One of the cars that have been stolen and burnt during 2016. These are not necessarily related to the two men facing court this month for similar offences.

Meth-fuelled car thefts

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It is alleged that two teenagers who stole and burnt dozens of cars from Nelson to Wakefield since the beginning of the year were fuelled by methamphetamine.

Kodie Reece Russell and Levi Jensen McMaster, both 19, will face charges ranging from theft of cars, arson and possession of methamphetamine – highlighting the growing problem in Nelson with the addictive drug.

One of the men has been charged with 31 offences, the second man has been charged with 20 offences.

One of the cars that have been stolen and burnt during 2016.
One of the cars that have been stolen and burnt during 2016.

Nelson Bays area commander, Inspector Mat Arnold-Kelly, says the two are alleged to have caused a significant amount of damage in the region.

“The destroyed vehicles are valued at approximately $140,000.”

While more details cannot be revealed as the men are now before the courts, Mat says crime caused by people using methamphetamine – otherwise known as P – is increasing in Nelson.

“Meth is not just a Nelson Bays issue, it’s a nation-wide issue. In fact, it’s even wider than just New Zealand. But it is driving a lot of crime, particularly vehicle thefts and burglaries – it’s behind a high percentage of that offending.”

He says the drugs are coming to Nelson via organised crime groups, mainly gangs.

“Nelson’s always had gangs but traditionally it’s been one or two gangs, now we have a different dynamic in that we have a number of different gangs which are present and wearing patches in town, which is a concern. That doesn’t mean there are more gang members, just that they’re more unified.”

Other types of crime that police had seen a spike in recently include theft of cars, burglary and domestic violence. Mat says many of those cases can be linked to drug use.

“Nelson Bays had a spike in offending mid-to-late last year and it is our belief that the majority of that spike in offending is due to rise of methamphetamine and organised crime.”

Over the past 12 months, Nelson Weekly has interview more than half a dozen victims of the type of crime that it is alleged the two arrested men carried out. Many of them were angry that they had been targeted, but also upset.

Landlords have also been feeling the brunt of the problem, with many facing huge repair jobs to rental homes that have been contaminated by methamphetamine users.

Mat says dealing with meth is a “huge focus” for police.