An Auckland business owner is seeking funding for proactive community patrols following a crash and seizure at a busy shopping centre.
A group of eight people wearing face masks and carrying batons targeted Stewart Dawson’s in St Lukes shopping mall, Auckland late Tuesday afternoon, smashing shop windows and grabbing jewelry before fleeing to the parking lot .
Witnesses told police some of the attackers could have been children as young as eight.
The getaway vehicle was found a short distance from the mall, but police have yet to arrest anyone.
Although no one was injured in the attack, the incident left staff shaken and in tears.
Catherine Goodwin, a member of the Mt Albert Business Association, told Morning Report that businesses are losing faith in the justice system’s ability to protect them.
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“I think it’s a sign that the justice system has gotten out of control, that youth crime is on the rise, that inter-agency social services aren’t working effectively.”
She said Tuesday’s incident was particularly shocking because the theft took place during normal office hours.
Meanwhile, ram raids in the Mt Albert area had seen family businesses leave tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket over the year, Goodwin said.
Goodwin said she was not convinced by recently released figures from Stats NZ which showed the number of young people appearing in court had fallen since 2021.
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“I guess it’s because people aren’t guided through the process to appear in court, it doesn’t seem to us that there are the arrests that one would expect and in fact the system doesn’t take not people through the entirety of dealing with juvenile crime.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a reduction in youth crime in any way, it’s the fact that the system doesn’t hold people accountable.”
Auckland Transport (AT) has responded to the increase in ram raids by inviting businesses or sites experiencing ram raids or repeated vehicle incidents to apply to be considered for the installation of bollards.
Goodwin said the response was “wacky” because pressure was put on the homeowner to pay for the application, installation, maintenance and any upgrades to security measures.
“Security gates cost tens of thousands of dollars, rolling doors and bollards are just as expensive.
“They need council consent and I found that to be tough, so on behalf of our owners, people are making it as difficult as possible,” she said.
The security installations were a stark and unsightly reminder of the division within communities and they shouldn’t be needed, Goodwin said.
Instead, she called for a proactive funded approach to community policing.
“We need to see a proactive security response from our local police, professional associations should have mechanisms through community patrols, Mt Albert is very active in this space but it all comes down to volunteers.
“Those are the initiatives that should be funded, so if we have real community foot patrols, you’ll find that would be reduced because they wouldn’t be vulnerable businesses.”
Goodwin said smaller businesses, such as dairies, also faced higher operational costs for staff because it was no longer a case of running their business on their own.
Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Bridges said businesses of all sizes were increasingly at risk of theft and could not rely on the police.
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He said a recent survey of businesses had shown clear concern and a sense that no one was immune to risk across the city.
“There’s a real growing feeling that the police aren’t going to keep them safe, so they have to use their own devices, whether that’s bollards, security or a bunch of other expensive security measures. “
Companies told him that security measures like bollards were difficult to put in place and expensive, Bridges said.
Earlier this month the government launched a ‘Better Pathways’ program to get more young people into education, training or work, to help reduce youth crime.
Police Minister Chris Hipkins said the package was designed to prevent young people involved in crime from being pushed further into a life of adult crime, but tougher sentences across the board would not work .