THIRTEEN cars were broken in to in the one Wodonga neighbourhood on Sunday but DNA from their sticky fingers might be used to track down the offenders.
Police hope for a prompt arrest with a new forensics team.
Targeted were Parkers Road, Stableford Place, Beresford Court, Mayfair Drive, Fade Court and Birdie Street.
Money, sunglasses and MP3 players were among the small items taken from the cars in the early hours of Sunday.
In some cases, it was as easy as opening an unlocked car door.
Where cars were locked, the thieves forced the doors open.
Residents told police they saw several young people loitering in the neighbourhood between 2am and 3am.
Acting Insp Barry McIntosh said it was normal for criminals stealing from cars to be working in groups in the one area.
“It’s not unusual for police to see that,” he said.
“Quite often these offenders are on foot.”
Wodonga police hope the new team will be able to piece the evidence left behind to make arrests.
Eight officers form two crime scene services units recently established in the Wodonga and Wangaratta police stations.
Yesterday some of them combed the cars that were broken into.
Sgt Shane Martin heads both units and said his team was capable of finding DNA and fingerprints that would point police fairly and squarely to an offender.
“We’ll be using these units when something like this (the break-ins) occurs,” Sgt Martin said.
“It means a quicker response and increasing the likelihood to identify those responsible.”
It also means a quicker process for victims of crime.
Sgt Martin said previously, first-responding uniformed police would contact detectives who would do their own fingerprint dusting.
If a fingerprint was found, a fingerprint expert would be called in to process it.
The new units knock out this process.
“It frees up victims’ time and makes it more convenient,” Sgt Martin said.
Such units have been operating in some regional police stations such as Shepparton for years.
Leading Sen-Constable Brendan Bryan has been a member of the Shepparton unit since its inception a decade ago.
It’s a unit that has solved armed robberies, rapes, aggravated burglaries and assaults by finding shoe-sole impressions, fingerprints and DNA left at scenes.
“It’s been a very, very successful innovation,” Sen-Constable Bryan said.
He’s wary about comparisons with television series such as CSI.
“There’s a lot more to just turning up and collecting evidence at a scene to solve a crime,” he said.
For the case of the Wodonga car break-ins, forensic evidence is a bonus, but nothing can beat preventing the crime from happening in the first place.
Insp McIntosh said the advice to car owners was simple: Lock your vehicle and remove valuables.
“Don’t make yourself a potential victim,” he said.