Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Suspects busted over supermarket thefts

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East Auckland supermarkets are increasingly being targeted by thieves. Times file photo Wayne Martin

Police have laid dozens of charges against multiple suspects in relation to the alleged theft of food from east Auckland businesses.

Howick Police sergeant Brett Meale says more than 60 charges have been laid against two groups of people as part of investigations into shoplifting and thefts at various businesses, but primarily supermarkets.

In one investigation, called Operation Antique, Counties Manukau East Police targeted what Meale says is an organised group of offenders.

“This group’s offending spanned across Auckland but specifically at supermarkets in Howick, Meadowlands and Pakuranga,” he told the Times.

“Two women, aged 28 and 21, are before the Manukau District Court on 24 charges between them relating to shoplifting or theft.

“A 20-year-old man is also facing six charges. Two other young people have been referred to Youth Aid.”

In a second investigation, two Pakuranga residents have been charged for dishonesty offending across Auckland.

Meale says Counties Manukau East Police staff worked with support from the National Retail Investigation Support Unit on the investigation.

“As a result, we’ve laid more than 30 charges against the pair.

“A 40-year-old man has been charged with 20 counts of shoplifting or theft offences, and a 38-year-old woman faces 15 similar charges.”

Retail crime offending across New Zealand costs the sector about $1 billion a year, Meale says.

“We know the impact this is having on retailers, business owners and the staff who are confronted with this offending while at work.

“Police are continuing to work hard at holding offenders to account and putting them before the court, so it is pleasing to have results such as these.”

The Times has reported over recent months about the escalation in retail crime in the community, including incidents which have seen people fill trolleys with food at supermarkets and leave without paying.

Thieves used a vehicle to carry out a ram-raid burglary at a supermarket in Highland Park in May.

Howick Local Board deputy chairperson Bo Burns recently filmed a man who allegedly filled a trolley and walked out of the Meadowlands Countdown without paying.

The store’s manager took the trolley back and the man, who was with a young girl, left the scene.

Supermarket company Foodstuffs recently said its North Island stores have experienced more than 3200 incidents of retail crime in a three-month span earlier this year.

That’s an almost 40 per cent increase from the same quarter last year and equals an average of 37 retail crime incidents every day.

Its North Island chief executive, Chris Quin, says the business has experienced a 36 per cent increase in incidents involving burglary, assault, robbery and other aggressive, violent and threatening behaviour.

Shoplifting incidents have increased by 57 per cent.

“Our grocers have never seen retail crime at these levels,” Quin says.

“It’s an extremely concerning trend and it’s unacceptable.

“Retail crime is coming through the front doors of grocery stores and impacting our teams every day.

“Every New Zealander has the right to work in a safe and secure environment and not be threatened, assaulted, spat on, yelled at, or racially abused as they go about their working day.”

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