Owners are being urged by police to secure their vehicles after a spate of "brazen thefts" in Manawatū late this week, some of which then led to dangerous incidents of drivers fleeing police.
In the most recent incident, a teenage female driver - cornered by police the grounds of a school - allegedly backed through the gates and drove off, dragging the school gates behind.
A number of "brazen thefts" of vehicles had occurred over the last few nights in Palmerston North and Feilding, Manawatū area commander, Inspector Sarah Stewart, said.
"This type of offending in Manawatu is predominately committed by small groups of youths, aged between 12 and 17 years. Frequently girls are the offenders and their offending is not new."
Police were seeing a continuation of this trend where teenagers had been stealing cars, dumping them, stealing other cars close by and dumping them too before fleeing police when discovered.
On Thursday police dealt with four teenage girls - one each aged 14 and 16, and two aged 15 - for offending between Monday and Thursday, Stewart said.
"About 1.30am a stolen Mazda vehicle was seen in Bunnythorpe, which then fled from police. The female driver travelled into Palmerston North where the vehicle was spiked three times before coming to a stop.
"In that vehicle were the four girls who were arrested and appeared in Youth Court that day."
A 15-year-old was charged with unlawful taking of a vehicle and failing to stop. A second 15-year-old was charged with unlawful taking and breach of bail.
Both appeared in court yesterday, while two girls aged 14 and 16 were referred to Youth Aid for unlawfully getting into a vehicle.
A further two unlawful taking of vehicles, seven attempted unlawful takings and two petrol drive-offs are being referred to Youth Aid service with an intention to charge this group, Stewart said.
Then early this morning, police identified another stolen vehicle driving in the city, she said.
"The female driver failed to stop and attempted to evade police by driving into a local college grounds. Cornered, she backed through the school gates and drove off, dragging the gates behind."
Two youths were found soon after. The 16-year-old driver appeared in court this morning for breach of bail, unlawful taking of a vehicle, dangerous driving and failing to stop.
Her 17-year-old passenger also appeared in court for breaching his bail, possession of instruments for car conversion and unlawful taking, Stewart said.
The teens who do break-ins similar to this often attempted a number of vehicles in a night, damaging windows, steering cowling and ignition barrels before successfully stealing a vehicle, she said.
Police had in the past received reports of three or four thefts or attempts of theft per night.
"These young teens will keep offending until we catch them. They rarely stop when signalled to by police at which point the incident is escalated to a fleeing driver event. The police said this was incredibly dangerous and put the drivers, police and the public at risk.
"We need our young people to stop stealing cars, committing crime and risking their lives and the lives of those around them. This is a problem for our community and our community can also be a part of the solution."
Anyone who saw suspicious activity around cars where there are groups of teenage boys or girls, who may not be there or in that vehicle for legitimate reasons, should call the police, Stewart said.
Vehicle theft and interference was often opportunistic crime and risks could be minimised by ensuring vehicles were secured and locked, and not leaving them on the street where possible.
"It is really important that drivers take out valuables, including electronics, speed detectors, jewellery and wallets when leaving vehicles. If you must leave things in your vehicle, please do not leave them in plain sight."
Steering locks were also a great deterrent, as were immobilisers, she said.
"Please look out for our visitors and community, and let the police know of anything or anyone that looks out of place.
"Importantly, we ask people to not put themselves in danger or take the law into their own hands if confronted by offenders but to instead contact police. If you see a crime taking place call 111 immediately."