Funding for embattled dairy owners following surge in aggravated robberies
The Government has pledged to make $1.8m available to shopkeepers, dairy owners and local businesses who are battling a spate of aggravated robberies.
A significant number of robberies across the upper North Island have been reported in the past few weeks, including the armed robbery of two cash-in-transit vans, a Northland Warehouse, and various dairies.
Police Minister Paula Bennett on Thursday announced the $1.8m grant for family owned and independent businesses so they can increase security, following concerns raised about security and prevention.
It follows a police and Crimestoppers launch of a concerted campaign to crack down on aggravated robberies, with rewards now being offered in return for information that leads to the prosecution of offenders.
* Police to take on aggravated robberies with taskforces and cash rewards
* Armed hold up at bar in Pakuranga, south Auckland
* Criminals chased by a cat-food wielding dairy owner after armed robbery
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said it was due to the rise of violent robberies in some communities, particularly south Auckland.
Through the new funding announced Thursday, businesses can apply for co-funding for items like panic alarms, fog cannons, time safes, and DNA spay.
Shop owners could also access advice about how to lay out their stores to make them safer, Bennett said.
The money is from the justice sector fund and is aimed at small family- or individually-owned businesses that are considered to be high risk.
Police would identify the high risk businesses and they would be invited to apply for a grant, Bennett said.
Police would fund half of the security measures, which Bennett predicted would apply to up to 600 businesses.
"Aggravated robbery is a serious crime. These criminals need to know that they could face 14 years in prison and they're much more likely to get caught now police have these new measures in place," Bennett said.
Bennett said there's "no doubt" the number of aggravated robberies has gone up, and the profile of the offenders are "generally aged around 25 years and under".
"Some of it is them feeding of the glory of it all ... there's nothing glorified about being caught."
"We're taking this issue seriously. We want to stop these awful crimes from happening to innocent victims in the first place and make sure these cowards are off the streets."
Bennett said establishing the high risk businesses would involve "overlaying" police intelligence of high-crime areas.She said there were "distinct hot spots" across New Zealand and not just Auckland.
"[Police] can do that analysis to work out who has the highest risk and is eligible for funding.
"We see between 500-600 business being deemed high-risk, and then probably another 500 close to that, may be eligible for some funding towards some kind of measure within the dairy.
"There'll be some that are obviously high-risk and need a number of initiatives to help with that prevention of them being burgled, and then there'll be others that perhaps just need not as intensive operations."
On Wednesday a man hunt was underway after three armed people confronted staff at Headin' Home Bar in Pakuranga.
Staff and customers were forced to the ground at gunpoint at around midday.
Shots were fired but nobody was harmed.
Police asked anyone with information contact them.
Government budget funding, announced last week, included $40m set aside to cut burglary rates and prevent recidivism.
However, Grey Lynn dairy owner Shantilal Prema said he wasn't convinced that any extra security would do any good.
Prema and his wife have owned the Williamson Ave dairy for 30 years but are now seriously considering selling up and moving on following a number of robberies that he says has them fearing for their lives.
Two weeks ago a worker was confronted at 10.30am by two men, one armed with a machete, who made off with $6000 worth of cigarettes.
Looking at the security footage later, Prema said that the whole incident unfolded in just 40 seconds.
"It's a matter of seconds. It's enough time to harm somebody," he said.
"What security can you do, to make it safe in 30 seconds? These guys can harm you straight away."
He said over the years the store had suffered a number of snatch and grabs by people who asked for cigarettes and then ran off with them without paying.
But the robberies had escalated and Prema was frustrated with the lack of police response.
He had been to police with security footage with clear views of offenders but felt he wasn't taken seriously if no weapon had been used in the robbery.
His brother, a fellow shop owner, had been stabbed in the shoulder during a robbery and had completely lost use of his arm.
The offender was a youth and hadn't received much of a sentence, Prema said.
"It's very scary because it's a matter of life and death. It's a real fear. We're trying to get out of here. I'm quite seriously planning to leave at the moment."
In 2014 Henderson dairy worker Arun Kumar was stabbed to death by a youth who had gone in planning to rob the place.
The teenager was convicted of manslaughter but has since been released from a youth justice facility.
Prema didn't know what his family would do instead of running a dairy but, "it definitely won't be a cash business".
TIMELINE THIS MONTH ALONE
MAY 2 Six armed and masked people robbed a Palmerston North dairy owner who had been robbed once before
MAY 3 Three teenagers were arrested after robbing a Tauranga dairy owner who had a pistol pointed at him
MAY 5 A Hamilton shopkeeper was punched in the face during a robbery
MAY 12 Teens are charged with threatening an Opawa, Christchurch man, with a tomahawk at his shop in April
MAY 14 A Coatesville, Auckland, shopkeeper was threatened by a hammer by four men who demanded cigarettes and money
MAY 16 Police release a video of a man robbing a Dunedin store who was armed with a rifle who took off with tobacco
MAY 17 Machete wielding robbers threatened Mangere superette workers before taking off with cigarettes
MAY 22 Four people including two teenagers were charged over the aggravated robbery of a Ranui, West Auckland dairy
MAY 31 Three young people are arrested for robbing a Havelock North liquor store.