At least 10 cars have been stolen or broken into in one of the worst nights for the type of street offending that police can remember in Hawke's Bay.
"It was a bad night," said police Hawke's Bay Area prevention manager Inspector Martin James, confirming what is thought to have been five vehicle thefts, and at least five thefts from vehicles in a spree lasting just a few hours across Napier and Hastings.
The offences took place or were reported mainly after 11pm on Wednesday and while police are looking for suspects, aged mainly in the 13-17 years age-bracket, the pressure is going on vehicle owners to take more steps to prevent the offences.
Some of the youthful suspects have been previously apprehended but are still offending police believe.
James says for as little as $34 people can buy a steering-wheel lock, which if fitted would stop most vehicles being stolen or "at the very least" slow the thieves down as they get into the vehicles and have to break the locks before driving off, and thus risk getting caught.
But he says owners should do everything possible to prevent the crimes, or make the often easy-to-steal models less appealing to thieves. Some can be easily entered and started without keys.
He says most of the vehicles had been parked on the road outside properties, with target items such as wallets and cellphones inside, sometimes easily visible to passersby. A few are vehicles parked "up driveways".
But James says the problem – "a lot of it driven by social media" – is nationwide, and nationwide campaigns are in place to draw owners' attention to how they can help prevent the escalation of the offences.
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He says the fitting of steering wheel locks alone would probably cut the number of incidents by half, but he asks: "How do we get the message across? People need to start listening."
Commonly targeted vehicles are Mazda Familia, Mazda Demio, "early-version" Mazda Axela and Nissan Tiida models, which when taken are mainly used for joy-riding, before being abandoned, sometimes with the engines still running.
Occasionally they are destroyed
At least four vehicles were taken from Napier and one from Hastings in the latest one-night spate, and at least five others across the two cities were broken into.
In one incident, thieves added a pair of shoes to the more popular booty of a wallet and a phone.
Police are catching offenders, notably last weekend after a series of thefts stretching from Hawke's Bay to Gisborne, including an alleged aggravated involving the taking of a vehicle from a woman in Napier.