An ex-sprinter who clocked a thief running from an Auckland mall with a stolen television ran after him in hot pursuit and helped police to make a quick arrest.
Police responded to reports of a shoplifting incident at Westgate Shopping centre in Auckland on Sunday morning.
A police spokesperson said they located the offender a short distance from the scene and a 41-year-old male was charged with shoplifting.
“We are aware a member of the public followed the person as he left the store with an item,” they said.
RNZ spoke to Steven*, who said he was outside The Warehouse with his family at 10.35am when his wife turned to him and said, “I think that guy is stealing something.”
“A guy then ran past me holding a TV, and I turned back towards The Warehouse and two of the staff members were jogging out, two older ladies,” he said.
“I then took after him - I started sprinting.”
Steven said he ran down an alleyway next to The Warehouse and saw a man trying to hide the TV under a car.
“I said to him, ‘Oi, what are you doing?’”
The man then got up and ran past Steven, leaving the TV behind.
Steven said he rang 111 and explained what had happened.
“I then stalked the guy through the carpark... He didn’t click on that I was following him, he was just trying to be casual and walk away.
“But then he turned back and saw me, recognised me as the guy who chased him, saw me on the phone, obviously, and then he started to do the fingers, do menacing gestures at me, and he tried to shake me.”
Steven said he backed off and tried to put some distance between the man and himself, with the man eventually running off again.
When the police arrived, Steven provided a full description.
“I think he changed his disguise. I think he put a yellow bucket hat on - which is a bit dumb, it’s pretty bright - and I think he dropped his jacket.”
Steven said the police then picked up the man at a nearby restaurant.
“I think the yellow hat may have given him away.”
After the incident, Steven said he talked with staff members from The Warehouse, who mentioned they were without regular security that day.
Steven said the staff told him some bikes were recently stolen from the shop and the security guard on shift was punched in the face by the alleged offender.
“I spoke to another lady who has a stall outside The Warehouse, and she said she sees this about six times a day - people running out with stuff, just casually, brazenly stealing things.”
Steven said he was an ex-sprinter.
“I guess as an ex-sprinter - just about every sprinter waits for their moment to do good for society, to use their speed, and I guess that happened today. And I’m really stoked that the cops did an amazing job too.”
“I wanted to share this story because the police get a hard time. A lot of the time, people think that police don’t turn up to retail crime, they don’t do anything, they turn a blind eye. The stats are that not a lot of retail crime [results in] an arrest and convictions... but this guy, we did get him.”
Police advise the public not to put themselves in danger or take the law into their own hands.
If people see a crime happening, they should call 111 immediately and provide the operator with as much detail as possible.
*The name of the interviewee has been changed to protect their privacy.