Police have issued a stern warning to juvenile offenders who are not on their radar yet – “you will be caught”.
The types of “delinquent behaviour” involving juveniles reported to police include unlawful taking and joyriding or stunting on illegal motorbikes, theft, loitering around town or even drinking.
The latest complaint was lodged over the weekend by reigning Miss World Oceania and Cook Islands Tajiya Sahay whose partner’s motorbike was stolen on Saturday night.
The motorbike was stolen from the Tupapa Centre carpark. Sahay and her partner were attending Tupapa Panthers’ rugby celebrations at the Centre.
“I did see the little boy looking a bit out of place, lurking around but I didn’t think his intentions were to steal a bike. There were a lot of people around as it was the Tupapa finals night and a 21st happening at the Centre,” Sahay said.
“He asked my friend for a cigarette as we walked to my car and I said ‘you look way too young to be doing that!’ He walked off into the dark, we lost sight of him and then we saw him again jump on a bike with confidence and drove off with no headlights on.”
Sahay later realised the bike the boy drove off on was her partner’s.
“We couldn’t believe it, right under our noses! He did it with ease and no hesitation which is scary because that could mean he has done this before.”
Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said the police patrol on Saturday night sighted a motorbike at upper Tupapa traveling towards Matavera with no lights on.
Pitt said three youths were on the bike.
“The police turned to give chase and the three abandoned the motorbike on the beachside at O’oa. The bike was brought back to the station for safekeeping until its owner came in this morning to report it stolen.”
Pitt said police advised the owner not to leave keys in the bike.
“Thieves are opportunistic and being casual about your vehicle is taking an unnecessary risk. This happens all too regularly so prevention is the best measure to take.”
But Tajiya Sahay said: “Instead of blaming, and pointing fingers that we shouldn’t have left the keys on the bike, honest mistake obviously, we need to work as a community and figure out strategies to get to the bottom of our youth stealing.
“I work at the Tupapa Centre, I am always there, and I always leave my key on the bike. This has never happened to us or my family so we didn’t think someone would steal it especially at a very busy location, filled with people.”
Sahay also said the three driving without the headlight on could have caused an accident.
“They just think it’s fun and games but they don’t realise they could physically hurt someone, going on joy rides for a laugh, stealing for a laugh or for some fun.
“I’m not a parent but if your 14-year-old is stealing bikes in the middle of the night and going on joy rides how do we stop it? Lucky the officers got it back for us because we cannot afford to get another bike during the current times.”
She added that regardless of the keys being left on the bike, no one should be taking other peoples property.
"Teach them respect, and the right thing to do, if it wasn't our bike it would have been someone else," Sahay said.
Trevor Pitt said police are monitoring the juveniles, particularly those from more dysfunctional families.
Pitt said many unlawful incidents happening around the island among juveniles are mostly committed by repeat offenders.
“There’s no real discernible trend as many of these incidents are repeat offenders who just play up when they have the chance.”
Those not on the police radar will eventually get caught – as they have done in the past, he said.
Last week police called on parents and guardians to play their part after a break in at a storage facility at the Avatiu Harbour. Forty expired flares were stolen.
Police interviewed 13 to 15-year-old teenagers in relation to flares that were fired at the Avatiu waterfront area and they believe around 10 teenagers may have been involved at different times in the break-in.
Pitt yesterday said: “Police will be stepping up their efforts to recover expired flares stolen from Avatiu in recent weeks after another sighting of youths firing them off this weekend.
“The latest alert was from Tereora where security staff phoned in the sighting of three young males, who had set the flares off.
“Police want the stolen flares returned and have already investigated at least five youngsters about their alleged involvement in the break-in of a storage facility.”