Could tobacco companies 'play their part' against robberies? They believe they are
Tobacco companies insist they are working with small retailers on preventing increasing numbers of robberies.
However, there is yet to be a firm investment in anti-theft equipment in stores.
Police Minister Paula Bennett suggested tobacco companies "play their part" in helping dairy owners.
The minister was responding to questions about a $1.8 million fund for police to help small business owners protect themselves against robberies.
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Bennett was asked about whether the funding could extend to partially fund cigarette dispensers, roughly $15,000 each.
Last month, Z Energy announced it was installing up to 50 across Auckland sites at a cost of about $1m.
"I'm not against the dispensers, but maybe some of these tobacco companies need to start talking to some of these dairy owners and perhaps play their part in it," Bennett said at the time.
British American Tobacco NZ says it will look at trialling automated cigarette dispensers after pilots in other markets.
However, a spokesperson for BAT NZ says the benefits of such a system still need to be determined.
They "potentially" could be a greater risk for retailers, especially if criminals "sometimes under the influence of drugs or alcohol" become violent if they can't access cigarettes easily, the spokesperson says.
Instead, the spokesperson says quicker and harsher penalties are needed.
"More needs to be done to greater deter criminals in the first place; to ensure that there are fewer repeat offenders; and to discourage the sale of tobacco products."
BAT NZ, distributor of brands such as Benson and Hedges, Rothmans and Dunhill, says it also provide secure lockable units and practical advice to retailers.
Imperial Tobacco, which distributes brands like Horizon and Drum loose tobacco, favours a "whole" approach to store security.
Spokesperson Louise Evans McDonald says safety is "paramount" for the company.
"Police work with individual retail stores ... they can look at the layout of the store, how much stock they hold."
If the company focused just on providing dispensers "that focus would be too narrow", Evans McDonald says.
"We're looking at options which might include how much stock a store holds and the frequencies of deliveries."
The calls for deterrents and harsher punishments are echoed by the Crime Prevention Group's spokesperson, Sunny Kaushal.
"It's not just the cigarettes, they are only one factor in this," he says.
There needs to be a focus on any gang involvement and why families are "turning a blind eye" to criminal offending.
"Why are there young kids roaming the streets, not in any employment or training?"
Kaushal says the tobacco companies do have a part to play, especially around preventing robberies.
"They have a responsibility ... to be socially responsible. They need to understand what's going on in the distribution, with the black market," he says.
"It is their product being sought after."
That could involve helping to provide some funding toward anti-theft equipment.