Home invasion surge: residents petrified

Locals are concerned at increasing reports of home invasions in Tauranga. Photo: SunLive.

“I woke up in the middle of the night as someone was pulling my blankets off me. A strange man was in my bedroom, standing over my bed. I screamed with the loudest noise I’ve ever made. I was petrified.”

Tauranga resident Jem Nikora is still shaken as she recounts her horrific experience of a home invasion, when a man entered her Brookfield home when she and her two young children, aged 11, and 4 were asleep.

”When I screamed, he crouched by my bed as though he was trying to hide, then ran out of the bedroom slamming the door behind him. I got up and ran after him, but he ran out of the back door, the same way he had come in.”

“I called 111 and police arrived with dogs, but they didn’t catch him. A man in a balaclava was spotted on CCTV in the same street – but he hasn’t been caught. It’s terrifying to think he is still around and could do it again to someone else.”

Nikora is one of several Bay of Plenty residents who have been victims in a spate of home invasion burglaries plaguing the city.

She is speaking out following a neighbourhood meeting about the crisis which was organised by worried residents and attended by hundreds of people at the weekend.

Many people shared stories at the Bethlehem neighbourhood meeting about home invasions. Photo: Supplied.

Nikora is sharing her story so that others are aware of the potential danger.

”I never imagined anything like this could happen as I thought my neighbourhood was very safe. I just want to let people know to be aware, as I don’t want it to happen to them. It affected my mental health really badly – I couldn’t sleep for ages and became obsessive about checking doors and locks. My kids were too scared to sleep at home for days afterwards.”

Nikora has installed security lights and cameras and has a new rescue dog to protect the family.

“The best thing I did was to reach out to other neighbours as their support really helped me – plus knowing each other makes us all safer.”

Locals are concerned at increasing reports of home invasions in Tauranga. Photo: SunLive.

Another woman who attended the meeting, an 83-year-old woman who lives in the Avenues, told Stuff how a burglar had also entered her bedroom in the middle of the night while she was asleep, and stole her handbags, wallet and her mobile phone which was in her bedside table.

“To get the phone he must have been inches from my head on the pillow. I didn’t wake up. I wear a hearing aid in the day but not when I’m asleep.”

The thief started using her card, spending $800 before the woman’s bank became suspicious due to the time and blocked it.

“It was a paywave card, so they went to all different places and managed to get $800, but thankfully the bank are giving this back to me.”

The woman did not discover the theft until the morning when she was going out to the library and noticed her handbags and phone missing, as well as some of her drawers left open.

“It was cold in the house and when I opened the laundry door I saw they had got in through the garage. They had even been rummaging around in my car, probably looking for the start key, when it was in one of those handbags they had taken. Not very smart.”

The woman, who did not want to give her name because she still felt unsafe, joined other concerned neighbours at the meeting.

Bethlehem resident Erika Harvey organised the residents meeting following an outbreak of home invasions in the area where she lived, where thieves had entered houses in the night, one even raiding the kitchen pantry and fridge – even the chocolate biscuits.

Harvey said it became obvious at the meeting that it was happening more than people realised.

Local residents Erika Harvey and Lisa Zawitkoski at the neighbourhood meeting about home invasions. Photo: Supplied.

Harvey herself had been a victim of an invasion when a man entered her house when she was in a towel, about to have a shower, and pretended he was a maintenance man who was going to fix the shower.

Harvey’s friend Lisa Zawitkoski said she woke up one morning to find her car doors open, and another neighbour had had her purse stolen the same night.

Another Bethlehem resident, Candice, was up in the middle of the night watching Stranger Things on Netflix when she noticed a torchlight, and realised someone was walking around her house. She woke up her husband who chased the invader, but he escaped.

The meeting was attended by Western Bay MP Todd Muller, national candidate for Tauranga, Sam Uffindell, as well as representatives from Tauranga Community patrol, Neighbour Watch, and Western Bay council.

Uffindell said he was “deeply concerned” about the rise in home invasions and said that he had met people who had been victims who were very worried about the situation.

“I’m deeply concerned by what I heard and how worried local residents are. People I’ve spoken to say they don’t think our police have the right backing to do the job they need to do and criminals feel like they can get away with anything.”

Uffindell says that if elected, one of his key priorities is to ensure police have the resources needed to crack down on crime in the city.

National Party candidate in the upcoming Tauranga by-election, Sam Uffindell, says residents are concerned about an increase in crime in the city. Photo: Rosalie Liddle Crawford/SunLive.

A representative from Tauranga Community Patrol says the house burglaries are not just isolated to Bethlehem but were a “fact of life at present.”

“Occurrences are happening at any time of the day, and often while people are at home, Some encounter the intruder and some do not realise they have been victims until they discover something missing or things out of place.”

He warns people that thieves are bold and often have a story which can sound convincing to explain their presence.

“Please folks keep doors locked, garage doors down, keys out of your cars and locked, even while in your driveway, and you are tucked away inside.”

He urges people to get to know neighbours, keep a contact list of immediate neighbours, and share information if you see or hear anything out of the norm.

A police spokesperson says people need to be alert, but not alarmed, and any suspicious behaviour should be reported to police.

“Every incident that is reported contributes to a much bigger picture for police. It gives an idea of patterns of offending that are emerging in the community and helps police hold offenders to account by finding linkages across different, but potentially related, incidents.”

Annemarie Quill/Stuff

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Posted on 13-06-2022 22:17 | By Yadick

Are being used to ’scope’ out places. We have one that flies our neighborhood quite frequently at nights. It has been seen by a number of us.

Happened to us

Posted on 13-06-2022 11:43 | By jed

About 4 months ago, had someone burst into our house and run up our stairs. We chased him out and didn’t call cops because last time we called them about something they weren’t bothered to help.

Police not interested

Posted on 13-06-2022 09:28 | By Slim Shady

I’ve reported suspicious people scoping out houses before. The cops are not interested. They don’t attend. But when you’ve been burgled they will give you a reference number.

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