Dairy owners cry out for intervention as robberies continue
When the clock hits 3pm Jayesh Patel starts to sweat.
The Rangiora Mini Market owner has seen robberies occur about 6pm, so as the afternoon edges toward evening the fear sets in.
His mini mart on Rangiora Ave in Palmerston North has been robbed three times in the past seven years, with two of those occurring in the past six months.
You can see in his eyes he doesn't want to talk about it. He fears retribution.
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But he's been driven to speak out for change, as Patel knows this is an issue that isn't going away by itself.
A series of robberies in New Zealand has sparked debate about harsher sentences and the safety of people who sell cigarettes amid tax hikes. The Manawatu region has had a spate of robberies.
Since the latest robbery of his store, Patel said he had been too scared to let other family members work there.
He was a victim himself once, being cut in the face by a robber in 2011, but rather than risk their lives, he takes on all the work himself.
For the past four weeks Patel has started work at 7am and finished at 8pm, seven days a week.
His only break is a quick 15-minute lunch.
Patel said he was afraid to work in the store.
"But someone has to step up, otherwise we have no income to survive."
He said they could stop selling cigarettes but he didn't think that would solve the problem, as cash was also targeted in these robberies.
What he thinks could solve the problem is harsher penalties for people convicted of the crimes.
Having owned the dairy for 12 years, he said he had seen little change in government policy to help the situation, despite an increase in robberies.
Manhar Patel owns the Summerhays Corner Superette in Palmerston North, which was robbed in 2015.
His shop has been robbed twice in the past 24 years.
The most recent robbery saw him looking down the barrel of a gun while cash was demanded.
He chased the men involved down the street and police arrested them, with one sentenced to three years and four months' jail time.
Manhar Patel did not think this sentence was enough to deter criminals and said it was not enough to make up for the suffering those affected endured.
He was still afraid to go to work.
"There are so many robberies in New Zealand at the moment.
"After the robberies, we are very scared."
BP Pahiatua was allegedly robbed at knifepoint this week and manager Valkesh Patel said the experience was a scary one.
But reading about other stores being robbed was just as unsettling.
Instead of feeling at ease at work, Valkesh Patel said he was always looking outside the shop to see who would be coming in.
It was worse at night.
"Sometimes if the person is wearing a hoodie it looks dodgy, so you feel unsafe."
Minister of Justice Amy Adams said nobody should feel unsafe at work.
"We're taking the concerns of shop owners seriously.
"It is worth noting that under the Crimes Act robbery is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years and aggravated robbery is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to 14 years. This reflects the seriousness of these offences."
Adams pointed out the Government had announced there would be 880 more frontline police officers nationally and "through Budget 2017 we're investing $13.9 million to reduce youth offending by providing rehabilitation and mentoring services to high-risk young people".
Two adults accused of robbing the Rangiora Mini Market in May appeared in court on Friday and were remanded in custody.
A youth was also arrested and appeared in Youth Court.
Another 17-year-old male appeared in the Palmerston North District Court on Friday in relation to the robbery of the Rangiora Mini Market in December 2016.
Police opposed his bail, and he was remanded in custody until a date in June.
New Zealand Indian Central Association and Central Districts Indian Association vice-president Paul Patel said most dairy owners he talked to wanted harsher punishments for offenders.
"I don't think people think about it because I don't think the average person understands what actually happens, the feelings of the dairy owner, the shopkeepers.
"The more you talk about it, the more the community understands."