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Man admits stealing nine guns from Palmerston North police station

The man arrested for stealing nine guns from Palmerston North police station on Anzac Day has pleaded guilty, and promised to apologise to police.

Alan James Harris walked into the police station on the morning of April 25 on the whim of opportunity - having spotted an open garage door. 

He kicked open the exhibits door, removed 26 firearms, ammunition and cannabis and threw them over the fence onto a neighbouring property before returning with a vehicle to pick them up.

Harris was spotted by a member of police staff and fled the scene, leaving some firearms behind.

He was arrested in central Palmerston North two days later, in the early hours of Saturday April 27 after he was spotted in town by a member of the public.

Originally it was thought he stole 11 guns, but police later found two during an audit sparked by the theft. The stolen nine were distributed among associates, but police have managed to find eight guns and the ammunition.

Police are still looking for one firearm.

The theft also motivated Police Commissioner Mike Bush to launch a nation-wide investigation into storage of firearms at all police stations. The national audit found multiple areas where security needed to be improved.

As a result, police are undergoing urgent security upgrades, updating alarm systems, CCTV cameras and storage locations at several stations.

They're also finally implementing a new electronic exhibit management system that's been in the pipeline for some time but had been stalled due to re-prioritisation of the funds needed to complete the project.

Police say this new system will help mitigate against inconsistencies or errors in firearms inventory, like happened in this case.

It's not the first time firearms have gone missing. A recent report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority found systemic failing in a case at the North Shore Police Station where nine firearms, belonging to a member of the public who'd been subject to a protection order, disappeared.

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Acting Central District Commander Inspector Sarah Stewart says finding the suspect is "our absolute priority". Source: 1 NEWS