Burglaries in the Bay of Plenty police district cause major heartache and grief for victims, yet not all break-ins are reported. Sandra Conchie has looked into the issue and talked to victims, senior police and Neighbourhood Support, who share their advice and prevention tips.
More than a quarter of crimes in the Bay of Plenty are burglaries and data shows more than 5000 burglaries and attempted break-ins were reported to the police in one year.
In the Bay of Plenty police district figures reveal there were 5029 reported burglaries and attempted break-ins, in the year to June 30 this year, compared with 4983 in the previous 12 months.
But police and Neighbourhood Support officials say lots of others go unreported.
Burglaries accounted for 26.6 per cent of the 18,872 crimes reported in the Bay of Plenty police in the last financial year and 73 per cent were at residential locations.
Victims included a "security-conscious" Welcome Bay couple whose home was ransacked and had more than $30,000 worth of property stolen earlier this month.
The heartbroken couple, who asked not to be named, said the burglars gained entry through a locked garage door, then headed upstairs and bashed a huge gaping hole in the locked internal door to gain access to the house.
Inside the garage was a 6m by 4m trailer which they say the offenders loaded with a Massey Ferguson ride-on mower, "thousands of dollars" worth of tools and equipment, including chainsaws, welders, a weed eater, plus various household items.
Also stolen were two freezer bins full of food, kitchen appliances, a TV, alcohol, a $1500 laptop, a 150-year-old gold pocket watch and a $5000 drone belonging to their son.
The homeowners said a member of public reported seeing the loaded stolen trailer being driven towards Te Puke later that same day. Police were still investigating.
"We have lived here for 23 years and it has always been our safe place and sanctuary and now our lives have been turned upside down and we feel violated," the female victim said.
Her husband said he felt "angry and bitter", especially about his grandfather's watch and it had brought back memories of his late father's war medals being stolen in 1986.
"What right do these people think they have to come into our home, and leave our house in a bloody mess and steal our property, only to probably sell it to buy drugs."
The couple had insurance but cannot claim for everything they lost and they have just spent $3000 for extra security measures also not covered by insurance.
"We are just thankful we were not home as anything could have happened, especially if the offenders were carrying weapons," the homeowners said.
Police are also still investigating a burglary at Te Puke Country Music Club on September 11 and a $1000 reward is offered for the safe return of more than $15,000 of its gear.
Rotorua's Kerris Browne had her home targeted on a number of different occasions in March last year.
Money and a diary were both stolen, that left Browne both "extremely angry and with so many questions".
She said at the time, many people told her to get alarms or a guard dog, however, she opted to spend $7000 on security cameras to catch the thief, not just scare them away.
The first time it happened she did not report it as she thought it may have been some of her son's friends as he had a party the same night.
"You begin to lose trust for people around you and think everyone is a suspect... it's horrible."
The second time she did report it but said people probably chose not to as they think the police have more important things to do and that they will not be able to catch them.
"Cameras were key" to catching the man behind Browne's home invasions, who was caught and charged a few months later, she said.
Also feeling "broken and violated" is Rotorua council candidate Mercia Yates, whose home was ransacked and two-pages of items stolen in a burglary on September 4.
Western Bay of Plenty Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Bruce Banks, whose area covers from Pukehina to Ōmokoroa, said trailers and tradesmens' vehicles full of expensive tools were popular targets for burglars.
"While there has not been a sudden spike in these types burglaries in the area, eight vehicles in Pāpāmoa west were broken into or interfered with last week," he said.
Banks said of major concern however was that not all victims reported break-ins to police.
"We do our best to try and educate people that no matter how minor it needs to be reported as quite often there is a unique pattern to what and where offenders target.
"Even a minor theft could be the piece of the jigsaw that helps police solve these crimes."
Rotorua Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Richard Perkins said it was "frustrating".
"Sometimes we only find out about it when victims post a complaint on Facebook."
Perkins said victims' non-reporting and a bit of complacency about home security were a burglar's best friend and investigating $15 to $20 in garden lights was money well spent.
Bay of Plenty police Inspector Brendon Keenan and Western Bay of Plenty Inspector Zane Smith said victims of crime should notify police straight away.
"Police recognise burglary is a particularly invasive crime that causes serious harm to our communities. We want to ensure that offenders are apprehended and held to account.
"It's frustrating for police to hear about an incident when it's too late to catch anyone at the scene. We would much prefer to attend reports of suspicious people, who've failed to burgle from well-secured homes," the two officers said.
Keenan said recent burglaries in Rotorua often involved groups of youths, so if anyone saw groups of truants or suspicious behaviour they should call the police immediately.
"Importantly, we ask residents to not put themselves in danger or take the law into their own hands if confronted by offenders, but to instead contact police," he said.
Other simple tips to protect yourself from this type of crime:
Lock windows and doors to help deter offenders
Keep trees well-trimmed, shift valuable items away from windows, install good lighting. Never leave anything outside that a burglar can climb on to access a window.
Engrave individual items, including tools and electronics with an identifying marker such as your driver licence number.
Keep in contact with neighbours, let each other know if anything unusual happens.
Report any suspicious activity - note down the number of people involved, clothing and other identifying marks or details, including vehicles used.