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Profiling by the Dunedin Intelligence Section and follow-up inquiries resulted in the arrest of a 17-year-old unemployed youth on Friday.
Acting Senior Sergeant Chris McLellan said the youth was found in possession of the synthetic cannabis Tai High, and later told police he stole from vehicles to fund his up to two-pack a day habit.
"He required funds to fund his addiction and that was one of the drivers behind the large amount of criminal offending."
The product remained legal and was readily available in several Dunedin dairies, and required testing by authorities before being taken off the market, he said.
Last year, Parliament passed the Misuse of Drugs Act, which allows synthetic cannabis products to be withdrawn from sale if they contain banned substances.
The youth appeared in the Dunedin District Court on Saturday and was remanded in custody to reappear today.
Sgt McLellan, when asked why the teenager spent four nights in police cells, told the Otago Daily Times it was because of the pattern behind the alleged offending.
Typically, the teen would offend around three times a week, each night targetting up to a dozen vehicles around the suburbs of Maori Hill, Kaikorai Valley and Wakari.
About 50 cars - with more expected - had been broken into.
Yesterday, a search warrant was executed at a Kaikorai Valley address, with numerous iPods, a Dyson vacuum cleaner, and a distinctive silver jewellery box among the recovered items.
Owners would be reunited with their property over the next few days, with police also attempting to locate the owners of other unreported items.
The man faces eight theft specified charges, and two more representing 16 alleged thefts from cars, and 17 in relation to unlawful interference.