A group of thieves in New Zealand stole about 100 rental cars, but were caught because streets are nearly empty

New Zealand Police officers.AP Photo/Mark Baker
  • Over a holiday weekend in late April, a group of thieves stole about 100 of the cars and vans from a rental company in Auckland.
  • With New Zealand's streets virtually empty during the lockdown, the thieves were spotted by officers on patrol, in security footage, and by witnesses calling in tips.
  • So far, 29 people have been arrested and at least 85 cars have been recovered, according to the New Zealand Herald.
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A group of thieves in Auckland, New Zealand, stole about 100 cars and vans from a rental company over several days in March.

With the country in lockdown, and tourism and travel banned, the Jucy Rentals outfit near the Auckland Airport has been unoccupied and the cars were left unlocked, according to the New Zealand Herald.

The thieves climbed through a hold in the fence and gained access to the vehicles, police told the newspaper.Advertisement

"It was like a kick in the guts to be honest," Tom Ruddenklau, Jucy's chief rental officer, told the BBC. "We couldn't believe that when everyone was pitching in and looking after each other as a nation, there would be this brazen theft."

The group's heist, however, was short-lived.

With New Zealand streets nearly empty, police officers spotted some of the stolen cars while on patrol and so far, 85 of the vehicles have already been recovered, according to the Herald.

The company got free billboard space to say their cars had been stolen and people alerted the police whenever they spotted suspiciously low-priced vehicles for sale online, the BBC reported.

When news of the heist spread, there was a wave of local support, the company told the BBC, and authorities were able to locate others using surveillance videos and tips from witnesses. The cars were found scattered across Auckland, according to the Herald.Advertisement

Twenty-nine arrests have been made in connection to the burglary. Of those, 14 people were prosecuted, police said.

Jucy Rentals chief executive Tim Alpe previously told the paper that the timing of the theft was devastating to the company, as it was already struggling financially.

The stolen cars ranged in value from $10,000 to $30,000, Matt Srhoj, Counties Manukau Police West Area Commander, told the Herald.Advertisement

"It's a significant value," Srhoj said. "We treat all crime, particular burglary, and vehicle crime, seriously but something of this magnitude obviously has quite an impact on the victim and we want to do the best we can for the victim."

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