Group of Wellington teens caught stealing dozens of cars for joyrides

A group of teenagers, most of whom don’t have driver licences, have stolen dozens of cars for joyrides in the Wellington suburb of Miramar.

Police have reported a recent spike in car thefts in the area and have deployed extra patrols during high-risk times, like at night and the early hours of the morning.

Wellington area prevention manager Inspector Warwick McKee told the Herald about six to eight youths were responsible for the offending.

“Most of them don’t have driver licences to start with, so they don’t have the experience on the road and they engage in, at times, dangerous driving behaviour at speed”, he said.

“They don’t understand the power or the damage that can be caused if they hit or collide with another car or simply spin out and crash.”

McKee said the teenagers lived in the area and were known to one other.

Police have been working with their families and whānau, Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry of Education, and their schools to engage with the group and prevent them from committing further crime, McKee said.

“We’re obviously doing checks with the youths during the evenings and with their families to ensure they are at home and abiding by any court orders that have been implemented around their offending.”

McKee said the cars were being found abandoned on Miramar Peninsula.

“So they’re driving around the area and they’re giving the vehicles a pretty hard workout.

“Some will break down, some they will crash, some they will damage themselves, and then just leave them generally within that eastern suburbs area prior to attempting to steal or take another vehicle and engaging in the same behaviour.”

A number of the stolen vehicles included high-risk ones like Mazdas and Subarus, which were easier to break into, McKee said.

“These people that are taking them are very well-versed and skilled at breaking into cars and getting them started.”

In 2020 Tyson O’Neill died after he lost control of the stolen car he was driving and slammed into a tree on Cobham Drive in the neighbouring suburb of Kilbirnie.

Coroner Bruce Hesketh ruled the 16-year-old’s death was “a tragic accident” caused by speed, alcohol, drugs and a lack of experience.

It was not the first time O’Neill had stolen a vehicle, with his fingerprints being found in six other stolen cars in less than a month.

McKee said police wanted to prevent something like that from happening again.

While police had increased night patrols in the area, McKee also encouraged people to park in driveways where possible and not to leave valuables in cars.

Anyone who notices anything suspicious or out of character can call 111 at the time it’s unfolding or on 105 after the fact.

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