Burglars are targeting Canberra's new apartment buildings with such regularity that the issue is "nearing epidemic proportions", according to the leader of the ACT's $22 billion strata sector.
Strata Community Association ACT president Chris Miller said it was difficult to put an exact figure on the value of goods stolen from new apartment buildings in the ACT because residents didn't necessarily report incidents to strata management.
He said in some cases, the cost to owners targeted in the capital was "in the tens of thousands".
Mr Miller said criminals were treating new apartment buildings as a one-stop shop, often with limited security, where they could target multiple homes and storage cages at once.
"Often when you first move into a new-built home, there is a heightened activity of comings and goings, and the people do not yet know their neighbours," Mr Miller said.
"Residents may assume intruders are simply new residents or removalists.
"My belief is that there is a criminal element that is aware of this and is exploiting it."
Braddon resident Paul St Ledger said within a week of moving into the new Halston Residences, a $7000 mountain bike was stolen from a family member's storage cage.
A fortnight later, about $3500 worth of tools were taken from his storage cage.
"It was about 200 kilos worth of stuff," Mr St Ledger said.
"There's been a pattern of behaviour and I know I'm not the only person that's been affected by this type of theft.
"About half-a-dozen neighbours' cages were broken into and a friend who lives around the corner also had $11,000 worth of ski gear stolen."
He said he made a police report and lodged an insurance claim, but many of the stolen tools, which he used to work on cars, were rare and some may be irreplaceable.
Cases like Mr St Ledger's have prompted Mr Miller to call on ACT Policing to "clamp down" on thieves targeting apartment buildings.
Mr Miller said the issue was particularly important given more apartments were being built in the ACT than ever before and that the ACT Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research had identified Christmas and New Year's Eve as peak times for break-ins.
He also urged apartment residents to be wary of leaving their properties unlocked, even if they hadn't moved in yet.
"Many of Canberra's biggest apartment complexes will begin to empty as we approach the holiday period and we're encouraging [strata] communities to issue some reminders to owners about safety protocols," Mr Miller said.
He suggested residents make sure removalists weren't leaving secure doors open and make a point of meeting fellow building residents as a way to lower the risk of theft from new apartment complexes.
"We must be one step ahead of brazen thieves," Mr Miller said.
"It's common to only see apartment buildings update their security after they've been victims of a break-in or have heard of one nearby, but we must ensure that the correct measures are in place to deter theft."
ACT Policing's crime statistics do not break down burglaries by the type of building they were committed in, meaning there are no readily available figures on offences committed at apartment buildings.
An ACT Policing spokesman said burglary was one of the most common crimes in the ACT and often a crime of opportunity.
Asked whether police planned to actively target people stealing from new apartment buildings, the spokesman said any crime concerned ACT Policing and officers proactively patrolled Canberra's suburbs daily.
"We would encourage people to be aware of others when coming and going from an apartment building when moving in and to be vigilant around your belongings," he said.
"Residents should also take proactive steps to secure their belongings including always locking apartments, storage cages and units."
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