An off-duty officer was too fleet-footed for a man who allegedly stole a charity donation box from a Paihia shop then tried to flee when she placed him under arrest.

Senior Constable Neil Vartan, of Mid North police, said around noon on Friday a man entered the Four Square store on Williams Rd and stole a Kidney Kids donation box containing up to $60 from the counter.

The offender then used the money to make a purchase at another store in town, but while there he was recognised by a Four Square staff member.

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The staffer alerted a police officer working at a Ngāti Hine Covid-19 testing station in the nearby Williams Rd carpark, and he in turn alerted an officer who was studying at Paihia police station in her own time. They then went in search of the alleged thief.

The off-duty officer found the suspect and placed him under arrest, showing him her ID because she wasn't in uniform.

When the suspect tried to run away she chased him on foot across town and caught him at a Paihia dwelling. He was then taken to Paihia police station for processing.

''It was a good catch by a dedicated off-duty officer. She displayed outstanding courage and athletic ability,'' Vartan said.

A 27-year-old Bay of Islands man is due in the Whangārei District Court today charged with theft and escaping custody. He was also allegedly breaching bail.

It's not the first time someone has tried to make off with a donation box in the Bay of Islands, but, thanks to in-store security cameras, the thieves rarely get away.

In 2018, a 36-year-old Paihia man was arrested for stealing a Red Cross donation box containing more than $200 from the front counter of the Four Square in Russell. He was identified by CCTV footage and arrested.

In 2017 a Kidney Kids donation box was stolen from Kerikeri Sushi Gallery. In that case, a 34-year-old Kerikeri man confessed after a CCTV image was published online and in the Advocate. He was charged with theft and donated $100 to the charity, double the amount he was thought to have taken.

In 2016 a box brimming with donations for Opua School was stolen from the town's General Store. A teenage girl from Whangārei was arrested after someone recognised a CCTV image also published in the Advocate.

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