Nine year olds are stealing from us

ROB KIDD
Last updated 05:00 23/12/2012
Fairfax NZ

John Bright has been burgled six times in 12 years.

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Kids as young as 9 years old are burgling properties and police say it's more important than ever to stop them.

The majority of burglars caught are under 17 and, thanks to the increasing prevalence of methamphetamine, police say they are seeing the offenders graduate rapidly to more serious offending.

In the past, police were able to profile and pigeonhole criminals, but the growing number of P users makes that increasingly difficult.

Antonie Dixon, best known for his wild-eyed look in court after a meth-fuelled samurai sword attack, was a petty criminal before he was gripped by the drug.

"Fifteen years ago you'd have said that you did have a category that was probably interested in crimes of dishonesty and there was a very distinct line between that and violent crime," said Counties Manukau district manager of criminal investigations, Detective Inspector Dave Lynch.

"I think methamphetamine has been a factor in that line becoming a lot more blurred."

Lynch said most burglaries were carried out ultimately to get access to drugs or alcohol.

The most popular items for thieves were electronics, jewellery and cash.

During a survey over three months this year while executing warrants at tinny houses, police discovered that about half of them contained stolen or suspected stolen property.

Swapping electronics for drugs was clearly a problem, Lynch said.

And it is not as if thieves were getting value for money.

A $500 television might net someone only a couple of tinnies - worth a 10th of its value.

Recent arrests and search warrants executed in Auckland central city gave police further insight into the movement of stolen property in exchange for drugs and cash.

Central Auckland police estimated between 30 and 50 per cent of all thefts in the city related to smartphones.

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See below for an interactive look at burglariy statistics in your back yard

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To reduce their desirability, they were working with telecommunications companies so that stolen phones could be blocked across all networks, a method successfully piloted overseas.

Lynch said the most effective method of cutting burglaries though, was to target offenders and victims, the majority of whom repeatedly appeared on the police radar.

Statistically, if you are burgled, the chance of being burgled again increases by 18 per cent.

If you are hit a second time, your vulnerability rises 33 per cent.

By targeting specific locations, Counties Manukau police have seen a 15 per cent drop in burglaries over the past two years, taking the level below that of nearby regions Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

Though there were still the career crims stealing high-value items from commercial premises to order, they were in the minority.

Of the 60,000 burglaries reported every year, most of the perpetrators were opportunistic teens who saw an open window or door.

Burglaries were often a product of poor personal security and Lynch admitted it was frustrating to see people make easy targets of themselves.

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Rosehill resident of 14 years John Bright is anything but an easy target.

But while living in the South Auckland suburb, the house where he lives with his wife has been broken into six times.

He lives down a driveway, near a fairly busy road and his house is equipped with security cameras, alarms and deadlocks.

Bright has spent about $2000 on the reinforcements, he even carries a digital camera around in his pocket just in case, but the possibility of being burgled is always in his head.

"It has been in our minds constantly," he said.

"It's a breach of privacy - it's attacking a man's castle, effectively."

His wife still talked about the jewellery and heirlooms they lost a few years ago, but most of the time the intruders had not escaped with much of value.

Bright recounts how his neighbour chased two kids who had broken in and made off with a multipack of hair conditioner.

"I can't get into their head - I wish sometimes I could," he said.

Three years ago, Bright and half a dozen others set up the Rosehill Community Group - a bid to bring a community, which was stealing from their own, together. His ethos is simple - know your neighbours.

A S THE long, hot days of the summer holidays roll around, police are geared up for a busy period.

The stats for December and January last year did not show any spectacular increase in break-and-enter offending, but criminologist Greg Newbold said burglars took advantage of the summer exodus by targeting empty houses. There were even examples of cheeky offenders waiting until the original goods had been replaced with the insurance money, before they went in again.

Though police often recovered suspected stolen goods, a constant problem was returning it to its owner.

Operation Snap, launched in 1999, encouraged people to make written records of serial numbers of their property.

More recently it was relaunched online (snap.org.nz) and now allows people to enter serial numbers into a database, which police could access.

However, Lynch said, it worked only if people used it and police were too often left with valuable items which could not be returned.

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- Sunday Star Times

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