20 Oct 2022

Hundreds of arrests over ram raids, smash and grab robberies - police data

12:54 pm on 20 October 2022

Vodafone store after ram raid in Takanini, Auckland in May. Photo: RNZ / Mohammad Alafeshat

Hundreds of arrests have been made over ram raids and youth offences in Auckland and Waikato in recent months.

Police released provisional figures showing more than 2000 charges were laid in the two regions.

But police were still trying to track down the offenders who had carried out more than half of the recent ram raids and smash and grabs.

Assistant police commissioner Richard Chambers told Checkpoint about 60 percent of the offenders had not yet been identified.

"Information we have ... suggests that we have identified offenders for around about 40 percent of the offending ... that translates to close to 350 people already appearing before court with thousands of charges," Chambers said.

"We have a long way to go and we will continue to arrest and hold people accountable."

In Waikato, 205 offenders were arrested a total of 307 times for ram raid and smash and grab style offending.

Some were arrested more than once during the period from 1 February to the end of September 2022.

Overall, those charged are facing, or have faced, a total of 1229 charges filed in the Youth Court.

In Auckland, 142 youth offenders were arrested and 1036 charges laid since May.

Charges in both regions related to burglary, robbery and unlawful taking offences. In many instances, individuals were charged with more than one offence and on more than one occasion.

Investigations in both regions were ongoing.

Chambers said the challenge facing the police team was the same as for most crimes - finding enough jigsaw pieces of evidence for the crime so police were confident they could present a solid prosecution case in court.

A group of up to eight people targeted Stewart Dawson's in the St Lukes mall on 20 September 2022, smashing glass cabinets and grabbing jewellery before fleeing.

Stewart Dawson's in St Lukes mall was hit by a smash and grab robbery on 20 September. Photo: RNZ / Lucy Xia

"We know how tough it has been for retailers who are the target of this criminal offending," Chambers said.

"Some have been hit more than once and it is having a huge impact on them.

"We've been working incredibly hard to resolve these crimes and do our best to hold those responsible accountable, and the dedicated team of detectives that are working on these crimes are making good progress, but we're also anticipating more arrests, more charges."

Chambers said there were deep underlying social issues behind the problem.

"We know that what drives this offending is a complex issue that police can't solve alone, so we have also been working with other agencies on alternative resolutions for some of these young people. However, for repetitive offenders, we are taking a stronger stance," he said.

"Where we believe someone needs to be remanded into custody to break that cycle of offending we are not going to be shy about saying so ... [if] this person is not taking opportunities presented to them to change their ways, for that reason we are going to work hard to see that they are taken out of circulation for a while - that's a sad reality, but that's our job."

Police opposed bail in many of those cases and would continue to do so if they believed there was a risk to business owners and the wider community.

The reasons behind this type of offending were varied and complex, he said.

"For the vast majority, they have been involved in some form of family harm and it's almost certain many have been exposed to violence from a young age as either victims or witnesses.

"Their motivation continues to be money, peer pressure and social media notoriety for all the wrong reasons."

Many were not engaged in education and attendance at school was irregular or difficult to determine, Chambers said.

And where possible police had increased foot patrols in malls and shopping precincts.

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