Retailers want tough laws, not cliches and promises

SuperValue Parkwood Owner Manish Thakkar (Photo Supplied to RNZ)

Blessen Tom and Liu Chen
Auckland, July 24, 2023

Business owners have questioned the government’s response to a spate of vicious attacks on stores in Auckland and Hamilton recently, pointing to increasing insurance costs, staff shortages and mental health stress as rising crime is taking a toll.

They have called on the government to introduce more practical steps to tackle crime instead of wheeling out ready-made clichés.

Manish Thakkar, owner of SuperValue Parkwood in Waikato said that he is still shaken after being held at gunpoint during a robbery four months ago.

He said that crime has become an almost daily occurrence, which is hard to stomach.

“Previously, we had many customers and enjoyed doing business, and now it is the opposite. We are so scared doing business that we do not know when five or six people will jump behind the counter and start beating us,” he said.

Staff shortages

Mr Thakkar has also struggled to find employees who were willing to work behind the counter after three workers quit earlier this year. His insurance premiums have also risen significantly.

“I have spoken with my insurance agent, and she said that the excess on my policy will go up $10,000 per burglary. If there is crime again, I do not know if I am able to claim,” he said.

Mr Thakkar said that he was aware that five or six stores in Hamilton that have closed, and many others were considering doing the same.

Another business owner, Naresh Kumar, who owns eight vape stores in Auckland and Hamilton, has suffered four robberies this year and he now fears an attack after nightfall.

The rise in crime was taking a toll on his mental health and that of his workers, he said.

A Vape store in Whangaparāoa (Photo Supplied to RNZ)

“It has given me a lot of trauma. I woke up in the middle of the night to check the cameras. This is not the New Zealand to which I migrated 15 years ago. I cannot recall a single incident of a serious robbery then. Shoplifting was the worst crime you saw those days,” he said.

Cici Sie worked at a dairy in East Auckland’s Flat Bush.

She said that at least 10 crimes have happened in the store over the past year, including theft, robbery and burglary.

“I don’t feel safe. I am always on tenterhooks, no matter what time. You don’t know when they will come,” she said.

Tougher laws needed

Ms Sie said that the government’s crime prevention measures, including subsidies to install security fog cannons, were not making much of a difference, and the law needed to be tougher on young offenders.

She said that New Zealand valued human rights and freedom, but victims were being ignored.

“Do those who are robbed have human rights?” she asked.

“The police cannot do much for them. Who is covering their costs? Who is looking after the human rights of those who are attacked? And for those who are killed, do they have human rights?”

Ben Yang is the Relationship Ambassador at Business North Harbour, a business group covering Albany, where axe attacks happened last month.

He said that some businesses have closed after being attacked multiple times, and many others have been struggling.

“They are overwhelmed because they have so many things to worry about – rising prices and the cost of labour and cannot find the right person. They now also have to worry about crime,” he said.

Mr Yang said that more government funding would help, as his group has to juggle to allocate the limited crime prevention fund to things such as security guards and cameras.

Blessen Tom and Liu Chen are Journalists at Radio New Zealand. The above Report and pictures have been published under a special agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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