Police station gun theft through open back door

News 29/04/2019

Police are asking the public not to hand in their guns after revelations the theft of 11 weapons in Palmerston North came after a station door was left open by police staff.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement told the AM Show that Alan James Harris, who has been arrested and charged with burglary, allegedly beat down the door to the armoury after freely entering the station through an open roller door at the rear of the building.

It's unacceptable by any standard, especially our own.

"Regrettably, an external secure door that should have been secure was left open," Clement said.

"There was an alarmed and secured internal door and he was able to break that down and get inside that storeroom and access the firearms."

Clement said that staff were preoccupied with Anzac Day dawn services and the mistake was simply human error.

"As a consequence of that, we've undertaken an immediate review of that circumstance and across the rest of our police stations to make sure that this isn't repeated."

Bush said that this theft was exacerbated by the fact that members of the public have been handing in guns that have now been deemed illegal by new Government legislation.

The Arms Amendment Bill banned military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifle and came alongside a buyback scheme to compensate gun owners for their now-illegal firearms.

However, police are yet to announce how these firearms will be collected and destroyed and Clement is urging people to keep hold of their guns for now. 

"We've said right from the outset, since the announcement of the legislation changes, just hold your firearms at your own secure locations while we work through a process to identify a safe way for them to be forfeited.

Handing them into police stations is one of the least preferred options with regard to how we want to take them back.

Police Minister Stuart Nash responded to the incident last week by saying he had "grave concerns" and claimed that the Government had "sought assurances that strong systems and processes were in place to handle surrendered firearms".

"Police told me they were confident they could manage the collection of these firearms. I have now sought fresh assurances from the Commissioner that all stations and firearms handling processes are secure and fit for purpose."

But National Party police spokesperson Chris Bishop said the public should be concerned about the incident and that Nash has serious questions to answer.

"I just think it is very strange that the Police Minister didn't make sure that the police could actually take these weapons before he went around the country and told people to start handing them in," he told Newshub.

"The police ensured the Parliamentary select committee that they could do it"

The Police Minister ensured the public that everything would be fine, and now, of course, we find that it is not

Clement says that research based on Australia's gun amnesties is ongoing, as are discussions with the Government, but there are two options most likely for the collection of firearms.

"Where we're landing currently is that we'll pick them up either from community locations, or else we'll pick them up from you at your homes, from your secure location."

Anyone who finds themselves in possession of an illegal firearm has been asked to notify NZ police via its official website and wait for further instructions.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Albert Redmore