There’s growing concern in the Masterton community after a spate of car-related incidents over the past week that have included stolen and damaged vehicles.
A car that was stolen from a property on Perry St on Sunday night was later recovered on Bruces Rd north of Masterton with significant damage after the thieves had used the vehicle to perform skids and burnouts.
The Toyota Vitz had been stolen sometime in the early evening of Sunday and had been recovered before midday on Monday when the Times-Age spoke with police.
A second vehicle was damaged in the same area where the Vitz was stolen, with the vandals apparently having “rubbed a brick or rock back and forth along the bonnet”, according to its owner.
George Stanley lives in the area near Perry and Villa streets and, after discovering the damage to his vehicle, reached out to the wider community online to see if any others had experienced similar vandalism.
Soon reports flowed in from others about their vehicles being damaged on the same night, and one woman advised that her car – believed to be the Vitz found on Bruces Rd – had been stolen.
Stanley filed a police report through the 105 website and had spoken with a police officer on Tuesday morning before talking with the Times-Age.
“He said there’s a lot of shit going on in the area.”
Stanley speculated that this new string of car crimes is not too dissimilar to those committed in July 2023, when there was a spate of car thefts and vandalism across Wairarapa.
During this period, 62 vehicles in the region were stolen or broken into after an online ‘challenge’ encouraged people to steal as many vehicles as possible, with the culprits then posting their handiwork online to the popular social media app TikTok.
“They were smashing cars and putting pictures up of themselves and showing themselves breaking locks and windows,” Stanley said.
“It appears to have flared up again.”
The damage to Stanley’s vehicle was extensive, with the scrapes cutting through to the metal of his bonnet.
“What it’s done, of course, is affected a family with four kids and now we’re out of pocket,” Stanley said.
Another car was found burnt out over the weekend at Percy’s Reserve off Te Ore Ore Rd.
Wairarapa Police’s acting prevention manager, Sergeant Steve Cameron, confirmed that a Ford XR8 had been found burnt out at Percy’s Reserve and that the Vitz was recovered from Bruces Rd after being used for skids.
“They did a whole lot of burnouts, and then it was undriveable, so they abandoned it,” Cameron said.
One of the best prevention measures that can be taken is to have a security device fitted to your vehicle, like a steering lock or alarm, Cameron said.
“It’s not the expensive cars that have been stolen, it’s the ones owned by the mums and dads who don’t make a lot of money and can’t afford high end security.
“It’s really sad because these are the people that hurt the most because they can’t afford to lose their only car.”
Cameron confirmed the “social media frenzy” of car thefts in 2023 resulted in 62 cars being stolen in a month, while the phenomenon inspired the theft of about 100 cars in New Plymouth.
He urged people to report any antisocial or criminal behaviour to police, either through the 105 phone line, online, or by stopping by the Masterton station.
“It gives us a really good idea of what’s going on in our community because a lot of this stuff, we’re hearing second-hand,” Cameron said.
“We will actively target people if we know who the offenders were; if anyone has any evidence that’s been uploaded to social media that identifies their vehicles, we’d love to get hold of it.
“That’s gold for us,” Cameron said, confirming that such video or photographic evidence can be used by police.