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Constable Grant Burrows will do anything to catch a crim - he'll even strip down to his boxers in the middle of an upmarket Auckland street.

And his near-naked efforts have earned him high praise from a female passerby.

The woman, who would only be called Blondie, said he was "quite a dish".

The Newmarket cop didn't think twice when it came to getting his gear off and diving into the Orakei Basin to chase an alleged thief on Thursday night.

About 7pm a 16-year-old youth allegedly stole a mountain bike from a bed and breakfast on Brighton Rd in Parnell.

He rode off, initially chased by the owner and then by Constable Chris Gwilliam. The youth dumped the bike and leapt into a culvert on Shore Rd in Remuera.

Burrows, 29, arrived moments later. When the youth refused to come out, he stripped to his boxer shorts, armed himself with pepper spray, and jumped in.

"I jumped in the water and chased him through the mangroves. I've got scratches and cuts all over me and I wrecked my foot jumping in."

Burrows swam after the youth for about 200m through the waist-deep water before catching him.

The youth had taken off from the child and adolescent health unit at Auckland Hospital. He was taken back there after his arrest and is likely to be charged with theft.

Burrows said jumping in was his only option.

"I'm a confident swimmer and he wasn't any bigger than me so I thought it was all on. In Newmarket we take care of business."

Burrows said his colleagues had given him a bit of a hard time for fighting crime in his undies and his wife fully supported him doing whatever it took to get his job done.

" I really enjoy the chase, the apprehension, the excitement of policing."