Criminals are becoming more brazen after frontline officers were taken off the beat to contain the protest at Parliament and help with the Government's pandemic response, a police source fears.
Victims of burglaries are concerned their investigations are being neglected as a result of stretched police resources and residents say they've seen a spike in violence and anti-social behaviour as police were diverted to seal Auckland's border during last year's lockdown and patrol MIQ facilities.
In Auckland the number of search warrants executed in the Waitematā district plunged to just 10 during the Delta outbreak between August and December, according to figures released under the Official Information Act.
A police source claimed that search warrants in the district would normally be carried out every day, sometimes more than one a day, and they usually lead to the seizure of drugs and firearms - and arrests.
But with a lack of search warrants, they fear criminals have been led to believe they aren't as likely to get caught because no one is searching their homes.
"We need to keep the pressure on with these warrants and hit them where it hurts.
"Every time we do get in and do these warrants we will find firearms."
'Crime has just escalated horribly'
A resident of Auckland's New Lynn, who did not want to be named, said crime has "escalated horribly" in the area and there are a "lot of violent individuals out there".
She lives close to where a woman was allegedly shot in the stomach with a pipe gun last year.
"I think there should be more police presence but crime has just escalated horribly.
"I don't think their crime is taken seriously, just a lot of people put on the bracelet."
Owners of North Shore salon Black on White said they have heard nothing from police since it was burgled in November.
An officer working on their case was redeployed to the Covid Reassurance Team for the "foreseeable future", an email shown to the Herald revealed.
Leisa Bleasdale told the Herald she and her co-owner felt unsafe for months.
"It really sucks that [the burglars]...can keep doing it and know they're not actually going to get in trouble because the police are too busy with all the other stuff."
Police told the Herald CCTV images "were not of high enough quality" to circulate publicly - they were amongst police staff - and the matter was "filed pending any new relevant information".
Wellington resident Sean Hogan said he was told last week that police had "no capacity" to collect CCTV footage that captured the theft of his van "as all our staff are deployed to parliament".
The Police Association said having investigations "drop down the priority list" due to a stretched workforce should come as no surprise.
President Chris Cahill said "it's a big leap" to blame the spate of shootings in West Auckland on a dwindling number of search warrants, but he has no doubt search warrants have been put on hold.
"We can only do so much and the first thing police need to do is meet the demands across emergency situations, and then across those emergency calls for help in their districts.
"Unfortunately investigations are something that will drop down the priority list.
"Certainly if you're not out doing the search warrants and arresting the organised crime members then you're going to see them committing offences," he said.
"That's an unfortunate consequence of resources being stretched."
He said the recent end to vaccine mandates for police staff, and a withdrawal of around 200 officers from MIQ facilities across the country, was expected to free up resources.
A police spokesperson said that during lockdown officers used a risk-based approach to determine what operational activity should go ahead.
"This invariably resulted in less contact with the public brought about by proactive activity associated with policing functions, like search warrants," a spokesperson said.
"In general, investigations into serious offending continued during [alert level 4] which included the execution of search warrants where necessary."
More than 400 officers were deployed to MIQ facilities and border checkpoints during the Delta outbreak last year.
This year, hundreds were seconded to Wellington from other parts of the country for the 23-day occupation of Parliament's front lawn. Police expect to maintain a visible presence in the city to maintain order. It's understood that those seconded included members of specialised areas of the force like the Tactical Crime Unit (TCU) and Precision Targeting Team (PPT), which focuses on serious and prolific offenders.
The police source said it has been a frustrating time for officers.
"There's not enough staff to do our jobs. Look at how many staff have been pulled into the protests.
"Yes police have to be in Wellington, but who is looking after things back at home?"
Police are also running a national crackdown on illegal firearms and gun violence, called Operation Tauwhiro. It was extended by a further six months by Commissioner Andrew Coster in September.
At the time police said almost 1000 firearms and nearly $5 million in cash had been seized under the operation, and 800 people arrested.
But the police source believes progress on the operation is at risk and said specialised police units should be "ringfenced" from becoming seconded to Wellington.
Cahill is calling for police to be allocated a budget for "special events", like the Christchurch mosque attacks, White Island explosion and the pandemic.
He said the freeing up of 200 staff from MIQ facilities is "a bonus" and he wants to see around 130 officers who were affected by the vaccine mandates to be reinstated immediately.