As shoppers exit their luxury vehicles at dusk to pick up dinner at supermarkets across Auckland, men hidden in the carpark shadows watch.
What the victims look like - meek or imposing - is irrelevant, because they will never cross paths.
What is crucial is the model of car they've arrived in - any vehicle shy of $100,000 is not worth the risk. New-model BMWs, Mercedes, Range Rovers, souped-up Holdens and American muscle cars are all prime targets.
The victims stay oblivious to the fact they've been followed home - their houses cased and chosen for their location and layout - and their personal space invaded while they are sleeping.
They wake to find their garages, driveways and street fronts bare, without any trace of burglary or forced entry into their home. Their bank accounts are also up to $2000 lighter.
An elaborate scheme involving their vehicle has already started at an Auckland panelbeaters to change the identity of the car and on-sell it. The services of the Automobile Association and the New Zealand Transport Agency will later be exploited to change ownership.
Alex knows the process intricately. He invaded hundreds of homes over two years until the law caught up with him and he was convicted of car theft among several other serious violent charges.
He has spoken to the Herald on Sunday about the professional car-theft ring he was part of, stealing at least one luxury vehicle a night, earning at least $10,000 per week during 2017 and 2018.
Remorseful for his criminal past and now earning a legitimate living, he is speaking out to warn motorists, and bring attention to the "crazy" number of stolen cars on New Zealand roads. In 2018, there were 28,682 cars stolen across the country. Of those, 12,260 were in the Auckland region, and 2884 in the Waitematā police district, which covers the North Shore - the target of Alex's crimes.
But authorities are catching on, clamping down on loopholes.
One new modus operandi police are investigating - revealed by the Weekend Herald last month - is thieves using unmarked tow-trucks to nab cars in broad daylight without suspicion.
But Alex's method was different. And, he warns, his crew was never even close to being caught by police in the act.
Alex's crew worked mainly on Auckland's North Shore and further north.
"Basically me and four other guys would go to a supermarket, watch people go inside and pay for their food.
"While someone watched them type in their PIN inside, we'd put magnetic GPS trackers under their car, follow them home, and wait for them to go to sleep."
They would case the house before deciding whether to invade it.
"We'd have specific ways of knowing we can't get caught, just by the type of house. If it's a double story and the living area is above the ground floor, don't do it.
"The best houses are the ones that you don't have to go upstairs because the stairs always creek.
"And that's the last thing you want, you know. We just want to get in, get what we want, and get out without waking people up."
He says they targeted homes made by a common building company as the house layout was predictable.
"They are built with the dining room, the garage, the kitchen and the laundry downstairs. Then upstairs you've got the master bedrooms, other bedrooms, ensuites."
Much would depend on the suburb the car was tracked to. Alex targeted the North Shore because of the high number of luxury vehicles - and because of apparently lax attitudes to home security.
"Houses in the North Shore tend to be a lot easier to get into because people just leave their doors open," Alex says.
"Areas like Takapuna, Milford - you know they've got new houses, concrete floors, people don't hear you coming in and going out. Never go to Devonport, there's only one road in and one way out.
"The doors, 90 per cent of them are open, they're unlocked, people just think that New Zealand is safe, so they just leave the doors unlocked."
Alex says if they couldn't access the home easily, they simply grabbed their magnetic GPS tracker off the targeted car and moved on. There was no need to take risks with so many desirable cars and unlocked houses.
But once inside a living room, the crew moves fast.
"We go inside, immediately try and locate the keys. Pretty much every single time it's successful. Get the keys, get the bag.
"The bag's usually with the keys, handbags for females, or wallets, whatever. You'd just grab the keys and leave straight away."
"We'd aim for one car, but obviously people just leave their keys on hooks at the front door. I mean, if there's five sets of keys there, that's how many we will take."
About once a month, a resident would wake up while Alex and three others in the group were rummaging through a darkened living room.
The fifth crew member is outside waiting, scanning the street, prepared for a quick escape.
"Yeah, it's happened. We've had weapons pulled on us, but we retaliate," Alex says.
"No matter what you do, people are scared when you come into their space. So they just act in fear. They're scared of what's happening."
But for the vast majority of uninterrupted home invasions, Alex's crew would drive off unhindered and quickly drain any debit cards.
"We'd go draw money out straight away, it's the first thing we'd do before they can cancel the cards," he says.
"Go to an ATM, and you already know the code because earlier that day we watched them type their PIN code in."
Different banks had different limits to the amount that could be withdrawn, some up to $2000 at a time.
The withdrawal was made en route to an Auckland panel beater - which Alex claimed was owned by a gang - capable of rebranding the stolen vehicle within hours.
"It is expensive to do though. You have to change the rear windscreen. Sometimes, on some models, the front windscreen.
"You have to repaint the whole car a different colour, and you have to cut and weld the firewall [the divider between the engine and the cabin] a different colour. It's a real thin metal.
"So it has to be printed exactly the way it was printed at the factory. It's just a press [the panel beater had] and they'd stamp the digit in, as similar as possible."
Chassis numbers printed on seatbelts and windows of new vehicles had to be replaced.
Alex's crew's car of choice, 3 and 5 series BMWs made since 2015, have identifiers called microdots that also have to be taken out.
Ford Rangers, Mercedes, and Holdens are also desirable, but difficult due to their numerous Vehicle Identification Numbers printed on the car body.
"They've [Holdens] just got their numbers everywhere: on the ABS units, on the brakes, there's numbers everywhere," Alex says.
Despite describing the whole undertaking as "an absolute mission", Alex says the resale financial reward for late-model luxury cars are still worth it.
He says the gangs would pay his crew anywhere from $5000 and up to $20,000 for the most desirable cars, which would be divided among the five of his crew.
"It costs a further $30,000 to update some cars. But on a $100,000 car you're [the gang] still going to make $50,000," Alex says.
"The ring leaders won't stop because the money that's involved is huge. We're making $10,000 each a week, they're making $150,000. The revenue is feeding a number of other avenues of theirs as well."
Even more crafty than the logistical effort to remove any trace that a new car has been stolen, is a method Alex used to re-register and quickly sell on the cars he stole.
It's a process Alex describes as "duplicating".
The first step is to search Trade Me for a vehicle for sale on the road identical to the one just stolen, but in a different part of the country.
If a BMW 3 series was stolen in Auckland, he would look for one the same colour, year, and similar kilometres - but in Wellington or Christchurch.
"There's thousands of cars on Trade Me and you can always find a duplicate vehicle that's not in Auckland," Alex says.
Alex would then take the plate number and change the car into his or a friend's name.
"I get him to go into the AA and say, 'I've just purchased a vehicle and I'd like to surrender the number plates and get new ones'.
"So they literally give him new number plates and a new rego slip right there and then, without even having the old number plates - because you just tick a box that says 'lost'."
From there, Alex would scrape off the existing WOF sticker from the front windscreen, and take it to Vehicle Testing New Zealand and tell them he'd just installed a new windscreen.
"You pay $12, they give you a new WOF sticker from VTNZ - bang on the window, and you've updated the car," Alex says.
"You've literally got that same stolen BMW but with new plates, new rego, new WOF, you've got the keys, and you've got the person who it's registered to [your friend],"
Alex says it takes five days for the New Zealand Transport Agency to send through acknowledgement to the owner of the real car for sale in Wellington – to notify them their car has been registered into "whoever's name".
Once the error has been reported by the true owner of the vehicle, a call will then be made by NZTA to the number supplied when you registered the supposedly newly-purchased vehicle.
They will ask for an explanation over two separate cars being registered to the same plates.
"You just say 'Oh sorry, I must have typed something wrong on the number plate, I'll redo it'. They buy the story every single time," Alex says.
"But by that point, you've already sold that vehicle. So you've got that five-day window to get rid of that car. So that car's been sold, even on-sold again.
"You sell it for like a quarter of the price on Facebook, boom. You have to sell it in that time otherwise you redo it again. And they sell like that, the cars just sell."
NZTA says it is aware of the practice of people attempting to switch the identity of vehicles by using their online registration "in quick succession to pass a stolen vehicle off as the legal vehicle listed for sale at the time".
it has received complaints and was "investigating potential changes" to processing such transactions.
Alex's latest arrest and conviction did not relate to the hundreds of organised car thefts he undertook - but a separate moment of "idiocy" in a stolen car.
But he says he's thankful he was caught.
"You don't understand the person that I was before, compared to now.
"I had police come to my house not so long ago to see how I was doing, and I thanked them. I'm so grateful that they caught me and stopped me because otherwise I wouldn't be able to be normal now.
"Who knows where I'd be? I'd be dead."