Community Rallies After Fleet of Rental Cars Stolen

97 vehicles were stolen under cover of New Zealand lockdown
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2020 1:42 PM CDT
During Lockdown, Thieves Steal Fleet of Rental Cars
A police officer takes a photo of the near empty streets of the central business district in Christchurch, New Zealand.   (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

In New Zealand, extremely strict lockdown measures made it easy to steal cars—and easy to catch car thieves. Police say that over the Anzac Day long weekend late last month, thieves cut a hole in the fence of a rental company's storage yard near Auckland Airport and made off with 97 vehicles, which had been left unlocked with the keys inside, the New Zealand Herald reports. With no workers at the site and few other vehicles on the roads, the thieves were able to return numerous times over several days to steal more batches of vehicles. But police spokesman Matt Srhoj says the lack of traffic made it easier to spot and trace the stolen vehicles. He says it is the biggest car theft he's ever seen.

"It is quite sad that people would do this kind of thing when we are under lockdown," Srhoj says. The rental firm, Jucy, had been helping with lockdown measures by providing RVs for infected people to use as isolation homes. They were given free billboard space to alert the community to the theft, and people provided tips about stolen vehicles being sold online. Some 85 of the stolen vehicles were recovered, and police say 29 arrests have been made. "It was devastating for us as a business," Jucy founder Tim Alpe tells the BBC. "It's a horrible situation but if you can take a positive out of it then it's that people rallied round to help and the police were outstanding to have arrested a lot of people and recover most of the cars." (New Zealand has now downgraded its virus alert to Level 3.)

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