Paradise spoiled: 'Criminals practice their profession with impunity'

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Omapere's natural beauty has been spoiled for one local couple by criminals who have made it the "Wild West". PHOTO/KIRSTY SAXON
Omapere's natural beauty has been spoiled for one local couple by criminals who have made it the "Wild West". PHOTO/KIRSTY SAXON

Derek Wheeldon, 80, and his wife Carol, 70, know they live in a beautiful place, but criminals are well and truly spoiling it.

Mr Wheeldon said a man walked into their house at Omapere in broad daylight on Tuesday, took the car keys and a mobile phone, then drove off in their car.

He was mowing the lawns, and was unaware of what was happening, his wife realising only when she heard the car start. She went out to see what was happening but let the thief go, fearing that he would run her over if she tried to stop him.

The car was driven south, towards Dargaville, but police, who were contacted immediately, failed to intercept it.

Mr Wheeldon had no doubt that anyone who was prepared to steal from a house in broad daylight would have no compunction about offering violence to anyone who confronted them, and he and his wife were now keeping their gate, doors and windows locked at all times.

"We don't feel safe any more," he said, adding that he did not expect the thief to be caught. And this was not a one-off situation.

"Practically" every one of the seven or eight homes in their street had been broken into this year; he had been burgled in November, the police arriving in January, "after a couple of reminders".

"They came and went away again," he said.

"They've given up all hope of catching anyone. This place is like the Wild West. Criminals can come here and practise their profession with impunity."

Mr Wheeldon said Northland MP Winston Peters was aware of the situation, but seemed to have given up, while the police simply didn't seem to care. He accepted that the officers stationed in Rawene had a big job to do over a huge area, but the hierarchy in Wellington were "cosy".

"They're safe down there, and they don't seem to care about the rest of the country," he said.

"The problem is that we don't have the population or the voting power to do anything about it. The situation here is laughable now. It's absolutely hopeless.

"They should be sending police from Wellington up here so they can clear the backlog and make people understand that there will be consequences. At the moment there are no consequences at all."

All offending taken seriously

Northland police took all offending seriously, and prioritised incidents where offenders were present or had been disturbed, response manager Mid North Senior Sergeant Brian Swann said.

The Rawene police area, which covered Omapere, had two dedicated officers, supported by Mid North staff, who had a good success rate in terms of apprehending offenders, thanks to the skill and knowledge of the local officers and public support.

Offending in the Rawene area had not increased recently, and there was no backlog of uninvestigated files.

Police had been advised of the Wheeldons' incident at 5pm on Tuesday, but had difficulty obtaining the car's registration.

Police Communications made a number of calls to the victim, but were unable to obtain details for several hours.

Details of the make and colour were passed to local officers but they were unable to locate it.

It was later seen in South Auckland, and two Omapere youths had been identified as suspects.

Police understood how upsetting such an incident could be, and had referred it to Victim Support, but any delays had been the result of a lack of information rather than a lack of police resources.

The November offence was not reported to police until December 20, as the Wheeldons had been overseas.

Police attended shortly after the matter was reported, and were still investigating.

- Northland Age

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