Four children, including one as young as seven, have been caught with stolen toys and other goods after breaking into a mall in Hamilton overnight.
Multiple alarm activations alerted police to the break-in at Chartwell Shopping Centre at around 1am on Thursday morning.
Officers were shocked to discover four children - aged seven, 10, 11 and 12 - at the scene holding stolen toys and other goods.
The 11-year-old ran off when he sighted police, but officers chose to remain with the other three. In his attempt to flee, the boy fell about eight metres to the ground and injured his arm.
Police found him shortly after and provided first aid. He was later taken to hospital in an ambulance.
Philip Littlewood of Stride Properties, which owns Chartwell Shopping Centre, said he was "shocked and saddened" by the incident - particularly after learning of the ages of the children involved.
The children have been referred to Youth Aid Services and will be followed up by youth engagement teams, police said.
"It is important to note that resolving this type of youth offending is an issue that does not fall solely on police," said Hamilton City Area Commander Inspector Andrea McBeth.
"This is a social and community issue and parents have a responsibility to know where their children are and to ensure they are safe. We need our communities to work alongside us and partner agencies to support and steer young people down a better path."
Police Minister Poto Williams told Newshub there is no doubt the recent spate of crime involving young people is distressing, but says it's "an issue that goes much wider than police and needs a whole of society approach".
"MSD and Police are co-sponsoring work on behalf of the social sector on gangs, which brings together much of the work currently underway, but includes a youth focus," she said.
"The work on youth is specifically drawing on things that work well, such as the Youth Gang Action Plan, and what we know about why youth join or undertake gang activity.
"There is already work underway for [the] Minister's consideration on these matters in the coming weeks."
Williams says the Government's investment in police has meant an extra 109 youth specialist staff have been employed in the last two years.
Waikato Police have established a dedicated team to investigate this type of offending, Insp McBeth said, and there is a detective investigating the full circumstances of the incident.
Police say they are available if businesses want to get in touch about any queries relating to this type of offending.
"We understand the distress it can cause, we hear your frustrations, and we can help to provide advice on protecting your business," said Insp McBeth.
"We also encourage all members of the public to report suspicious activity immediately via 111, as this can help us to respond in a timely manner and hold all offenders to account."