Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Link to thieves targeting West Auckland gyms

The abandoned car which was stolen from a gym in Henderson. Photo / Supplied
The abandoned car which was stolen from a gym in Henderson. Photo / Supplied

Police say two recent incidents where car keys have been taken from West Auckland gyms, and members cars stolen, are possibly linked.

The news comes after video footage released to the Herald caught the moment a woman walked into a Henderson gym's reception and brazenly took a pair of car keys, before using them to flee in a member's Audi.

The Audi A4 belonged to a 25-year-old network engineer who was working out at Henderson's Anytime Fitness at the time of the theft - 2pm on May 30.

The abandoned car. Photo / Supplied
The abandoned car. Photo / Supplied

The man - who wants to only be identified by his nickname Vinny - was on a crosstrainer at the gym.

"I could see my car out the window, then I saw some lady open the door."

Vinny ran outside, by which time the woman had reversed out of the park.

"She saw me run out and she sped off," he said.

Because the gym did not have lockers, he had left his key on a hook in reception, which was usually manned by staff.

Other belongings - including his wallet and a letter with his address on it - were in the car.

CCTV footage shows the woman walking into the building, before taking the keys from the hook and fleeing.

The abandoned car. Photo / Supplied
The abandoned car. Photo / Supplied

Vinny immediately reported the theft to police.

He also cancelled his bank cards -- but not before he said $130 was taken from his account.

Two transactions were made within 45 minutes of the theft, using the payWave system.

Vinny said police found his car yesterday on Wirihana Rd in Titirangi.

Its tyres had been removed and there was damage to the front grill.

The black 2007 Audi was covered in dust and, according to Vinny, full of fast food packaging and empty soft drink bottles.

"By the looks of it there were a lot of people in the car."

This is the second time this year an incident of this type has occurred at one of the Anytime Fitness chain of gyms and a similar incident also occurred in New Lynn last month.

Vinny warned gym users to be vigilant.

"People probably don't think about having their car stolen when they're at the gym.

"People need to be more aware and more careful."

In the meantime, Vinny has put his gym membership on hold and has emailed the company's head office to suggest they install lockers.

A police spokeswoman confirmed a complaint had been received about the incident, and that the car had since been located.

"The file has been assigned to the Waitakere Tactical Crime Unit," she said.

She said the "similar incident" in New Lynn last month could be linked to the theft of Vinny's car, and police were following "positive leads".

"Unfortunately, there are people within the community who will take the opportunity to steal other people's property so it is a timely reminder to make sure that you keep your valuables safe."

The theft comes only five months after a similar incident in Manukau where two women took car keys from a gym as the owner worked out.

The women had followed a gym user through the doors of Anytime Fitness Manukau, before stealing his keys.

One woman then drove away in the man's silver Toyota Vista.

At the time, detective senior sergeant Ross Ellwood said that with modern cars, it was easy for an offender to grab a set of keys and wander through a car park until a vehicle was unlocked at the click of a button.

"Once they have access to your car, if you've got any documentation in your car identifying your address, they then have access to your home address, which makes burglary very easy."

Mr Ellwood urged people to keep their belongings safe by taking precautions such as using a steering-wheel lock or placing "no valuables inside" stickers on vehicle windows.

The Anytime Fitness chain's general manager Dave Belbin said gyms were owned individually as apart of a franchise, but the company was encouraging franchisees to put lockers into their premises. He said each franchise holder had the ability to put lockers in.

"We are going to be getting some [security] training done and also encouraging them to get some lockers as well.

"Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to worry about this sort of thing, it's a challenge -- it's not unique to us -- but we've just got to do our best to protect out members," Mr Belbin said.

- NZ Herald

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