Police say they will do everything in their power to find the thieves who targeted homes in Canterbury following this morning's earthquake.

"I can assure Cantabrians that these burglaries will be investigated rigorously and those responsible will be held to account where appropriate," says Canterbury district commander superintendent John Price.

Police received 19 reports of burglaries at Canterbury properties, residential and commercial, since just after midnight on Sunday.

"Canterbury Police will do everything in their power to find the people responsible for this disgusting spate of crime," said Price.


"It is extremely disappointing that at a time when people are facing such a traumatic event and communities are coming together to support one another, there are others who are only interested in taking advantage.

"This sort of offending really scrapes the bottom of the barrel, especially for Cantabrians who have endured so much heartache in similar circumstances over the last five years."

Police said while some of the burglaries reported today may have occurred before the quake, a number of properties were broken into after their occupants were evacuated.

Police have committed to increasing the numbers of staff carrying out reassurance patrols in the region.

A family who fled their New Brighton home with their disabled child this morning, returned five hours later to find the property had been ransacked.

"We came up the driveway and saw the work truck was gone," said Melissa Mill.

"Then we saw the front door was open, the side door, the garage door and the sleepout."

Thieves had been all through the Mill's house and stolen the television, an Xbox and other property including their 12-year-old daughter's wireless microphone system which she needs for a hearing impairment.


The system is worth about $5000 and is set up specifically for her, so will be of no use to anyone else.

Mill said she was disgusted by the incident.

Canterbury police are asking people who witness crime, are concerned about suspicious behaviour or have any belongings go missing to contact them immediately on 03 363 4700.

"We understand people may have concerns about the security of their homes following evacuations, but it is important people do not return until it is made clear by the appropriate authorities it is safe to do so," Price said.

"Keeping people safe is the main priority, but rest assured we are still very firmly focused on dealing with crime as well as the earthquake response and reassurance.

"This is also a timely reminder for people to reconnect with neighbours and ensure community looks after community."