The number of theft crimes reported to police in New Zealand is at a five-year high, statistics show.
Bay of Plenty Police say gangs are responsible for the spike - most notably through the supply and sale of methamphetamine.
The news comes a week after more than 30 people were arrested and more than $3 million in assets were seized following a trans-national sting on organised crime groups.
However, a former methamphetamine dealer said poverty was also driving people towards crime.
The number of theft and related offences reported to police over the first four months of each year (January 1 to April 30) in the Bay of Plenty has increased by more than 34 per cent since 2017.
The trend is mirrored by the nationwide total, which increased by more than 15 per cent over the same period.
Bay of Plenty district prevention manager Inspector Stephen Bullock said most dishonesty offending had fluctuated over the past four years, except for general theft.
"Reports of shoplifting and petrol drive-offs have increased significantly during this time, aided by advanced security systems in stores able to detect [them] and identify thefts," he said.
"We believe shoplifting increases are directly related to the increased sale and supply of methamphetamine in our communities by gangs."
Police did not believe the Covid-19 pandemic had any impact on dishonesty offending.
"Honest people have made do during hardship while criminals have continued as per normal, taking every opportunity to commit a crime," Bullock said.
Former meth dealer Billy Macfarlane disagreed.
Now on the straight and narrow and working to help offenders turn away from crime, Macfarlane was once a drug lord in the region.
Macfarlane said gangs were part of the problem but were not solely to blame.
"There are a lot of people who have never been near drugs that are committing these dishonesty crimes too," he said.
"The shoplifting that is going on is just people trying to survive … There's a lot of petty thieves that would never have stolen before if there wasn't the need to.
"Lack of opportunity and poverty is attributed to petty theft. We've got to stop attributing everything to drug use and gangs. We're missing the point."
High rents, a lack of housing and job opportunities were the main reasons people turned to crime to make ends meet.
"People don't steal because they want to, they steal because they have to."
The total number of theft and related offences reported to police in Rotorua was lower as of April 30, 2021, than it was in the previous year.
However, the numbers had continued to increase nationally, in the Bay of Plenty and in Tauranga.
The numbers also increased in the Tauranga suburb of Welcome Bay, where about eight or 10 vehicles were targeted over Labour weekend.
Several vehicles were broken into and another was set alight.
Santamol Hooper faced an $800 bill to repair smashed windows on two of her vehicles.
"I've got no insurance and can't afford to pay for both cars," she said.
The back section of the rear-door windows on both vehicles was smashed. Hooper was unsure if anything had been stolen but was irate at the offending.
An insignia written in lipstick in the graffiti-style text was left on one of Hooper's windows.
Elsewhere, Rotorua Neighbourhood Support spokesman said there was no real pattern to vehicle break-ins in the city.
"It's been annoying for some time but I don't know [if it's got worse] over a yearly period. Some days in one area, the next day another," he said.
"There is no real pattern as to where they happen more than others. It just happens and it doesn't. There is no real trend."
Bullock said people should lock up their valuables and ensure their properties and vehicles were as secure as possible.
Additionally, anyone who witnessed or had knowledge of incidents was encouraged to call 111 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The statistics were gathered from the New Zealand Police victimisation time and place section of their website.
The report presented detailed information about where and what times of the day and week crime that had a victim occurred in New Zealand.
'Huge blow' dealt to organised crime, police say
Last week, 35 people were arrested and $3.7 million in assets was seized following a major transnational sting on organised crime groups.
Operation Trojan Shield was led by the FBI and co-ordinated with the DEA, AFP, Europol and other law enforcement partners in more than a dozen countries.
The FBI created a closed-cell encryption company, called Anom, to target organised crime, drug trafficking and money-laundering activities across the globe.
For over 18 months, Anom's criminal users unknowingly communicated on the system operated by FBI agents.
New Zealand Police began working with the FBI on the operation in January 2020 to monitor the communication of platform users in New Zealand.
More than 300 NZ staff - including National Organised Crime, Armed Offenders Squad, Special Tactics Group, Asset Recovery, High Tech Crime and Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Central and Wellington District police staff - executed 37 warrants last Monday.
As of Monday night, 35 people had been arrested in connection with Trojan Shield and more than 900 charges had been laid.
National Organised Crime Group director Detective Superintendent Greg Williams last week said more arrests were still to be made.