Security guards in Hamilton East as staff fear for safety

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 08:48 23/01/2014

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Private security guards have been stationed outside a controversial legal high dealer as well as the Waikato Regional Council building where staff fear for their safety.

The moves come after numerous violent altercations and assorted anti-social behaviour near the Hamilton East synthetic cannabis store U njoY, including an attack on a policeman.

Regional council staff have been harassed, endured verbal abuse and witnessed assaults and indecent acts near their offices, chief executive Vaughan Payne said.

One First Security guard will be in place outside 401 Grey St for a three-week trial period at a cost of $1326 per week.

"We have concerns for the safety of our staff and customers as a result of the behaviour of some people who have been frequenting the area," Mr Payne said.

"We've had instances where the actions of some members of the public have caused staff to be concerned for their safety when due to walk between neighbouring offices and have requested an escort."

Further south down Grey St is the bane of many people's lives, the psychoactive drug dealer, U njoY.

The staff member inside confirmed they paid for the security guard outside but repeated calls to the retailer's owner, Kinnari Mihir Patel, went unanswered.

A nearby retailer, who asked to remain anonymous, said there seemed to be fewer police coming and going since the guard appeared at the weekend.

"He said he would be there for a couple of months just to make sure shopkeepers or people in cafes aren't being hassled or bothered, and that if we had any problems with any people we just had to step out onto the footpath and give him a wave and he'd come over."

The retailer believed any change was because "dope shop" customers were probably aware of the guard "so maybe that's influenced their behaviour".

But Grey Street Kitchen barista Dove Chen said it's an attempt to save the shop from getting the chop in an impending council bylaw.

"It's better to get rid of them, to be honest," he said.

"There are so many fights and stuff that have already happened. I think they're trying to save their business because they know we're trying to get rid of them."

Nor does the guard have any power, he said.

Submissions on the Draft Hamilton City Council Psychoactive Substances Policy close on February 17.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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