A group of around 16 youths have been snared by Northland police as they ramp up their crackdown on car thefts in the region.
Police have revealed the cars most sought after by thieves as they continue to urge those owners to be extra vigilant.
Acting senior sergeant Christian Stainton, Whangarei area prevention manager, said Mazda Demios, Nissan Tiidas and Mitsubishi Lancers were top of the most wanted list.
"For a large part of it, those vehicles are owned by elderly who need it for their own health reasons. They're easy cars for them to drive or negotiate getting into."
Other owners included young families.
In the 12-months up to May this year, there had been 1379 thefts of vehicles, their parts, or contents in Northland.
Whangārei was the hardest hit with 746, followed by the Far North. 538, and Kaipara, 95.
Similar crimes are prevalent in Auckland with almost 9500 vehicles reported stolen across the city. The most commonly taken vehicles been the Mazda Demio – 825 -and Nissan Tiida at 777.
Stainton said the youths behind some Northland's thefts were "transient" with their crimes – even though residential streets appeared to be targeted most.
"We do get short term pockets of offending but it's not restricted to a specific area."
"The vehicle crime, I would stress, is very opportunistic. Any car that is visible from the road in the area they are they'll check it."
Social media posts had misled the community into thinking there was a "massive spike in vehicle crime" and that "it's out of control", Stainton said.
"Generally, social media is disproportionate to the actual identified and qualified information of offending that we are getting in.
"[Social media] is quite destructive for communities as it causes hysteria within them."
Stainton said police had prioritised car thefts and multiple groups – such as youth crime and volume crime – were working to quash the rate of offending.
"We understand the frustration that communities have when these sorts of crimes happen in their smaller suburbs and we want to do the best for our victims and hold those accountable."
The past months have seen a number of young Northlanders appear in Whangārei's Youth Court to face charges that included unlawfully taking motor vehicles, possessing instruments for conversion, unlawfully gets into a motor vehicle – and more.
The young people caught by police either went through youth justice and were put on to alternative action plans, or alternative measures to assess and address their offending as early as possible.
"One thing I want to stress is it's a very small percentage of our youth who are committing the crimes in our communities," Stainton said. "For the majority of those youths, they haven't reoffended."
But there remained an "even smaller, very core group of juveniles" who continue to offend.
Stainton said dealing with this type of youth offending wasn't as straightforward as people may think.
A young person's links to family, social groups, and social expectations made it a "complex" and "challenging" matter. As well the way they process information at their age.
"They don't fully understand their offending and how that impacts people," Stainton said.
"Police understand that we may catch them and they may reoffend. We will take every opportunity to hold them accountable...it may take a lot longer to deal with some of our youths who offend more routinely to get them, hopefully, back on a path where they understand they were on the wrong path."
In order to achieve this a person's family, school or education centre, and the wider community needed to play their part.
"It also comes down to what we are allowing to be socially acceptable for our youths. We need families and communities to help put boundaries around these kids."
While diminishing youth offending is a huge focus for police, so is the safety of the community.
"We've got a wider range of working groups making this a priority to address it. Everyone should be able to feel safe without having a police officer drive down your road every two minutes..."
Stainton encouraged people to join groups like Neighbourhood Support or volunteer with Community Patrol.
STEPS TO PREVENT YOUR CAR BEING STOLEN
• Use a steering lock – they are inexpensive and a great deterrent
• Install an immobiliser
• Avoid leaving your vehicle parked on the street if possible and park down driveways and out of sight from the road
• If parking on the street, park in well-lit areas such as under street lights
• Never leave any valuables in your vehicle
• Have a car alarm installed