After a number of high-profile assaults against retailers, including a robbery at a Palmerston North Liquorland where staff were injured by a “slasher-like” weapon, the Government has today put $1.8 million towards robbery prevention at dairies, superettes and other small local businesses.
Police minister Paula Bennet says businesses which are assessed by police as being at high risk of violent crime will be invited to apply for co-funding for measures like panic alarms, DNA spray, fog cannons and time safes for storage cash and cigarettes. Retailers will also be given advice on how to change the layout of their stores to increase safety.
“We’ve listened to the concerns of shop keepers, that’s why we’ve put aside this money to be used for co-funding for a range of security and prevention measures,” Bennett says.
“Police have already increased the numbers of officers in high-risk areas, and carried out crime prevention seminars. Officers in Auckland have visited over 1,000 businesses over the past three months to provide prevention advice. Police have arrested 106 people in connection with all aggravated robberies that have taken place over the past two months.
Bennett says the funding is aimed at small family-owned or owner-operator businesses which are at high risk of crime but can’t cover the cost of increased security themselves. The police risk assessments will be determined using “established intelligence assessment tools that overlay crime rates with other characteristics, such as type of crime, the time of day and location.”
“Police will fund up to 50 per cent of the cost of the security measures,” Bennett says. “In some exceptional circumstances, they may pay a larger share. It’s expected all of the 500-600 businesses considered high risk will be eligible for co-funding. In addition to that, around 3,500 businesses will be visited to receive safety advice.”
Retail NZ has welcomed the package. General manager for public affairs Greg Harford saying that aggravated robberies are a real concern for retailers, especially those operating small convenience stores.
"These small stores, which often provide a valuable community service without the cashflow to invest in expensive security systems, have been increasingly targeted by aggressive and sometimes armed criminals seeking to make off with high value goods,” Harford says. “ Retail NZ is delighted that the Government is taking this issue seriously and making funding available to support security improvements in these stores.”
Harford emphasised the seriousness of retail crime to New Zealand’s economy, saying it costs the country around $1 billion each year and puts the health and safety of business owners, employees and customers at risk.
The funding announced today is a good start in dealing with the problem, Harford says, but addressing the bigger picture ultimately requires the public to recognise that all crime is unacceptable.
“We know that petty crime is a gateway to bigger, organised and aggravated crime, and we think it's important that the Government and the Police also deal with petty criminals before their life of crime becomes aggravated.
"Retail NZ recently published a three point action plan for dealing with retail crime, in which we proposed the establishment of a specialist Retail Crime Taskforce, a social change programme to make it clear that crime is not acceptable, and the introduction of an infringement style offence to help manage low-level crime more effectively and ensure that there are real consequences for first-time petty offenders before they become aggravated robbers".