Thieves steal 97 cars during New Zealand coronavirus lockdown

They figured it was like taking candy from a baby amid the coronavirus lockdown.

A group of thieves took advantage of the strict measures in place in New Zealand to break into a car rental company in Auckland and drive off with almost 100 vehicles, according to the BBC.

The kleptomaniac Kiwis were so pleased with the ease in which they carried out the heist that they kept coming back for more – finally stealing 97 and driving them along the deserted roads in the city of almost 1.5 million.

“It was like a kick in the guts to be honest,” Tom Ruddenklau, the chief rental officer of the company, Jucy, told the news outlet.

“We couldn’t believe that when everyone was pitching in and looking after each other as a nation, there would be this brazen theft,” he added.

The company didn’t exactly make it difficult for the thieves, who found the vehicles conveniently lined up with the keys inside.

Jucy’s bright green rental camper vans would be easy to spot, so the culprits mostly stole normal city cars from the lot, the BBC reported.

The company didn’t even notice the missing vehicles, which were left parked on a storage site for several days, but police were still out on patrol and realized something was amiss.

“We realized that something was not quite right,” police Inspector Matt Srhoj told the BBC. “The cars caused suspicion by the way they were driven and a few of our patrol cars ended up in pursuit of those vehicles.

“When we became aware that we came across quite a few of those Jucy vehicles in unusual circumstances we assumed they’d been stolen and alerted the company.”

He called the heist “disappointing.”

“This is the biggest car theft I’ve ever seen. It is quite sad that people would do this kind of thing when we are under lockdown,” Srhoj said.

Jucy had been trying to play its part in the coronavirus effort.

Some of its larger vans — which include a toilet and shower — had been used as isolation homes for people who didn’t have a place to self-quarantine. The company had also used some of its vehicles for food delivery services.

“The community really got behind Jucy,” Ruddenklau said.

The company received free billboard space to announce that its cars had been stolen and people alerted authorities whenever they spotted suspiciously low-priced vehicles for sale on online.

Ironically, the lockdown that the thieves took advantage of also led to their capture – as police said the country’s standstill made it easier to track down the cars and those who stole them.

One by one, most of the vehicles were found and returned to the company, while 29 people have been arrested in connection with the heist – many of whom have ties to local gangs.

“It was devastating for us as a business,” Jucy founder Tim Alpe told 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.”

Meanwhile, Shroj said he was confident police will find the rest of the stolen cars.

“We got 85 back so far and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get the other 12 as well,” he said.

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