A ‘highly-sophisticated’ gang-led network could see stolen items going off-shore. Video / NZ Herald
Watch full Focus story above
Jewellery stolen during ram raids and smash and grabs could be smelt down before being sold here and off-shore in an elaborate operation run by gangs.
The claim from National’s police spokesperson Mark Mitchell comes as a crime wave continues across Auckland.
Ram raids have increased by more than 500 per cent for the first six months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2018, according to police statistics. Some big retailers such as Michael Hill have been hit multiple times by thieves.
The median age of those identified or caught across 129 ram raids since May this year, was just 15 years old.
Mitchell believes although some of these youth offenders steal for themselves, most are connected to senior gang operations.
“Without a doubt, these youth offenders are heavily influenced by the adult gangs,” Mitchell told Focus. “They’re well-planned, they know exactly what they’re after, they execute it well and they have a getaway car ready to go.
“Within hours they’re melting down the gold, they’re removing the diamonds and there’s a market that’s been created for that through the adult gang network.”
Mitchell added some of the items could be sold overseas, too.
“There is definitely stolen goods going off-shore,” he said. “They have global networks and supply chains of their own that are really sophisticated so there’s a very good chance that’s happening.”
Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said police are not aware of any particularly dominant trends in regards to what happens to this property after it is stolen.
“As with any burglary or robbery this can vary – some items are recovered in search warrants, some items are identified as being for sale online, and some items are never recovered,” he said in a statement.
Thieves have been commonly known to attempt to sell stolen items to second-hand dealers like Cash Converters or on Trade Me or Facebook Marketplace.
Jewellery store owner TJ Haddadin’s store was hit twice by daylight smash and grabs earlier this year.
He told Focus he was contacted by Cash Converters a week after the latest robbery after thieves attempted to cash in on his products.
“In our store, we have products that are high-quality and high-value they wanted quick money and that’s what they were after,” Haddadin said.
In a statement, a Cash Converters spokesperson said they “would be one of the last places offenders would attempt to dispose of stolen goods and they actively liaise with the police to prevent offenders from selling stolen property via their network”.
In a similar statement Trade Me said thieves would be “mugs to do anything dodgy” on the site as they’d leave “deep electronic footprints on the site which can be traced”.
It also reported a 17 per cent decrease in releases made to police about stolen goods.
Facebook’s owner Meta said it prohibits the sale of stolen items on Marketplace and “strongly encourage people to report items that may be stolen”.
It too said it works closely with New Zealand police.
Mitchell meanwhile accused the Government of taking a “head-in-the-sand approach” over the issue of youth crime and said they were “naive to call it low-level juvenile offending”.
“As long as gangs have been around, they’re constantly recruiting and that includes young people,” he said. “They do get them into prospect, they do get them to commit crime because they know that the youth justice system is softer on them and so they transfer the risk to the young people instead of themselves.”
Police Minister Chris Hipkins said there was no evidence to show a “formal link between ram raids and adult gangs” but acknowledged this kind of youth offending can “lead to more serious crimes and gang membership later in life”.
“Ironically, some of the ‘tough on crime’ opposition rhetoric would drive these youth offenders towards gangs rather than away from them,” he added.
“Our government is focused on ramping up support and supervision, and wants to get these young people into a pathway back into education or on to employment so they don’t end up in a life of crime.”