Burglaries down due to Covid lockdowns

Inspector Wendy Spiller is challenging east Auckland locals to do their bit to reduce crimes such as burglary. Times photo Wayne Martin

East Auckland has seen a major reduction in a particular type of crime and the reason why may be surprising.

Counties Manukau East Police area commander Inspector Wendy Spiller, says she’s seen a drop in burglaries locally since the Covid-19 lockdowns were first enacted early last year.

“Between April 1 and October 31 [2020], in that seven-month period, there’s been a more than 50 per cent reduction in burglaries in Counties Manukau East compared to the same time period the previous year,” she told the Times.

“Stolen vehicles and thefts from vehicles are down about 50 per cent over the same period as well.

“Covid has been a challenge for everybody but there have been some positive things from it. That’s what we want to highlight and build on.”

A crime doesn’t need to entail an offender breaking into and stealing an item from a residential or commercial property to be recorded as a burglary, Spiller says.

“Burglary is also people breaking into a vehicle parked on someone’s driveway.

“It’s taking clothes off a clothesline, out of sheds, off front porches, or if shoes are left on the front door and someone takes them, that’s a burglary,” Spiller says.

“A pot plant stolen from someone’s garden is a burglary.”

Spiller says the Covid lockdowns resulted in more people working from home, which increased the community spirit or “connectedness” in the area.

That led to higher levels of vigilance among local residents and safer neighbourhoods, she says.

“That’s because people are aware of who lives in their street now.

“With that comes more what we call ‘capable guardians’, which is where people know their neighbours, know the vehicle their neighbour drives, know who lives next door and who comes and goes, so unknown people and vehicles are more obvious.

“People can utilise the 105 phone service, [for non-emergencies] which people got to know during Covid.

“They can phone that number to report suspicious people, vehicles, and behaviour.”

Spiller encourages locals to continue to keep an eye out for suspicious people and vehicles even though the Covid lockdowns have ended.

She says it’s harder for burglars to stake out a house when its occupants are spending more time at home.

“Additionally, with more people at home it adds to that capable guardian and community responsibility.

“We’ve got Neighbourhood Support groups that work together to prevent offending.

“If people are retired or work from home and they’re around that gives them the opportunity to be capable guardians and that has increased because of Covid.”

Spiller says the community connectedness seen during the Covid period can and should be maintained.

“We’ve proven we can do it. My challenge to the community is why does it take a lockdown to keep ourselves safe? We should be able to do that anytime.”

She encourages residents to be “kind and connected” and report suspicious behaviour to 105, or 111 if a crime is in progress.

“Keep that connectivity in terms of reporting because people don’t know if it might link to an offence that happens later.

“That report might be the missing piece of a puzzle we can put together at a later date.

“People should talk to their neighbours, become part of a Crime Watch or Neighbourhood Support group and take responsibility for the safety of their own street.”