Happy ending after man stole car with baby in it

A stolen car with a baby in it had the potential to be a "terrible" event, but police say a team effort helped to ensure a happy ending.

In November, Gore police swung into action when a car was stolen from a Balfour store with an 11-month-old baby in the back seat. The thief noticed the baby sleeping in the back of the car, pulled over and put the baby on the side of the road.

The police team's efforts on the day - capturing the fleeing driver and reuniting the baby with his mother - earned them a station citation from Southern area commander Inspector Lane Todd.

Sergeant Greg Ballantyne, who was the officer in charge, said most of the Gore station's staff were involved in the case.

"Our general duty officers, criminal intelligence branch and traffic staff were all involved," Ballantyne said. "It had the potential to be terrible but it went well."

Ballantyne accepted the award on behalf of the station. "It's nice to be recognised," he said.

The thief had been hitch-hiking from the West Coast when he stole the car and drove at speed towards Gore on State Highway 94.

Police located the car near Gore and followed the driver, who turned into Monaghan Rd, a dead-end road, and crashed down a two-metre bank.

He fled the car and ran beside the Mataura River before police set up a cordon and caught and arrested him.

Ballantyne said police were also organising recognition for the person who went to the baby's aid on the roadside after seeing the thief abandon him.

Other awards were also handed out to southern police:

Senior Constable Richard Lindsay, of Wyndham, long service and good conduct award for his 14 years as an officer. Lindsay served as a personal protection officer during the recent royal tour and is being deployed to the Solomon Islands next month for a year to mentor and advise their police.

Clint Wright was promoted to sergeant after six years policing on the West Coast and four years in Gore.

Constable Andrew Crawford was awarded his diploma of workplace policing practice, achieved after graduating from the New Zealand Police College in 2011.

The Southland Times