THIEVES have been delivered to Hunter beaches along with presents and Christmas cheer, with a spike in car break-ins during recent weeks expected to run through summer.
Beachgoers have been warned to leave their valuables at home or have a clear plan to secure them from opportunistic thieves scanning the sand as crowds hit the surf.
Newcastle City crime prevention officer Senior Constable Jeff Milton said thieves were preying on drivers who hid their keys in towels, wheel arches or other traditional spots.
‘‘If they don’t steal the car they can still rummage through it,’’ he said.
Senior Constable Milton said there was an ‘‘established trend’’ for more incidents during the peak holiday period.
‘‘These offenders are out there targeting people in the beach, sitting there watching where they put their keys.
‘‘You fish where the fish are ... they know that’s where they are going to have the opportunities.’’
Phones, wallets and GPS units were among popular items that drew thieves to cars, Senior Constable Milton said.
Travelling light or leaving those items at home were easy steps to prevent crime, as well as using lockers or asking lifeguards for advice, he said.
‘‘You can leave your wallet at home and just bring your licence if you’re driving.’’
Newcastle surfer Ben Devonshire, 23, said securing his valuables was not a priority as he headed out for a surf at Nobbys.
Mr Devonshire said he carried only a few valuables on beach trips and concealed them in common ways.
‘‘People have their own spots,’’ he said.
‘‘I usually take the keys down to the beach or leave them with [partner Cathy].
‘‘I’m a bit trusting, I suppose.’’