A gang of young vandals who were caught trashing the Muriwai Beach lifeguard tower have been charged with a raft of offences following an overnight rampage through west Auckland.
The group - made up of four girls and five boys aged between 15 and 18 - was arrested after lifeguards and locals at the popular west Auckland beach managed to keep them in place until police arrived.
When the brazen vandals realised they could not escape, they ordered fish and chips from the local cafe and sat calmly - watched by about 10 locals - until officers arrived.
The patrol tower break-in early this morning came after an overnight crime spree, in which two cars were stolen, taken for a joyride and left "inoperable through damage", and another was attempted to be broken into, police said.
Nine people have now been charged with a raft of offences, including unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, theft and burglary.
Three are being charged as adults, the rest will be dealt with through the Youth Court, Senior Sergeant Steve Pivac of the Orewa police said.
"We had a group of nine who had taken a car from Mt Albert and then another from Henderson, then they've gone joyriding in those two vehicles ... and made their way up to Muriwai where they've vandalised those two vehicles," Mr Pivac said.
"Then, because they've damaged them so much, they've then tried to take another vehicle, and they were unsuccessful with that.
"And then that group has made their way to the lifeguard tower, where they've broken into the tower, taken food and property from inside."
Police were notified during the attempt to take the third car, he said, at around 6am.
About an hour later, a gang of about seven youths was spotted vandalising the lifeguard patrol tower at Muriwai Beach - first by a young volunteer and minutes later by a senior lifeguard who confronted them and called for back-up.
"They took off and started walking through the park and he followed at a distance and we bailed them up at the cafe," Tim Jago, Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service president, said.
"They were pretty agitated and pretty belligerent. We had the police on the line and we were taking photographs and describing them to the police, and at that stage they sort of calmed down a bit, I guess had a change of heart and thought they may as well sit there and face the music."
The senior club member had the gang "totally gobsmacked" as he continued to talk to them, stalling their escape until back-up arrived, Mr Jago said.
"I turned up, drove around the corner just as they were starting to pick up a stick and they had a screwdriver and all that sort of stuff," he said.
"And then a whole lot of other locals just happened to pull up in the carpark, as you do in a small community, and at that stage there was 10 of us and seven of them, and it was a whole lot easier.
"Two of the group 'sloped off', but by the time police arrived the lifeguards and locals had five young men and two young women detained, and another two young women who were spotted on the beach were also apprehended as being part of the group.
"We handed over nine and lost two, so not a bad catch," Mr Jago said.
However, what surprised him most was how "totally belligerent [and] arrogant" the group was, he said.
"The thing that astounded us was once we told them that the cops were coming and they lost any desire to run away, they actually went into the cafe and ordered fish and chips and sat and ate them in front of everyone," he said.
"They just ate fish and chips under the steely gaze of a whole lot of pissed-off locals."
Luckily the damage to the tower was mostly superficial, Mr Jago said, but it would still set the club back between $2000 and $3000.
"It's a hell of a mess, they've destroyed the amplifier that drives our PA system, they've stolen or thrown away two sets of very good binoculars and there's some other minor items that can't be accounted for at the moment."
The vandals had also poured cocoa powder into the electronics and were cooking food stolen from the tower when they were confronted, he said.
"Certainly the cops were happy we had them because they said they'd been looking for them since 2.30am," Mr Jago said.
He added: "These guys were on the rampage - the [stolen] cars were parked up with windows smashed, doors wrenched off one, the other had been driven into trees and posts on purpose."
The cars were write-offs, he said.
Mr Pivac said police would not condone confronting vandals or burglars.
"We don't encourage people to follow offenders. We really just advise them to observe as much detail about descriptions [of the person or persons], particularly about vehicle registrations and call the police quickly, rather than to take their own steps. I guess in this case those lifeguards were probably quite territorial and loyal to their hut ... but it's not recommended."
Mr Pivac warned motorists to ensure their cars were properly secured, to make them difficult to steal.
"We're really disappointed that the lifeguards had been targeted. They do fantastic work for the community, and to be treated in this way is really disappointing for us."
• 2am approximately: Car stolen in Mt Albert.
• Shortly afterwards a second car was stolen in Henderson.
• The cars were taken on a joyride to Muriwai Beach, and vandalised.
• 6am: Police notified about an attempted break-in of a car at Muriwai Beach.
• 7.20am: Muriwai lifeguards spot a gang of seven youths inside the patrol tower and confront them.
• They follow them to a local cafe on Motutara Rd, and talk to them until police arrive. The youths order fish and chips, and sit down to wait.
• 7.30am: Police arrive and arrest nine youths, aged between 15 and 18.