Children as young as 14 have been involved in a surge of car break-ins around Taranaki.
And one small New Plymouth suburb has been especially hard hit. More than 80 vehicles have been broken into or interfered with around the region over the past six weeks. Many more may not have been reported to police.
New Plymouth Senior Sergeant Thomas McIntyre said Westown had borne the brunt of the criminal wave with close to 30 break-ins. In Hawera, there were 11 thefts from vehicles reported.
Police believe they have cracked the ring operating in Westown, with seven males apprehended.
They ranged in age from 14 years old to 22.
One of them was labelled a "wastrel" when he appeared in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday.
Unemployed teen Samuel Julian Pettett was sentenced after admitting his role in stealing from cars.
Judge Allan Roberts sentenced Pettett to 200 hours of community work and ordered him to pay $545, his share of reparation.
Pettett's lawyer, Eleanor Connole, said he was now drug free and actively searching for a job.
"I've got people out of pocket because of you," the judge told Pettett. "This was a life choice for you, joining with other wastrels prowling the streets looking for the opportunity to break into other people's cars and steal from them," the judge said.
The property they stole after "working the streets and depriving other people of their property" was then used to buy drugs.
Meanwhile, four youths, aged between 14 and 19 years old, have been nabbed for the Hawera thefts.
"Over the Christmas period there has been an increase in the number of vehicles being broken into in the Westown and Spotswood area," Mr McIntyre said. Many of the vehicles were targeted at night. Vehicles parked on the road with "easy to carry items" like iPods and wallets were easy targets.
Suspicious activities such as people loitering around vehicles and walking down the streets trying door handles should be reported to the police, he said.
Meanwhile, Central District prevention manager Inspector Mark Harrison said the summer season brought an increase in "dishonesty offending" across the area. He reminded residents to lock and secure their windows, and keep valuables out of sight, even if they were just "popping out" to the shops. "These may sound like simple steps but people can often forget to practise these given they may have a lot on their mind, especially at this time of the year," he said.
People can use Operation Snap to record serial numbers and other unique identifying details of their valuable goods on an electronic database.
Visit snap.org.nz for information.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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