Mangere in the headlines: Why have there been so many robberies?

Kymberlee Fernandes and Chris Harrowell/FAIRFAX NZ

Shop owners in Mangere say the sudden spate of robberies has given them sleepless nights and worrisome days.

Shopkeepers in Mangere, south Auckland, are on edge as a number of local stores have been robbed in recent weeks.

In response to this disturbing violent trend, community leaders and police are appealing to the families and friends of the perpetrators to take a greater responsibility for what's going on. 

Vutha Hang has been robbed about six times in the 14 years he has owned Mangere Food Market.

A number of business owners around Mangere have faced being robbed in recent weeks.
FAIRFAX NZ

A number of business owners around Mangere have faced being robbed in recent weeks.

He says he doesn't feel safe in the area anymore. It's got to the point where Hang has told his wife to hand over cigarettes and money if thieves demand it.

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Vutha Hang owns the Mangere Food Market.
CHRIS HARROWELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Vutha Hang owns the Mangere Food Market.

"If you worry about one or two packets of smokes, your life is gone. Who can help you?" he says.

He commended the work of the Mangere Town Centre which has tightened its security. He says there are frequent police patrols now.

LAW CHANGE WANTED

Anil Verma says the job comes with "24/7 stress".
CHRIS HARROWELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Anil Verma says the job comes with "24/7 stress".

The job comes with "24/7 stress" for Super Liquor manager Anil Verma, a newcomer to the business.

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He's even had to sleep in another room to his wife so he won't disturb her if there is an incident in the night.

Verma says harsher penalties would help deter offenders.

Balwinder Singh owns JH Discount Store. He wants better protection for business owners.
CHRIS HARROWELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Balwinder Singh owns JH Discount Store. He wants better protection for business owners.

"The police don't have resources. We don't have resources to put into security. The only way is jail or a severe punishment."

Balwinder Singh owns two food marts in Mangere. "Every day is a different story," he says.

"If you come to me with a weapon, I can't do anything."

Gagan Singh manages the Thirsty Liquor store at the Mangere Town Centre.
CHRIS HARROWELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Gagan Singh manages the Thirsty Liquor store at the Mangere Town Centre.

Gagan Singh, manager at the town centre's Thirsty Liquor, has been burgled like many others.

He has reported many incidents to the police, but not much has resulted from it.

"They come to take the report, but they don't do anything."

Nayan Kanji wants better police response to robberies.
CHRIS HARROWELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Nayan Kanji wants better police response to robberies.

Singh proposed serving people through a window as a potential safety measure.

Nayan Foodmart owner Nayan Kanji says the town centre is "getting rougher and rougher every year".

He wants police to respond faster to incidents.

Detective Inspector Fa'amanuia Va'aelua says families and the community should out offenders.
FAIRFAX NZ

Detective Inspector Fa'amanuia Va'aelua says families and the community should out offenders.

"They do patrol the mall sometimes. If there were more of that going on, that would be better."

An attendant fought back against a robbery attempt at a Mangere petrol station on May 14.

Then on May 16, a compliant shopkeeper on Raglan St was assaulted and held at knife point by a group of offenders in a harrowing robbery.

Peter Sykes supports the call for the community to stop buying cheap cigarettes.
KYMBERLEE FERNANDES/FAIRFAX NZ

Peter Sykes supports the call for the community to stop buying cheap cigarettes.

Police released the violent footage, calling for those who knew the men to identify them.

The four males, aged 15, 17, 18 and 20, have since been arrested and charged with aggravated robbery.

'WHERE'S THE WHANAU?'

In response to growing pressure, police set up an Auckland-wide task force as part of Operation Dukan.

So far they've made about 68 arrests since February. But the head of the task force, Detective Inspector Fa'amanuia Va'aelua, says "we can't arrest ourselves out of this situation".

The detective inspector didn't hold back at a press conference on Thursday: "They're dumb, gutless, stupid idiots and only behave violently when they're in groups.

"Where is the whanau? Where is the mana? … A number of these are Pacific offenders; where is the pride we talk about in the Pacific?"

Police believe the key to preventing robberies is family, friends and community speaking up.

Va'aelua appealed to them to identify the offenders responsible for robberies.

He says there a group of people in the community living off the proceeds from stealing cigarettes, alcohol and money.

"The community won't tolerate this, they don't want this and neither do police."

When asked about the relationships between youth and police, Va'aeula says youth aid and community police staff are involved in a number of programmes.

"If we don't look after the ones that haven't escalated into this sort of behaviour, all we're going to be doing is doubling and tripling our numbers," he says.

Police are also utilising their ethnic liaison officers with some investigators on the task force also being bilingual, Va'aeula says.

Efforts are still underway to establish a community patrol in the Mangere area.

WHY A SPIKE IN ROBBERIES?

Mangere's MP, Aupito William Sio, says the community is searching for answers.

"Another factor is the growing inequality in the community, while this is no excuse for people to turn to stealing, I suspect it does influence some people's decision making."

Sio says the police are hindered in their response due to the way the force is funded.

He says 90,000 young people across New Zealand are not in any form of education, employment or training.

The Reverend Peter Sykes is calling on the community to stamp out buying cigarettes on the cheap.

"People need to be thinking of the impacts this has, whether we buy something on the cheap or off the back of a lorry, the impact it has on families and victims," the chief executive of Mangere East Family Services says.

"We know it's only a small group, obviously with some local knowledge. That's the scary thing."

Sykes also singled out family and friends of those committing robberies.

"It only takes that one person to break the cycle," he says.

"We can blame government, we can blame colonisation, we can blame whatever we like but the reality is it's not acceptable."

People are realising they "weren't obliged to protect crime", Sykes says.

The outrage at recent violent robberies were "creating a ripple, dragging people out of apathy".

Sykes questioned whether stores should be selling alcohol and cigarettes.

"So as a community we need to wrap around our local convenience stores and utilise them for convenience instead of just buying cigarettes and alcohol."

THE COMMUNITY RESPONDS

South Aucklanders have spoken out on Facebook and Neighbourly in support of shopkeepers and strengthening the law.

Toni Helleur says every second liquor store in residential areas should be removed.

Mark Furlong adds: "Not having over 300 off-licences in south Auckland alone would certainly reduce opportunities for offenders".

Margy Waimotu called for the community to come on board.

"Ruatoria fought back, took their community back from the arsonists, fence cutters - and won."

Devan Krishna called for more rehabilitation.

"These criminals should be put behind bars and rehabilitated. This sort of crime is driven by a drug addiction."

 - Stuff

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