Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Burglars home in on commercial targets

Statistics reveal industrial zones are the most favoured burglary target, with police and the security industry noting a recent rise in such crimes, writes Morgan Tait.

Commercial burglaries are on the rise in New Zealand and despite accounting for just a quarter of the total crimes, industrial business areas are some of the nation's most burgled places.

As part of the Herald's hitting home series it was revealed police logged 97,707 burglaries in the 18 months after a new recording system was introduced on July 1 last year.

When mapped by "meshblock" - the smallest geographic unit by which government agencies aggregate data, usually about 100 to 120 properties - the data revealed that commercial areas were some of the hardest hit.

For example, in the cluster of eight meshblocks that comprise the industry-heavy suburb of East Tamaki, there were more than 250 burglaries, with most concentrated in just three areas.

In the block that straddles Kerywn Ave there were 71; in the area between Harris Rd and Greenmount Reserve there were 53; and in the streets between Cryers Rd and Allens Rd there were 31.

These patterns were similar throughout the rest of New Zealand: In Whangarei the commercial area around the port was the second most burgled in the region. Likewise with Avalon Business Park in Hamilton, Petone in Wellington, the port in Nelson, Woolston in Christchurch and Kaikorai Valley in Dunedin.

Inspector Dave Glossop of Counties Manukau, who spoke to the Herald from a national perspective, said such crime was on the rise.

"We have seen an increase recently in commercial burglaries."

New Zealand Security Association acting chief executive Gary Morrison agreed.

"The feedback over the last couple of months is that there has been more prevalence," Mr Morrison said.

"Through communications from our members it seems to be quite targeted and sporadic.

"The crimes are moving around the industrial areas, so certain areas will be hit again and again until [businesses] take certain measures to target that and the groups involved find another area."

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Mr Morrison said as businesses beefed up their security there had been in an increase in opportunistic crimes, where batteries and fuel from vehicles, unsecured equipment - or anything else - was taken.

Mr Glossop said the crimes were seasonal and changed as new "craveable" commodities were released. In winter, warm clothing was targeted, at the moment the high price of lead was believed to be behind a spate of car battery thefts and thefts of sirens and speakers from PA systems were also rising.

"When new models of cellphones are released they are targeted, there's lots of meat stolen when there is a big event on, liquor burglaries happen towards the weekend when people are getting their supplies for the weekend."

Connections to organised crime were seen more with commercial burglaries as people stole to order, and the crimes were concentrated in industrial areas.

"East Tamaki is a high industrial complex and you haven't got people living there, it's targeted by environment. The businesses there do a good job with security, but it is always going to be a high-risk area."

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said burglaries of commercial premises could have devastating effects - and you only had to look at the feedback from businesses spoken to by the Herald to see this.

"While most businesses will have insurance cover, this does not compensate for the time or opportunity cost incurred as the result of a burglary," he said.

"Theft of computers or other communications devices can be particularly injurious, as information - customer information, operating information, product or service information - is the lifeblood of most businesses.

"Theft of any commercial asset can impact on an enterprise's ability to deliver to their customers and their ability to be competitive."

The Greater East Tamaki Business Association (GetBa) was founded 20 years ago over concerns about security in the area, which encompasses about 2000 business properties.

Crime prevention manager Poutua Papalaii said the group's initiatives had led to a 65 per cent fall in burglaries in the past decade, but more people had been reporting the crimes recently.

GetBa's general manager, Jane Tongatule, said the group put a huge emphasis on crime prevention - and signs of the extensive security measures were everywhere.

Each building has signs declaring, "No cash or valuables kept on these premises", saying that alarms are monitored and cameras are operating, and reminding staff to lock their vehicles and secure their possessions.

"We try and encourage businesses to prevent opportunistic crime; there is not so much you can do to prevent the very motivated offenders. You're never going to prevent somebody who wants to break into something from doing so," Ms Tongatule said.

One of its most successful moves was installing number plate recognition cameras that sync with police databases of stolen cars. In two years, the cameras had led to police action on more than 200 cases.

- NZ Herald

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