maroone Imports’, ‘NZer16’ and ‘Kar Guru NZ’.

Duffy said that Wallace also impersonated other registered dealers and fraudulently used their details on his Trade Me accounts.

Anyone selling a car on Trade Me should have the car in New Zealand, Duffy said. “If the deal seems too good to be true, such as the price for the car is far below market value, then it probably is.”

“Legitimate vehicle traders don’t typically ask for a 50 per cent deposit to help import the vehicle.”

Duffy also warned buyers against transferring money using a system like Western Union, and said to check the car in person before buying it. Refusing a vehicle inspection is a strong indication of suspicious activity.

The Trade Me scam is the latest in a long line of accusations of fraud. Various companies have been linked to Wallace, including American Prestige of New Zealand Inc, American Prestige of Montana LLC, Carrera Marine Holding LLC and American Marine Holdings.

These companies have since been liquidated or shut down.

Between 2008 and 2012, Wallace operated out of Boca Raton, Florida, and Tijuana, Mexico, importing and selling marine equipment, boats and trailers. At least 15 would-be buyers accused Wallace of taking their money and failing to deliver the purchase.

One customer, Jason Cannings, claimed to be $115,000 out of pocket and lodged a complaint with Florida Police.

Wallace will appear in the Auckland District Court on June 6 on 13 counts of obtaining by deception.

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Mazda Demio most stolen car in Canterbury

Canterbury Police have reported a “marked increase” in the number of Mazda Demio hatchbacks stolen in the last four months.

3,186 vehicles in total were stolen in the last six months, according to New Zealand Police.

The Demio, sold as a Mazda2 in new vehicle dealerships, is a Japanese model imported into New Zealand and is the most stolen vehicle in Canterbury.

Area prevention manager Paul Reeves said it also seemed to be a trend across other parts of New Zealand.

“In order to deter offenders from stealing these vehicles, Police recommend that they are fitted with immobilisers and steering wheel locks and, where possible, parked securely at all times,” he said.

“Offenders see these vehicles as an easy target and believe police will not take a second look at them, which is not the case.”

Traditionally, more powerful Japanese sedans have been the target of choice for car thieves, with the Honda Torneo, Mazda Familia, Subaru Impreza and Nissan Skyline topping the list in the past.

But these sedans are making way for used hatchbacks, which are seeing a boom in New Zealand on the back of record import numbers.

The Mazda Demio is currently the fifth top-selling car for used dealers, with 1,382 units sold so far this year. Last year, a total 5,529 units were sold.

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More speed cameras nationwide

NZTA has announced plans to install a further 35 static speed cameras nationwide as part of the Static Camera Expansion Programme. A meeting, to be held on January 18 at the New Zealand Police College in Porirua, will open the tender process, with completion dates and camera locations yet to be revealed.

The most active static speed cameras are both in the Wellington region. The first is on Whitford Brown Ave in Porirua issued more than 15,000 tickets, and $1.14 million in fines since its installation in 2014, and Ngauranga Gorge on State Highway 1 issued 14,200 tickets and $1.07 million in fines over the same period. Spokesmen for the programme would not comment on further Wellington camera installations.

AA spokesman Dylan Thomsen argued that ticketing speeding drivers should be part of a wider plan to target road safety. “If you have locations that are issuing a lot of tickets, then you need to look at other measures that might be needed,” he told the Dominion Post. “The end result is that we want to see very few people getting tickets, because they’re all doing safe speeds in those high-risk areas.” The AA called for signs on all fixed speed camera sites in order to encourage drivers to slow down in dangerous areas, and for all camera sites to be reviewed annually to assess their effectiveness.

Despite public opposition, NZTA and Police argue that static cameras are highly effective. Their studies found a 23 per cent reduction in fatal and serious crashes at urban sites and an 11 per cent reduction at rural sites when fixed speed cameras were first introduced on New Zealand roads. Current static camera sites are available to view on the New Zealand Police website.

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NSW police add hybrid to fleet

Police in New South Wales have added a hybrid BMW i8 to their vehicle fleet.

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