More than 20 alleged car thieves operating in Auckland's North Shore have been arrested in the past two weeks in a targeted police sting.
The thieves had been generally operating in groups of three or more, stealing cars and then going on to commit further crimes such as ram-raid burglaries in the area, Inspector Claire Humble said.
Police have launched a targeted operation in response.
Links between the groups had yet to be established, but they had all travelled to the Waitemata district from out of the area.
Vans and cars with automatic number plate recognition capabilities had been used to immediately alert police to the stolen cars, and checkpoints had been carried out on main arterial roads, Ms Humble said.
The 20-plus arrests had occurred after those involved had travelled over Harbour Bridge in stolen cars.
"We've had some pleasing results," Ms Humble said. "This should send a clear message to the criminal element - if you come here to commit crime you will get caught."
"We have identified that criminals from other areas are in fact using the motorway network, the Harbour Bridge and State Highway 16 as a gateway into Waitemata to offend and we want to prevent that from happening in the first place.
"We're also warning people to review their vehicle security - if you don't have an alarm then consider using a steering lock."
Ms Humble also appealed for members of the public to alert police if they witnessed suspicious activity.
"If something doesn't look right then please call us straight away," she said.
Thefts and arrests
•On Tuesday February 10, five people were arrested after a stolen Honda Fit which was seen speeding and driving dangerously and then failed to stop for police.
The stolen car was found abandoned on Wairau Rd and those believed to be involved, all between the ages of 16 and 19, were found nearby thanks to the assistance of a police dog.
•On February 2 at 12.30am, a stolen Ford Territory was used to break into a medical centre in Mairangi Bay. A pharmacy and cafe had their windows smashed with rocks and cash registers were stolen.
•Six people aged between 13 and 20 were later arrested and faced a range of charges including burglary, dangerous driving, possession of instruments for burglary and unlawfully taking and getting into a motor vehicle.
•Later that day around 6.30pm police arrested three people after a Mazda Demio that had been taken from Takapuna earlier in the day was seen acting suspiciously in the Northcote area.
•An hour later, police arrested three people aged 20, 28 and 53, after a car was broken into in Keeling Rd in Henderson and a number of items were stolen.
The offenders were using a stolen car, police said.
•On January 28 at 2am a team of officers deployed to the Auckland Harbour Bridge area were alerted to a stolen Nissan Cefiro. Three people were arrested.