Police target organised burglary networks

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Police are cracking down on Christchurch's busiest burglars as organised burglary networks tighten their grip on the city's north.

Research-based profiles have been built up on 34 of Christchurch's full-time burglars.

The officer in charge of the project, Sergeant Darryl Sweeney, said the police operation was launched about a month ago in response to escalating burglaries in the northern area, from Papanui to New Brighton and extending into North Canterbury.

There was up to a 24 per cent rise in burglaries in the area, police figures from November last year through to February this year show.

That figure dropped to a 1 per cent  increase last month - coinciding with the launch of the police crackdown.

"When we are getting 34 (burglaries) a week ... it's a huge problem.


"It's got on top of us. So we looked at what we could do to cure this problem, what could we focus on and remove from society to change this."

As a result, the two-year project was born.

Thirty-four criminals - 90 per cent were men aged from 18 to 25 - were selected due to their constant offending.

Papanui Senior Sergeant Roy Appley said those chosen were "your toughest crims in this area doing burglaries".

"There is a lot of work going in to get these guys.

"They are not just clumsy off-the-cuff burglars. They are part of an organised criminal network in burglary. That's their job - as a burglar."

However, he said the public could do more to protect their property.

Sweeney said the 34 were chosen through offender statistics over the past three years.

"From my experience, that's when burglars come and go.

"They roughly get about 2.5 years (in prison)."

A poster of the criminals, pinned to Sweeney's office wall, was updated every day with scrawls of new information written beneath a mugshot.

"Our aim is to get half to two-thirds run through the prison if they are active (committing burglaries). If they are not, we are happy to see them into jobs and rehabilitated. We are not purely punitive."

Four men were already in custody as a result of the project, Sweeney said.

Appley said while many of those on the list were active burglars, others were drivers or had other people do the dirty work.

Target Nine on the police list, aged in his mid-20s, used two younger men - one his younger brother - to commit break-ins.

"He is a burglar, but he's clever now. He's not actually doing hands-on burglaries, but he's as responsible for as much burglary as someone physically doing it, because without him burglaries wouldn't be happening," he said.

In a search several weeks ago, stolen property was found at the man's address but he immediately blamed it on one of the runners, who took the blame, Appley said.

However, earlier this week, Target Nine was picked up for traffic offences - driving on a learner's licence, with no warrant or registration - and was now forbidden to drive and had incurred a $800 fine. Sweeney said being able to take away burglars' mobility was an important tool.

"Drive around any given day you would find these guys driving around in packs of two or three. They work all day.

"Burglaries are a day-time problem. They get out of bed at 10am because they are lazy, and off they go."

Sweeney said alarms, dogs and an open section helped deter burglars.

"The public has to take responsibility to secure their own property.

"We'll do our bit, but other people need to pick up the ball and run with it to effectively deal with the problem.

"We are never going to stop generations of burglars from burgling. It's an historic problem. Prevention is a community concept."


The Press