As Northland prepares to welcome an influx of visitors this summer, a judge has warned that criminals who target tourists and their belongings will face the full force of the law.
Judge Greg Davis sounded the warning in the Whangarei District Court this week while sentencing a young man who broke into four cars hired by overseas tourists that were parked at A.H. Reed Memorial Park in Whareora Rd, Whangarei, and stole high-value items.
Hare Shortland, 23, stole nearly $8000 worth of items. He attributed his offending to a lack of income and offered to pay reparation at $100 a week from benefits he intended to receive from Work and Income, but Judge Davis said that wasn't realistic.
Instead Judge Davis jailed Shortland, who appeared for sentencing via audio-visual link from prison, for 21 months.
Northland Tourism Development Group chairman and former Whangarei District Council member Jeroen Jongejans said robbery of tourists in Northland was damaging as it painted the region as the "crime capital" of the country. "We have a nice, positive brand except for particular safety aspects and tourism is a very important part of our economy so we've got to make sure our reputation is as good as it can be," he said.
Shortland had earlier pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft from cars, four of unlawfully interfering with a vehicle, and one of breaching prison release conditions.
His lawyer, Wiremu Puriri, argued against a prison sentence, saying Shortland didn't initially realise the effects his offending would have on his victims but did so now and had offered to pay reparation. But Judge Davis said the offending involved significant premeditation, high-value items were stolen and Shortland targeted an isolated spot as chances of getting caught were low.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Glenn Lane said the tourists were easy pickings as Shortland knew he'd get cash and other valuable items.
Mr Lane questioned what chances Shortland had of getting a job and paying reparation in a tight Northland job market.
The police summary of facts stated Shortland smashed the window of a car at the park on July 22 and stole $1700 worth of items belonging to two visitors.
On August 10 he had taken items worth $2200 that belonged to four tourists and later that day he had again stolen a large amount of property valued at $4070 from another vehicle. Shortland had returned to the park three days later but left without stealing anything.
"You've created a situation that reflects poorly on New Zealand, especially very poorly on Northland and a message has to go out that those who choose to go around breaking into tourists' cars and stealing from them will face the full force of the law," Judge Davis said.
Whangarei District Council community safety officer Dave Palmer said security cameras operated on high-risk carparks such as A.H. Reed Memorial Park, Whangarei Falls and Abbey Caves.
He said volunteers would patrol the carparks on weekends and public holidays from the first week of December to Easter Monday.