TEENAGERS were allegedly held at gunpoint and forced to rob and burglarise in what appears to be a string of offences committed in Kawerau and Whakatane on Wednesday night.

Police are investigating the incidents after multiple reports of alleged masked offenders ridiculing Kawerau locals.

Sirens were heard through central Whakatane a few minutes before midnight as a vehicle without its headlights on tore through the streets, exceeding speeds of 100kmh in a residential zone.

After ramming a car off the road on Awatapu Drive, the vehicle was pursued by police cars at speed.

Spikes were deployed by the police and three offenders aged 16, 17 and 21 years were apprehended on Hinemoa Street, and a firearm was found in the vehicle.

The driver of the vehicle was not apprehended after fleeing from the scene.

Whakatane and Kawerau police believe this was the end of a crime spree that began earlier in the evening and are investigating the potential link between the incidents

A post made to Facebook by a Kawerau resident at 8pm on Wednesday said four “cracked” individuals from “out of town” were seen wearing masks and harassing young people around Kawerau.

The poster alleges that the four individuals were “grabbing teens by gunpoint and forcing them to rob and burglarise, then were stripped of their clothes and shoes and ridiculed”.

They added that one young man who had been threatened by the group ran into his yard after fleeing the offenders who had “bashed” his friend.

Another poster on Facebook said the masked offenders were seen on Newall Street at around 8.30pm.

Senior Sergeant Yvonne Parker said the police were dealing with the string of incidents from Wednesday and believed that they were “intermingled”.

“There were a number of robberies yesterday that started in Kawerau where a firearm was presented on multiple victims and a car was rammed,” Mrs Parker said.

“Three people have been apprehended by police following reports of robberies and we are looking into whether the matters in Kawerau and Whakatane on Wednesday night are related…It looks to me at first glance that it is.”

Whakatane and Kawerau police investigations into the incidents are ongoing.

hazel.osborne@thebeacon.co.nz

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