Surge in aggravated crime rattles Indian Jewellers

Gaurav Sharma

Gaurav Sharma

Auckland, May 3, 2024

Harish Lodhia’s Sona Sansaar was robbed on 10 February (RNZ Photo by Blessen Tom)

Indian owners of independent jewellery stores have expressed disappointment over the government’s lack of progress on crime after a spate of aggravated robberies in recent months.

In addition to some Michael Hill stores targeted this year, Manurewa-based Glitter Jewellers and Papatoetoe-based Sona Sansaar are two Indian-owned stores that have suffered robberies in the past two months. 

The trauma and financial loss

Glitter Jewellers owner Manoj Singh Raju, who told RNZ in October that he hadn’t experienced a burglary or robbery in the 12 years he has been open on the main street, was visibly shaken after the attack on Anzac Day.

“It was such a horrible day for us. Nobody in my family has been able to sleep since that day. We are all so shaken. New Zealand is no longer the ‘heaven on Earth’ we thought it [was] when we migrated here,” Raju said.

Harish Lodhia, Fiji’s Honorary Consul in Auckland and owner of Sona Sansaar expressed similar sentiments after being attacked on 10 February.

“I still wake up in the middle of the night shaking and sweating. After the incident, my staff could not come to work for weeks, and many of them are still undergoing counselling. Apart from the obvious substantial financial loss, which often runs into millions, the trauma faced by victims of aggravated robberies is an ongoing tragedy often ignored,” he said.

Please watch a related video here.

Glitter Jewellers owner Manoj Singh Raju says the experience has been traumatic (RNZ Photo by Blessen Tom)

Unsafe New Zealand

Gurdeep Singh, owner of Pooja Jewellers in Papatoetoe and one of the first Punjabi jewellers in New Zealand, said things used to be very different 20 years ago when he opened his shop.

“When an aggravated robbery happens at a jewellery store, one’s entire life’s work goes out of the gate in a matter of seconds,” Singh said.

“When we started two decades back, we did not have any cages, strong doors or any kind of fear,” he said. “We were migrants trying to make an honest living. And we made our businesses brick by brick. To see all that shattered within minutes is traumatic.”

Siva Kilari, National Party candidate for Manurewa and the highest-ranked Indian-origin candidate on the Party’s list, defended the coalition government’s work on tackling crime over the past six months.

“It is absolutely devastating [that] our community is being hit hard by crime and experiencing these setbacks far too often. Since taking office six months ago, the National-led coalition has taken decisive action to address crime. They have prioritised rehabilitation efforts through initiatives like the boot-camp programme to divert young offenders from a life of crime. Resources have been reallocated to better support victims, redirecting funding from cultural reports to enhance victim services such as counselling and court attendance support,” he said.

“Our approach is simple – tougher consequences for crime. Imposing stricter penalties is essential in deterring criminal behaviour,” Kilari said.

He said that Police Minister Mark Mitchell directly contacted Raju of Glitter Jewellers to offer his support following the attack.

“I am also aware that Manurewa police are providing ongoing victim support and the local community has rallied around the jewellery store owner,” he said.

Since taking office six months ago, the National-led coalition has taken decisive action to address crime (National Party Manurewa Candidate Siva Kilari (Facebook Photo via RNZ)

Police Minister’s statement

Mitchell elaborated on measures the government wanted to see in place to prevent further aggravated robberies.

“I have made my expectations very clear that I want to see an increased presence of officers on the beat in our CBDs. We have a plan to recruit 500 more Police. We are giving them powers to come down hard on gang offending and illegal firearms. We are establishing youth military-style academies, bringing back Three Strikes and bringing in tougher sentencing,” he said.

“Over the last six years, we have seen our Police up against an overwhelming increase in crime. It will take time to get on top of it, but we are committed to cracking down on serious offending and gangs, working hard alongside police to turn things around,” he said.

Businesses sceptical

Indian owners of independent jewellery stores were sceptical such measures would make much impact.

“The crime scene is getting worse. During the election campaign, promises were made by Mr Luxon and his team, but they are failing to control crime. We just see a blame game going on. We need harsher punishment for offenders, and we need to make the parents of young offenders accountable. Without this, I don’t think the boot camps initiative [will] make any difference,” Singh said.

Raju agreed.

“We used to think [the high crime rates were] because of the Labour government, but it has been six months now since the National-led coalition was sworn in, but nothing has changed.”

Lodhia called on the government to introduce immediate changes.

“These youngsters need to be in school, and they need to be put through the right channels to make them better citizens of this country. People are fed up,” Lodhia said.

Gaurav Sharma is a Senior Journalist 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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