An Auckland Prison inmate left police a note on a concrete slab before cutting his way through a steel perimeter fence to freedom, taunting them to "catch me if u can".

Kevin Polwart's cartoon rabbit, accompanied by the words, was aimed at investigators, who last night had been unable to find the 49-year-old who broke out on Wednesday.

Detective Senior Sergeant Kim Libby of North Shore police said Polwart was displaying arrogance and confidence, and his amateurish artwork was "a provocative action to taunt police".

Polwart was serving a 16-year term for armed robbery, and news of his escape has prompted one security company he had previously robbed to raise its alert levels.

He committed an armed robbery of a security van in 1999, stealing $600,000.

He was jailed for 10 years for this offence, but escaped in 2001 for 41 days, during which time he held up an Armourguard van in Auckland.

Armourguard general manager Ian Anderson said yesterday the company had quickly set up additional security measures after Polwart's escape.

The safety and protection of staff were paramount, he said.

Polwart was sentenced to a further six years after his 2001 recapture, and was 14 months from parole when he escaped this week.

Police are trying to track him down through his family and associates.

They believe Polwart, who is Maori, is no longer in the area around the prison at Paremoremo.

Mr Libby said it was likely he had help once he escaped and could have been picked up by a car.

He said police believed Polwart would soon start to feel the pressure of being on the run and would seek help from others such as family and associates to avoid capture.

Initially, 20 officers, supported by dogs and a police helicopter, were involved in the search. About 10 officers are now working on it.

The prison is in a rural area and there are no bus services.

A jacket was found near the prison, but nothing else.

Mr Libby said that although Polwart had "quite a grand mo" when he escaped, he might have shaved it off to change his appearance.

And it was possible he could now be armed.

"We are prepared for that," Mr Libby said. "We won't be putting the public and ourselves in any danger."

Polwart cut through a steel fence around a concrete yard in which he was working, using an angle grinder with which he had been working on concrete panels.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NZPA