HUNTER four-wheel drive owners followed an alleged car thief in Lake Macquarie at the weekend as a racket targeting Nissan Patrols plagues the region.
Police on Sunday afternoon arrested a 17-year-old boy at an Edgeworth address after a Nissan Patrol was stolen from the Killingworth area.
The Newcastle Herald has been told a significant number of people, possibly up to 30, tracked and traced the allegedly stolen Nissan Patrol before it was located and the teenager taken to Belmont police station where he was charged.
Police confirmed there were reports of “several” vehicles following the Patrol at various times.
The 17-year-old, who was refused bail in Toronto Local Court on Monday, was hit with three charges.
He pleaded not guilty to two steal vehicle offences.
He will appear in court again on March 26.
News of the arrest comes as four-wheel drive owners in the Hunter grapple with an alleged theft ring that one club owner said had plagued the region for more than a year.
Central Hunter detectives formed Strike Force Luchetti last September to combat the high vehicle theft rate across Maitland, Cessnock and Lake Macquarie.
As of December, police said they had charged 27 people and recovered 21 stolen vehicles as part of the operation.
In a heart-tugging case last month, thieves stole and later torched a Patrol belonging to Belmont man Greg Fairfull, who has been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.
The four-wheel drive was stolen from a boat ramp at Speers Point.
He said the car was his “pride and joy”.
“It was just disbelief, I didn’t really comprehend what was happening. I even had a disability sticker on the front windscreen,” Mr Fairfull told the Herald earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Lake Macquarie police have charged a man with 26 offences after a vehicle was allegedly stolen and several others broken into in the suburbs of Valentine, Jewells, Gateshead and Belmont North.
The 26-year-old man also stands accused of assaulting officers as police went to arrest him at a Mount Hutton home about 8am on Monday.
He was charged on a string of offences – including obtaining property by deception, vehicle theft, larceny, stalk/intimidate with intent to cause fear and assaulting and resisting police.