An Auckland man and his young family are shocked after being terrorised during a snatch and grab robbery in their car in Newmarket yesterday afternoon.

Leaving his family in the car momentarily while shopping for his 9-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son, the man - who did not want to be named - returned to see his wife trying to fight off a robber.

"I came around the corner and I saw her screaming in the front seat and I thought they had taken one of our kids," he told he Herald.

"A guy had opened the door, entered the car and reached for her handbag (which was on her lap) and started yanking at it with her hanging on for dear life."

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Fully disguised, the offender jumped into a car and took off. The dad-of-two tried to pursue but couldn't stop the car.

"Another car chased after them at high speed but they jumped onto the sidewalk and nearly hit people - it was quite dangerous," he said.

"It was a really traumatic experience."

A police spokeswoman confirmed the robbery took place on Teed St in Newmarket.

They were called out at 3.26pm on Sunday, with the police Eagle helicopter deployed immediately to follow the offender.

The family moved to New Zealand in search of a safer life.

"We've come back from overseas for a safer life in New Zealand, then [to be robbed] at 4pm in Newmarket is ridiculous."

The family suggested more police officers on the streets might help prevent crimes like this from occurring.

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"They [police] told us that all of these petty crimes are quick and if they see an opportunity they'll grab it.

"It's happened to my wife before, 15 years ago on the North Shore when someone grabbed her wallet."

As of last night the vehicle and offender had not been located. Police are still making inquiries.