Seven break-ins in 20 months: Matamata family sick of feeling unsafe in own home

2019-06-11 02:03:48

When Melanie Morrell-Hall comes home from work she flashes her headlights towards her house and does two loops around her property.

It's the only thing that makes the Matamata resident feel safe after seven break-ins in the last 20 months.

"I should feel safe in my own home," Morrell-Hall said. "I feel trapped and I have nowhere else to go."

Kowhai St, five minutes away from the town centre, is quaint during the day, but come nightfall it's robbery central.

But when Morrell-Hall first moved into the rental she thought it was ideal - not far from Firth Primary School and the rent was cheap.

"Not long after I moved in I found out the place used to be a tinny house. I wanted it tested straight away for meth because I have two children, and turns out it's fine, but I didn't know the neighbourhood was as bad as it is.

"I'm not the only one getting targeted either. There's houses up and down the street which have been hit and some people have left because of it, but I can't afford to."

Morrell-Hall's house backs off Firth School, which means the offenders jump the fence and sneak in from the back of the property. She said they have stolen computers, playstations, watches and alcohol - anything they can quickly sell off.

One particular night around 8pm, Morrell-Hall was walking up her driveway when she saw someone dressed in a dark grey hoodie sneaking into the house.

"I was so scared I just ran back to the car and flashed my headlights towards them and they almost s... themselves.

"I'm so fearful at night. It's got that bad that I don't want to go down my driveway anymore. I have a panic alarm on me at all times and anytime I see someone I straight away press it and run for the car.

"They've completely tipped my house upside down many times and destroyed my children's bedrooms to the point that they don't want to sleep in their own rooms anymore. We can't even leave our shoes at the doorstep."

She and her husband have put in several deterrents including a screen door, an alarm system and the landlord has paid for a six foot fence to be built around the property.

Harry Morell-Hall said they called police after the first burglary but officers took more than 30 minutes to arrive. Since then, they haven't reported a number of break-ins.

"There's no point, it feels like they don't take it seriously. I would much rather call some of my security friends who can come quickly and intimidate these guys instead."

Another neighbour Geordie Flay, who has lived on the street for four years, said she experienced her first attempted break-in the previous week, and knows of other neighbours affected.

"We've always had little things stolen like ash trays outside, but last week they broke into the house," Flay said.

"I have a video camera outside, so you can see them scoping out the house to see if anyone is home and then later they come back, jump the fence and try to kick down the door, but the alarm went off.

"Since then I feel very vulnerable, they didn't take anything, but I feel violated. I shouldn't have to turn down the TV every time I hear a noise outside."

Melanie Morrell-Hall said the neighbourhood has no neighbourhood watch, but she plans to form one herself.

"I think we need something in this neighbourhood because this needs to stop happening.

"I think if I can rally up a bunch of neighbours, we can hopefully stop this neighbourhood from being targeted so heavily."

Matamata Sergeant Ryan Johnston said police have four recorded burglaries on Kowhai St in the last year, with three of them having occurred in May.

"I would like to meet with the person who has been burgled seven times to see if they have been reported and to offer target hardening advice," Johnston said.

"Also to see what else can be done to help them not be victimised."

He said Matamata police are always on the lookout to prevent crime and catch criminals but they rely on families, the community and groups such as neighbourhood watch to help people get back on the right path.

If your house has been broken into, prevention is the best thing you can do to protect your property, Johnston said.

"Consider the three Ls - Locks, Lights and Line of sight. If your property is securely locked up and there is a good visibility into your property the chances of getting burgled are much lower than if items are left insecure.  A lot of burglaries involve insecure items, windows left open unlocked garages and cars.

"The best way to catch burglars are cameras and neighbours watching out for each other. Report the crime so police can respond appropriately.

"If it is currently happening and offenders are likely still in the area call 111, if it happened report to the non-emergency number of 105."

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