Thieves target cigarettes and tobacco in burglary
Thousands of dollars worth of cigarettes and tobacco products were stolen in a raid of a small Taranaki business.
The thieves targeted New Plymouth's Moturoa Four Square in the early hours of Thursday, climbing on a roof and breaking into the store through a window before stealing the goods from locked cabinets about 2.30am.
Owner Grant Irwin, who has caught five shoplifters in the past three weeks, said he believed the rising price of cigarettes was behind the break-in.
"Hell yeah, people are getting desperate now because they can't afford it," Irwin said.
Tight profit margins, burglaries and problems with shoplifters was leading owners to take extra measures to protect themselves and their businesses, he claimed.
"That's why the guys up in Auckland are arming themselves and putting cages in."
Irwin, who has owned the business for more than 13 years, said his business had previously been targeted, with thieves making off with a quantity of wine in December and cigarettes in another two raids.
"We have beefed up security before and we will do it again.
"It's just frustrating that customers have been in here and were casing the joint."
The offenders damaged a fridge and shelving during the raid and Irwin said he had been called into work in the early hours to clean up the mess they had left behind.
"It just takes time cleaning it all up, I was here for two hours this morning."
Acting Sergeant David Lee confirmed a substantial quantity of cigarettes and tobacco had been stolen from the business.
Lee said police were interested in receiving any information that might lead to the recovery of the property and the identification of the people responsible.
"This sort of crime has a devastating effect on business owners in New Zealand and its employees. It's upsetting for them and for their customers.
"We are keen to resolve this case and bring the offenders before the courts. We ask members of the public to be vigilant and report any instances of people attempting to sell tobacco and cigarettes cheaply."
He said while this was the first burglary targeting tobacco products in a while police didn't want it to become a trend so they would be increasing patrols in and round Taranaki.
The public was also encouraged to help police protect their communities by reporting any suspicious behaviour immediately.
"We would rather know when it is going on than finding out later."
In July a gang of ram raiders used a stolen car to smash their way into Bell Block's Big Basket Wholesale Food Mart.
Owner Kalvin Singh said tobacco products were an attractive target for thieves because of the high price and they could be easily swapped for cash or other drugs.
"It could happen again," Singh said.
Since the raid Singh had updated all of the store's security cameras and he and his brother were working with the New Plymouth District Council to get additional cameras mounted at the Henwood Rd roundabout entrance to the town.
Anyone with information about the burglary is encouraged to contact the New Plymouth Police Station on 06-759 5500 or Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.