Thieves turn to laptops

LAPTOP computers have become the latest target for thieves seeking easily disposable booty, with Perth businesses districts reporting a surge in thefts.

Hundreds of the expensive computers have been stolen from West Perth which is viewed by the WA Police as a current hot spot for this type of crime.

Det Snr Constable Gary Lonergan, of the WA Police Burglary Unit, said West Perth has become a policing nightmare.

“It is a rabbit warren with a lot of high tech companies and many of them vulnerable because they haven’t got proper security,” he said.

“Most of the commercial areas with low residential areas like Malaga and even Stirling Highway are constantly being targeted.

“But West Perth has now the highest rate of laptop theft.

“We have run a number of special night time operations in that area with success, but it still keeps on.

“Hundreds of laptops have been stolen.”

He said that laptops are the current favourite currency for teenage drug users.

“It used to be CD players and then mobile phones. But they get $400-$500 for a laptop and they are easy to dispose of. So CDs and mobile phones have lost their value.”

He said the teenagers sell them to receivers who are networked into the Universities.

The $500 laptop ends up on the student notice board for $1200-$1500 he said.

“One receiver we caught was a computer whiz and would break them up and rebuild them so they were quite different,” said Det Sen Con Lonergan.

“Some computer shops are even buying them in.

“There is no Mr Big in this, it is a network and impossible to stamp out and is driven by the drugs market.

“And while the value of mobile phones and CD players dropped we can’t see these laptops losing their attraction. They are getting smaller and more sophisticated and remain an expensive item so will continue to be a targeted.”

“The thieves are invariably drug-addicted juveniles,” he said, “but they are extremely professional.

“One year in this business is like five years in any other. So if they start at 13 by the time they are 17 they have as much experience as somebody spending 15-20 years in another profession.

“This juveniles should not be under-estimated they are consummate thieves. “And it is all too easy for them in West Perth because there is little residential property and many of the offices have inadequate or old security systems.

“Offices are empty at night and on weekends and are often too easy to enter.”

He is highly critical of many of the owners of offices in West Perth indicating they have poor security.

“An alarm will ring all weekend and nobody bothers about it,” he said.

“One businessman arrived at his building early one morning and met a workman coming out of his building carrying a huge box. When he got to his office he found it had been burgled and the man he opened the main door for had stolen 14 laptops.

“There are dozens of amazing stories like that coming out of that area.”

“Last week two crack heads walked into a St Georges Terrace building and took a lift to the 17th floor at 5pm on a Friday night.

“They walked into an office, picked up a $7000 laptop and walked out. It wasn’t missed for three days.

“They stopped on the 10th floor on the way out walked in to an unattended reception picked up a mobile phone and left. Somebody stopped and queried them, but they simply said ‘we are in the wrong place’ and left

“It is that easy.

“6am has become a favourite break in time as well because that is when the shifts are changing on security companies and people dismiss the alarm because they think it is an early arrival at the office.”

He says that property owners desperately need to upgrade security and office workers need to become aware.

“During business hours reception areas are left unattended and often nobody comes when somebody walks in,” he said.

“In the Business District and especially in West Perth at night the thieves move from under croft to under croft without being seen.

“They don’t operate to a plan they are simply opportunists. And they don’t care if they get caught.

“A few weeks in jail for a drug addict isn’t a problem.

“They look through a window, see a laptop, smash the window, grab it and run. It is that easy and there is ready cash market.”

So lock everything and fence under crofts to stop them getting around so easily, he said.

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