A Queensland woman says a text message from police only "added insult to injury" after her $80,000 Range Rover was stolen and taken on a crime spree over the weekend.
The theft comes amid a huge spike in car theft across the state that's been fuelled by youth crime, with the Brisbane resident dismayed over the response from police.
"I'm not sure they've handled it badly, they just haven't handled it," she told Yahoo News Australia. "I didn't receive a call from police for four days... I feel let down by the system."
Virginia Booth's car was stolen from her Wilston home on Wednesday, and while there were multiple sightings and reports to authorities from Virginia and friends who tried to take matters into their own hands, it was only recovered when it was found abandoned – and severely damaged – on Monday.
The day her vehicle was recovered – five days after it was stolen – she received a message from police informing her she could face prosecution over unpaid fuel at a service station on Saturday.
"To avoid a fine and potential prosecution please contact the service station to pay immediately," it read.
But of course, Virginia was not behind the wheel.
"The police were very efficient in passing on this notice," she said sarcastically.
"You couldn't find my car but you've got the audacity to tell me I did a drive off from the fuel when you can't even cross reference that car has been stolen for five days. How can they honestly say that when they know it's stolen?"
Fearing the car refuelled several times and made multiple traffic infringements, she is predicting similar messages down the line.
And Virginia is not alone. Cairns resident Svitlana Mozghova also received the same text message after her car was stolen during a robbery by armed intruders last week as she lay in bed terrified with her young daughter.
She told Yahoo she cannot sleep over fears the offenders could return to steal their second car after both sets of keys were taken.
Senior Constable Kimberley Richter told Yahoo News Australia unfortunately sometimes victims of car theft will receive a text message reminding them of unpaid fuel.
"Policelink will not usually send out the SMS if the vehicle is flagged as being stolen, however sometimes there is a delay between when the fuel drive off is committed and the vehicle being reported stolen," she said.
Police taking car thefts 'seriously'
Addressing concerns from victims of car theft, Snr Const Richter stressed Queensland Police Service takes "all reports of stolen vehicles seriously".
"Every year the QPS uses targeted, proactive patrols, conducts operations specific to property crime and has made several reforms to target youth crime," she said.
A six-week operation targeting car theft commenced on December 19 across six Queensland districts which will see an increased police presence in youth crime hotspots.
Queensland's car theft rates are higher than any other state, with more than 17,000 vehicles stolen in the last financial year.
The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) saw a 20 per cent spike in car theft claims on the previous year, while Cairns and Toowoomba experienced a remarkable 80 per cent rise.
RACQ spokesperson Ashleigh Paterson called the data "really concerning".
Palaszczuk government and Opposition clash over youth crime
Leader of the Opposition in Queensland, LNP MP David Crisafulli, has long been critical of the Palaszczuk government's response to the surging rates of vehicle theft, branding the Labor party "out of touch" during what he calls a "youth crime epidemic" across the state.
He is calling for the state government to make breach of bail an offence for young offenders in a bid to deter those responsible.
Yet Minister for Children and Youth Justice Leanne Linard says that is not the solution, and she told state parliament earlier this year a similar offering from the LNP between 2014 and 2016 was "a complete failure", with no detention imposed by courts and a 94 per cent reoffending rate.
"We want every Queenslander to know that our government is focused on the small number of young offenders who commit a large number of overall offences and cause the community concern," she said, pointing to the government's $300 million commitment to youth justice reform in the last Budget.
"We know we have more work to do to address and reduce their behaviour and the risks they take with their safety and the safety of others."
The Premier is refusing to listen to Queenslanders so we’re going to keep the pressure on until she does.
This photo was taken at 2am in Townsville on Sunday night. pic.twitter.com/oF49K6EgTX
— David Crisafulli (@DavidCrisafulli) November 23, 2022
Residents calling for visible action
Yet for Virginia, the state needs tougher action and better communication with the public, noting there are many victims far worse off than she is.
"There is little deterrent to offenders as there are no consequences," she said. "The thieves literally laughed at my friend following them as they did an illegal U-turn after running a red light.
"Someone I spoke to said there is a lot going on in the background but there needs to be that communicated to the public because as it is now it seems like there is nothing happening."
Those responsible for the theft of her car have yet to be found, Queensland Police said.
Police had earlier revealed it is believed those responsible had used the vehicle while stealing registration plates from vehicles in Ashgrove.
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