A reformed burglar - who once targeted homes in the early morning - has told the Herald what he believes is driving the sinister trend of door knock robbery attempts and how Kiwis can protect themselves.

Adrian Pritchard spent six years in jail for burglary offences he committed from his teens through to his early twenties and now works in the community, advising the public and private companies on how they can protect themselves.

He spoke to the Herald after we shared the terrifying experiences of North Shore residents who were targeted by door knocks early in the morning that they believe were robbery attempts.

Since then, the Herald has received reports of similar incidents from across Auckland and Pritchard shared the chilling reality behind the trend.

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"From my experience, that's the prime example where people either get raped, they hold the place up or they're sussing the joint out to see who's there."

"They might have figured out there's a male there so they've figured 'let's get out of here' but if she was by herself it might have turned out different."

Pritchard blames the rise in methamphetamine use for the nature of the crimes: "In the early hours of the morning people are detoxing and they're wanting a quick fix, so they're wanting a quick hit so they can get their quick fix."

"They're looking for another quick earn to get a $50 bag or $100 bag."

Pritchard says there has been a disturbing change in criminal behaviour, warning of dire consequences if burglars were disturbed.

"Back in our day it was more strategic. Today people don't care. Even if you get woken up or you catch someone people don't care, they stab you, they do whatever."

He also laid some of the blame at the foot of our justice system, saying: "A lot of it is methamphetamine but also the jail system. Back in my day I got 12 months for stabbing someone, you do six months and you're out."

Pritchard warns Kiwis to
Pritchard warns Kiwis to "never, ever open the door". Photo / 123RF

Pritchard is particularly qualified to advise Kiwis on how to protect themselves from early morning robberies - he used to commit them.

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"We used to knock on doors at 3 or 4 in the morning and we found out no one was there so we burgled the place," he said.

"Between 3 and 5 was our main time to hit the place."

"We used to burgle people's place when they're still asleep, burgle their sheds, take their power tools, take their cars, take whatever."

"Or we used to see a laptop just sitting on the sitting room table so we used to just smash the window quickly because by the time they got up and got going you'd be gone."

Saying that it was "a lot easier for someone to open the door for a woman than some scruffy guy", Pritchard warns Kiwis to "never, ever open the door".

He said homeowners should "ring the cops straight away and let them deal with the situation".

Adrian Pritchard, reformed career criminal. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
Adrian Pritchard, reformed career criminal. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

Pritchard told the Herald that there were steps that Kiwis could take to protect themselves, saying that a security light may not deter a would-be doorknocker but a surveillance camera should.

"I'm a strong believer in security cameras. Even if it's an artificial one, it still scares you. You think 'they've got me now'."

"That's my advice to people and it's so cheap to buy surveillance cameras."

"It's not about insurance on your stuff, it's about people entering your private premises, that's your home, that's where you should be feeling safe."

Mums' fears after suspicious knocks in middle of night

A woman told the Herald about the "scary" moment she opened her door to a woman claiming to be asking for help.

The Beach Haven resident said she received a knock on her front door in the early hours of a June morning and found a woman pleading for help, claiming she had been attacked by four men.

She said the situation was a "bit scary" but decided to investigate.

The early morning visitor was heard conferring with men in the driveway of the home. Photo / 123RF
The early morning visitor was heard conferring with men in the driveway of the home. Photo / 123RF

"I just opened the door halfway and then I said, 'What guys?' and she was mumbling something like 'they attacked me, they attacked me'."

"At that moment I heard voices and looked up at my driveway and I could see people, shadows of people because it was still dark."

The woman was scared, so closed the door and locked it straight away.

"Then I heard her saying 'see, I told you' to the people over there," she told the Herald.

"So I went to my sitting room and pulled the curtain and looked outside and instead of walking out of the driveway I saw her walking from the back of my driveway. So she probably went around the back of my driveway because my kids' rooms are around that side."

The woman spoke to the Herald after another mother-of-three from Beach Haven posted on a Facebook community group yesterday, urging others to look out for a woman who knocked on her door: "4am this morning we had a girl lightly knock three times at our door", she wrote.

"She said 'let me in, I need some help', she was very clearly not distressed. Normally I would but I've seen posts where there's a male waiting outside.

"Be warned, don't let her in. Called police straightaway who have come and are out looking. Not a nice thing to happen when you have three children in the house."

The woman told the Herald she was "just shattered" after the incident and described what happened during the chilling encounter.

The early morning visit in Auckland's Beach Haven left the mother-of-three feeling
The early morning visit in Auckland's Beach Haven left the mother-of-three feeling "shattered". Photo / Google

"My front door has glass panels, I heard a faint knock after settling bubs, then I heard it again, so went to the other end of the house and there was no one at the front door," she said.

"I pulled the handle down to make sure it was locked, turned around to walk away and she knocked again, I turned back around and she was standing there."

The woman, whose three young children and husband were sleeping in the house, then confronted the visitor.

"I said to her 'what do you want?' She just said 'let me in, I need some help'. I yelled and told her I'm not letting you in, go away or I'll call the cops. She left fast."

Expert advice

Advice from NZ Police mirrors much of what Pritchard says, with residents told not open their doors to unexpected strangers.

Senior Constable Paul Donaldson, the acting sergeant at Glenfield Station, told the Herald that anyone had the right to knock on someone's door: "It's a common-law right for any citizen to knock on anybody's front door, regardless of the time, unless they have been trespassed from that property."

He said: "If someone is knocking on your door at that time in the morning and you're not expecting it, try and see, without turning on the lights, who is at the door, without going to the door."

"Speak to them through a side window and say 'what do you want' and qualify their intent."

Donaldson advised anyone believing that a visitor had a genuine need to tell them to wait on the doorstep and call police.

"Don't put yourself at any risk of going out there and getting involved in potentially a scheme that will see you a victim of their ill-intent," he said.

Police recommend people follow this advice to keep their homes secure and suggested remembering these key points:

• Don't open the door to strangers. Install a peephole in your door. If you don't know someone, keep the door closed.

• Have a phone by your bed.

• Arrange with a neighbour to phone or visit you if your curtains are still drawn after a certain time in the morning.

• Never tell someone that you are alone in the house.

• Install a wide-angle door viewer so you can see who is at your door.

• Keep your doors and windows secure and close your curtains at night.

• Invest in good-quality, secure locks.