Officer struck in puff shop row

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014
legal highs hamilton
Mike Scott/Fairfax NZ

FED UP: Grey Street Kitchen head chef Sara Wright and petition signatures opposing controversial puff shop U njoY which is a few doors down.

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A police officer was attacked outside a controversial legal high dealer as a morning of violence broke out in Hamilton East yesterday.

The uproar comes as momentum and signatures build to shut down the synthetic cannabis outlet U njoY using the city council's draft psychoactive substances policy.

Rocket Espresso Bar owner Sanchia Brodrick said there was a volatile atmosphere on Grey St yesterday.

Police received three calls between 8.30am and 9.15am about a group of 20 people loitering on the street waiting for the dealer to open.

The violence started when a middle-aged man was punched on the footpath, Ms Brodrick said.

Police then arrested an abusive woman and soon after an officer was attacked outside the Recycle Boutique, across the road from U njoY.

Ms Brodrick watched the aftermath and relayed the story from a Sapphire Bakery staffer who intervened and pinned the officer's alleged assailant to the ground.

"They were being racist toward the officer, calling him Jackie Chan," Ms Brodrick said.

"One of them clocked him and he ended up on the ground. The guy from the bakery ran over to help him and he held the guy down."

Sapphire Bakery staff confirmed the officer was knocked to the footpath and that a staff member intervened but they declined to comment further.

Another shop owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said she saw the policeman "drop" this "huge, big guy".

"He picked him up, pepper-sprayed him and dropped him," she said.

"I looked at it and went, 'holy s...'. I went down and and asked if he had back- up coming to make sure he was covered. The guy from the bakery separated one guy and the cop had the other one."

She said it was "awesome" to see the officer's reaction.

Police confirmed that a member of the group approached a police officer and tried to pick a fight. He gave up on the first attempt but returned minutes later and tried again.

The man was arrested but another man joined the fray and jumped on the officer's back.

Two men, aged 19 and 23, appeared in the Hamilton District Court yesterday charged with offences including resisting arrest and assaulting police.

Earlier, a Rocket Espresso customer said they saw one person from a group of teenagers approach a middle-aged man and "smack him up".

Police arrived moments later, Ms Brodrick said, and three officers arrested an aggressive woman who was walking down Grey St yelling.

"Her group of friends were verbally abusing the officers, saying it was police brutality, but it totally wasn't. She tried to hit one of the police officers while they were talking to her."

Ms Brodrick suspected the woman was already high.

Businesses in the area have collected more than 1000 signatures in a bid to close U njoY.

Grey Street Kitchen head chef Sara Wright said almost everyone had a story to tell about U njoY's clientele.

She said she had seen men performing sex acts and public defecation.

The mounting problems have forced Todd Anderson to move his business out Hamilton East.

Mr Anderson owns Sound and Picture on the corner of Cook St and Grey St and in a letter to his landlord, Matt Cables, explained why he's decided to move.

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"Over the last five months we have been struggling with the local street problems of which you may have heard in the news, even just today we had gangs, police and dogs fighting on the street," Mr Anderson said in the letter.

"We can't continue here and have found a new shop in town, this is both to improve our business profile and better security for us. We have called 111 four times in the last five months because we were worried for our own safety and locked the shop."

Mr Cables, director of Wicked Witch which owns two units on the corner site, confirmed he had a tenant cancel a lease because of the impact of the puff shop. Both he and his wife had noticed the problem getting worse in recent times.

"My wife has been stopped and asked for money, all the time. She feels like she's being sized up for robbery and she walks to and from kindy to collect my kids and doesn't feel safe obviously going through the area," he said.

"From a commercial sense we've got a shop that we're losing tenants from because of the problem . . . and then we [are] going to have the issue of re-leasing a property in an area that's getting bad publicity at the moment."

He said a council decision to ban puff shops from Hamilton East wouldn't solve the problem.

"We're kind of losing the problem, but it's just shifting it from one area to another isn't it?"

Submissions on a draft psychoactive substances policy opened yesterday. Council is due to ratify the policy in March.

- Waikato Times

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