Methamphetamine fuels 'massive spike' in burglaries in Nelson region
The Nelson region has experienced the largest spike in burglaries in the country, increasing by 52 per cent in a year.
The 1587 burglaries — an average of four a day — contributed to an 18 per cent increase in total reported crime in 2016 compared to the previous year.
Nationally, reported crime increased by 4 per cent last year and burglaries by 16 per cent.
Nelson Bays police area commander Inspector Mat Arnold-Kelly said the "massive spike" in burglaries was fuelled by methamphetamine and youths who offended "for the thrill of it".
"That's created quite a big bubble. That spike was a lot bigger than what we've previously experienced and coincided with the real arrival of methamphetamine in Nelson.
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"It costs a lot of money to feed habits so people have to source income for that habit any way they can and they tend to get quite desperate. Burglary is a common way of funding a meth habit."
The region has also experienced a 65 per cent increase in robberies; 10 per cent increase in assaults; and 7 per cent increase in thefts.
Reported sexual assaults dropped by 5 per cent last year, according to the new figures.
However, Arnold-Kelly said while the figures might sound "mind-blowing", it was not out of character for the region to experience waves of crime.
"It's the nature of a provincial town. We have spikes like that whenever we have groups that become very active and then we catch them and we have a period of calm.
"What we're experiencing at the moment is another period of calm. It's very cyclic."
He said police had achieved the government's target of attending every burglary and have been working with offenders and victims on crime prevention.
"It's kind of like if you've got an ailment you treat the symptoms, but you also need to get to the root cause. So we've had a big focus on methamphetamine and organised crime."
Arnold-Kelly said the Nelson region has been hit hard by the rise of methamphetamine and that was reflected in crime figures.
"It's probably hit us harder as it's not been the norm here. Now we've gone from a space of having not a lot of methamphetamine in the community to having huge [amounts]."
When asked about gangs becoming more established in the region, Arnold-Kelly said there were links between organised crime and methamphetamine.
"It's certainly a focus area for us."
Despite the overall increase in reported crime, Arnold-Kelly said the numbers were lower than most other areas of the country.
"We're still one of the safest communities in New Zealand."
'These people have nothing to lose'
Behind the drastic increase in burglaries are real people — victims, like Richmond couple Matt Peters and Bonnie Hogarth.
They were at the Guns N' Roses concert in Wellington last Thursday night while burglars were ransacking their home.
Peters' 17-year-old son returned home from work shortly after 11.40pm to find the house had been broken into and raided.
They took a Playstation 4, stereo and other electronics.
A bundle of items, including a laptop and TV, were left in a pile in the lounge, which makes them think the burglars were disturbed.
The burglars also took sentimental things, including external hard drives containing the only copies of photos of Peters' children.
They also took a toolbox that belonged to his late father.
"When he died that was the first thing I wanted," Peters said. "It wasn't because of what was in the toolbox it was because it was by dad's. It's a sentimental thing."
They also emptied Hogarth's jewellery box.
The burglars loaded their loot into Peters' Holden Commodore, which was locked in a garage, and disappeared.
The car was found abandoned in Appleby.
Hogarth said the house and garage was locked and they had also secured the car keys.
"We don't feel violated, we just feel angry."
She said unless people wanted to spend a lot of money on security and insurance, there was nothing homeowners could do to protect themselves from burglars.
"There's nothing you can do, absolutely nothing," she said.
"These people have nothing to lose."
Peters said the burglars were "pathetic, low-life scum" who were "too lazy to get a job".
He said it was possible that the offenders left fingerprints or DNA in the car. Police attended the burglary and dusted for fingerprints, but the couple said they have been disappointed by the lack of communication.
The couple have had to change the locks at the house and would also install a security video system.
Reported crime figures for Nelson Bays 2016
Assault - up 10 per cent to 1025
Sexual assault - down 5 per cent to 142
Robbery - up 65 per cent to 61
Burglary - up 52 per cent to 1587
Theft - up 7 per cent to 2451
Total - up 18 per cent to 5274