Z Energy to install 50 cigarette dispensers across Auckland in the fight against robberies
Some petrol retailers are investing big money in preventing robberies at their branches, as cigarettes become the new cash for thieves.
In the wake of an increase in robberies, Z Energy has announced it will spend up to $1 million in locking away its tobacco at 50 of its Auckland petrol stations.
This month it began installing secure metal cigarette dispensers.
Station operator Wayne Kennerley, said the threat posed to his 150 staff across south Auckland is increasing and the investment is needed.
"I think what’s changed is the threat to staff has increased. If you go back a year ago, staff may have been pushed out of the way, whereas now the offenders are coming in with weapons," he said.
Kennerley, who runs 17 Z sites, said nine of the $15,000 dispensers been installed with the remainder to be completed in the next month.
A crucial part of the design means that staff can only dispense one packet of tobacco at a time.
Would-be thieves wanting to get into the dispenser are also out of luck. Staff working on site will not have access to inside the dispenser.
Combine that with the fog cannons installed and it would increase the likelihood offenders would be caught, Kennerley said.
"With all the robberies I’ve had, the longest they’ve been in was three minutes. So in that time you might be able to dispense three packets, there’s not a lot to be gained by that."
Z stations will also carry less tobacco stock than it has in the past, but Kennerley said customers won't notice a change when they go to purchase.
Nearly half of the 27 robberies at Z petrol stations across the country last year were at sites operated by Kennerley.
There were five attempted robberies at Z last year. However, this year the company reported only five robberies and five attempts so far.
Z will look to install more of the dispensers in other cities and towns if the installations have an affect.
PREVENTION IN THE MILLIONS:
A spokesperson for Z said the company will spend about $4m in theft prevention this year.
The company has already installed bollards at store fronts, laminated glass, installed fog cannons in store and spent $8m on a CCTV upgrade last year.
Staff are also equipped with a panic alarm connected to the police, and have access to a safe room in the event of a robbery.
Z isn't the first to roll out the dispensing technology in the city. Last year Gull announced it had installed a similar system at its Avondale branch.
Mobil has also been working to beef up its security. It's stores have monitored alarms, controlled door openings
A spokesperson said it was introducing fog machines as well as sonic and strobe alarms and bollard improvements at its stores.
The spokesperson said it will review other high-tech security measures as they come along.
But the high cost of prevention isn't always a wise investment for smaller retailers, Retail NZ spokesman Greg Harford said.
"We know retailers are aware of the risks and many are taking steps to prevent crime.
"The reality is for a number of small retailers, tobacco is a big part of their turnover."
Harford said anecdotal evidence put cigarettes at 60 per cent of some businesses' turnover.
"The issue is there's a question of viability if smaller stores stopped selling cigarettes ... there could be smaller businesses disappearing."