Jonathan Milne: Police respond to a lucrative and increasingly dangerous contraband – cigarettes

CCTV footage of an aggravated robbery at the Kingsford Superette in Mangere, south Auckland.
NZ POLICE

CCTV footage of an aggravated robbery at the Kingsford Superette in Mangere, south Auckland.

OPINION: This week, Detective Inspector Fa'amanuia Va'aelua arrested four teens over the robbery of a superette in Mangere, in which a worker was brutally punched and kicked in the head. This took his armed robbery taskforce's arrest tally to more than 70 in 12 weeks.

But a lock 'em up strategy is not enough, he says. "Police can't arrest themselves out of this situation. There needs to be a cooperation between police and communities, especially families."

We need new solutions to prevent these crimes.

Detective Inspector Fa'amanuia Va'aelua: "Police can't arrest themselves out of this situation."
FAIRFAX NZ

Detective Inspector Fa'amanuia Va'aelua: "Police can't arrest themselves out of this situation."

When my local Jellicoe Park dairy was robbed this month by assailants wielding a screwdriver, Onehunga residents flooded Neighbourly.co.nz with words of support for the injured owner.

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* Gas company smokes out armed robbers
CCTV video of 'disgusting' dairy robbery
Onehunga dairy owner hurt in screwdriver robbery

Among the messages was a suggestion: it's time, said one of my neighbours, for dairy and service station operators to seriously consider removing cigarettes from their shelves.

Robbers attacked the owner of Jellicoe Park Dairy with a screwdriver.
SIMON MAUDE / FAIRFAX NZ

Robbers attacked the owner of Jellicoe Park Dairy with a screwdriver.

As the prices of cigarettes go up, they have become the primary target of many armed robbers. Never mind the cash in the till, they know they can sell cartons of cigarettes for big money in darkened corners of dodgy pubs.

And the Z petrol chain reveals today it is spending $1 million installing robbery-resistant cigarette dispensers at 50 Auckland service station.

Tariff increases on cigarettes have been effective in reducing smoking rates, but they have also turned cigarettes into lucrative contraband. Tobacco companies are motivated to offer good margins to retailers, many of whom rely on cigarettes for 60 per cent of their revenue.

But some are saying, enough. 

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Thomas Schroeder, of the Karitane Salt and Sugar General Store in Otago, said he made the decision not to stock tobacco because it was too risky.

The response from customers had been positive. "There were obviously a couple of disappointed smokers. But we're happy with the change and we wouldn't go back."

 - Sunday Star Times

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