Ar­rests in CBD bur­glar­ies

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By TERESA HAT­TAN

Mata­mata po­lice pulled out all the stops to crack the case of the town’s big­gest com­mer­cial crime wave in a decade, with a string of ar­rests on Fri­day.

And a town business leader says the spate of bur­glar­ies is a warn­ing for lo­cal shop­keep­ers to be vig­i­lant about how they lock up their premises.

A 14 and 15-year-old girl, along with a 16-year-old male, all from Auck­land, are due to ap­pear in the Youth Court on bur­glary charges fol­low­ing their ar­rest late last week.

Mata­mata po­lice sergeant Gra­ham McGurk said po­lice be­lieved the group, who were stay­ing in Mata­mata with fam­ily, were be­hind the largest num­ber of com­mer­cial bur­glar­ies in Mata­mata’s CBD over the past two weeks – more than there had been in the past 10 years com­bined.

‘‘It was cer­tainly an un­usual event in Mata­mata.’’

What was most con­cern­ing, McGurk said, was that de­spite their young age, the al­leged of­fend­ers ap­peared to be pre­pared for a con­fronta­tion if they were dis­turbed.

McGurk said that while try­ing to get to the bot­tom of the crime wave, po­lice struck dif­fi­culty be­cause they were un­aware the group was in town.

But in­quiries in Auck­land re­lated to the teen boy led them to a lo­cal ad­dress where the of­fend­ers were stay­ing. McGurk said the woman there thought she was sim­ply help­ing her fam­ily out by let­ting them stay and was shocked and dis­ap­pointed by their al­leged in­volve­ment.

She is as­sist­ing po­lice their in­quiries.

Prop­erty from all the CBD bur­glar­ies had since been found, as well as prop­erty from a bur­glary

with in Mor­rinsville. A car stolen from a Mata­mata ad­dress was also used in this bur­glary. Hamil­ton’s Tac­ti­cal Crime Unit also helped with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Other than stay­ing in the town, those ar­rested had no other con­nec­tion to the Mata­mata area. McGurk told the Mata­mata Chron­i­cle on Fri­day that one pos­i­tive from the spree was that it didn’t ap­pear to in­volve lo­cals and the ar­rested teens hadn’t had the chance to in­ter­act with lo­cal youth.

McGurk

said

the

bur­glars ap­peared to tar­get busi­nesses be­cause tills that were closed equalled money. ‘‘ Other items were just a bonus,’’ he said.

The raids caused thou­sands of dol­lars worth of dam­age to CBD busi­nesses by first snatch­ing tills and then tak­ing any­thing else close by, in­clud­ing ex­pen­sive hair straight­en­ers, cloth­ing and sport­ing equip­ment.

McGurk said po­lice had been wor­ried by a ris­ing num­ber of CBD bur­glar­ies for a num­ber of weeks but ad­mit­ted they ini­tially had no clues to go on. ‘‘We had pretty much elim­i­nated our lo­cal of­fend­ers.’’

Po­lice be­gan covert night pa­trols in an ef­fort to find any­one wan­der­ing the streets at night.

Mata­mata Pub­lic Re­la­tions As­so­ci­a­tion man­ager Sue Whit­ing said the PRA were happy the CBD cam­eras, which the as­so­ci­a­tion owns, were of some help to po­lice in re­cent weeks. Whit­ing said it was also help­ful the po­lice were able to keep the PRA in­formed at all stages of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pass it on to the Mata­mata Business As­so­ci­a­tion.

From the cen­tral business dis­trict com­mu­nity per­spec­tive, Whit­ing said business own­ers were in­cred­i­bly help­ful to­wards each other.

‘‘ I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced this [spate of bur­glar­ies] in my time here. It’s a rare thing to hap­pen. Per­haps this has been a wake-up call about how busi­nesses han­dle their lock up pro­ce­dure. We need to be dili­gent.’’

The spate of bur­glar­ies also high­lighted the is­sue that business own­ers needed to be re­minded about keep­ing their own safety in mind, she said.

McGurk said he un­der­stood the frus­tra­tions felt by business own­ers but hoped he could bring them some rest and re­as­sur­ance now charges had been laid.

Photo: TERESA HAT­TAN

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