Arrests in CBD burglaries
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.
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