‘We live in fear’

Dairy owner Don Kumar lives in fear. He is not alone. The prospect of an aggravated robbery is the number one concern for dairy and gas station owners around east Auckland.

This month, police are making additional efforts to crack down on those who benefit most from the crime.

New Zealand Police have launched a nationwide campaign for the month of June targeting those responsible for receiving and dealing in stolen property from aggravated robberies.

In partnership with Crimestoppers, police will be offering a reward for any information that leads to a successful prosecution as part of the campaign There’s Nothing Good about Stolen Goods.

It follows a chain of aggravated robberies across some New Zealand communities, including right here in east Auckland where a recent attack on Big Johns Dairy in Pakuranga left the store owner in hospital suffering from serious facial injuries.

COMMUNITY: A Big Johns Dairy spokeswoman said staff are thankful for the involvement and investment of the local community, which led to a successful prosecution following the April 15 aggravated robbery. Times photo.

Police commissioner Mike Bush said the month-long campaign is part of an intentional response by police to a rise in the number of violent robberies.

“NZ Police are deeply concerned about the rise in this violent crime – due to its significant impact on small business owners and their workers and communities.

“The campaign we’re announcing today provides us with another tool to tackle aggravated robberies. By targeting those who profit from these crimes by trading in stolen shop and dairy goods such as cigarettes and alcohol, we’re aiming to make a serious dent in the opportunity for these crimes to be committed.”

Police will be running a series of targeted advertisements across social media channels including Facebook encouraging people to call Crimestoppers if they have any information on stolen goods from aggravated robberies, enabling members of the public to provide information anonymously.

Area commander Counties Manukau East inspector Wendy Spiller said it’s an issue police are using a targeted approach to deal with locally in conjunction with a number of community partners.

It’s news that comes as a small relief for Priestly Drive Superette owner Don Kumar, who admitted he fears an anticipated attack on a daily basis.

Despite having roller doors, alarms, CCTV cameras and other preventative measures in place, Mr Kumar said it’s not always proven to be enough.

“We know that the best security in the world can’t stop someone if they are bent on doing what they’ve set out to do.

“There are predominantly good people in our community. We believe in respect for our customer and respect from the customer… so when this happens, it’s very demoralising.

“To be bluntly honest, we live in fear every day of an attempted robbery… that’s our lifestyle.

Tamariki Dairy owner Mahendra Manu shared a similar sentiment.

He worries “the whole day and night” about what potential offenders could do.

“In the past, they used to do it at night, but now it happens anytime, in the daytime even… and sometimes its physical harm – that leaves a physical scar that stays with you for the rest of your life.

“The cops have come around and talked to us dairy owners, and I like that. You feel like there’s someone who backs you that’s just a phone call away.”

At the family-owned Whiteacres Superette in Pakuranga, owner Hitesh Raman has suffered two ram raids on his store and believes more needs to be done to make offenders liable for their actions before the situation will change.

“Once they’re liable for their actions it will change. They should be paying toward the damage they’ve done to the shop from whatever source of income they have. [When it happens] we have to close our shop… we lose a lot [and] we end up paying the cost, not them.

“They’ll beat us up before they even take anything. Why are we getting beaten up when we’re doing a legit business? That’s how all the dairy owners feel.”

It’s a problem that hasn’t just hit local dairy owners, but has also had a significant impact on gas stations in the area.

In December last year, aggravated robberies were carried out across four service stations in Pakuranga within a week, targeting cigarettes and cash at Caltex, Gull and Z stations.

Z spokesperson Georgina Ball confirmed the majority of the 27 robberies and five attempted robberies that took place in 2016 across New Zealand were in Auckland.

She said the company is currently in the process of installing 50 high-security steel tobacco dispensing machines in Z stations across Auckland as a means of deterring would-be offenders, among other preventative measures including fog cannons, bollards, safe rooms for staff and high definition CCTV systems.

“Anything that puts our sites in danger we take very seriously. Our staff need to feel safe.”

Wayne Kennerley, who operates 17 Z service stations, eight of which are in the east Auckland locality, said his stores have been significantly affected by the recent increase in robberies and violent altercations.

“We have experienced more robberies in the last 12 months than we had in total across the prior 10 years I’ve been a retailer. The robberies are also different in that they involved multiple offenders who are prepared to use violence if necessary.

“My key concern has been the risk to the team who are simply trying to earn an honest living. Our focus therefore has been about their safety. What we’ve learnt is there is no silver bullet.

“While we have taken a number of actions to reduce the ‘prize’ for offenders and increase the risk of offenders being caught while allowing our team to remove themselves from harm’s way, we continue to work with the Police and invest in technology to continuously improve the safety for our team.”

National MP for Botany Jami-Lee Ross has also commented on the issue.

He told the Times National is committed to “remaining tough on criminals and putting victims at the heart of the justice system”.

“Nobody should feel unsafe at work. I really feel for these owners and Police are currently doing some extra work around this.”

  • The Crimestoppers campaign and associated reward offer will initially run until the end of June. Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111.