Hundreds of dairies to get Govt-funded security boost
The Government has joined the fight against the violent dairy and business robberies, offering funding for more security measures.
Police Minister Paula Bennett says $1.8 million will be made available for dairies, superettes and small businesses to apply for co-funding for "robbery prevention".
"Businesses assessed as being high risk will be invited to apply for co-funding for things like panic and high volume interior alarms, DNA spray, fog cannons and time safes for cash and storage of cigarettes. Shop owners will also be given advice about how to alter the layout of their shops to make them safer," she says.
It is estimated 500-600 businesses will be considered "high risk", while around 3500 businesses will be visited to receive safety advice.
Those "high-risk" businesses could be in line for $3000 each from the fund.
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Police will front up 50 percent of the cost of the security measures, but could be more in "exceptional circumstances". The money will be paid out of the Justice Sector Fund.
"We're taking this issue seriously, we want to stop these awful crimes from happening to innocent victims in the first place and make sure these cowards are off the streets," Ms Bennett says.
Violent dairy robberies across the country seem to happen weekly, if not daily.
What the almost-always armed thieves manage to get away with varies, but the main target is cigarettes.
The attacks have left shopkeepers injured and frightened, with some considering arming themselves to defend their stores.
It's become a political sore spot for the Government which has been accused of not doing enough by affected business owners, Opposition politicians and government partners alike.
Crime Prevention Group spokesman Sunny Kaushal is pleased the Government and authorities are finally listening to the community.
But he says it's too little too late, and is targeted at the wrong people.
"The authorities are losing their focus, their focus should be the criminals, not the shop owners. The problem is the behaviour - the violence, the criminal intent," he told Newshub.
"The offenders, they know the flaws in the law, and they are getting away easily because they see no deterrent factor. They have no fear of the law, no fear of the law, no fear of the police and of being caught or any consequences whatsoever.
"If our judicial system is strong enough, it can send stronger messages, but our leniency in our judicial system is letting our communities and our police down by letting these offenders getting away so easily by simply slapping them on the wrist," he says.
Mr Kaushal says the money simply won't be enough when it needs to be spread across the almost 8000 dairies across New Zealand.
Security systems are expensive to buy and install. He says a fog machine with an automatic alarm can cost $5000, while single pack cigarette dispensers can cost around $20,000.
Mr Kaushal says the announcement is an "election promise" and there needs to be "real action".
ACT Party leader David Seymour says National's plan is a watered down version of the policy he launched last month of installing single cigarette pack dispensers and for a year's worth of tax collected on tobacco to be given to dairy owners to get better security.
Tobacco tax revenue is set to increase by $171 million as a result of a tax increase next year.
Prime Minister Bill English said shortly after ACT's policy announcement that it wouldn't be an idea the Government would be putting in place.
But Mr Seymour says Thursday's announcement is "an admission of a problem [National] has denied for some time".
"The problem with this announcement is the extent. It's tokenism that will help very few retailers."
He says only extending the funding to high-risk businesses means other dairies will be targeted by criminals instead.
Mr Seymour spoke to the Crime Prevention Group several weeks ago and ACT's policy is one Mr Kaushaul believes in.
"Instead of putting the taxes into the Government's coffers, why don't we invest that money constructively into these measures which can create safer businesses?"
In late April, dozens of dairy and liquor store owners banded together to march through south Auckland calling for harsher penalties. Weeks later, Onehunga shop owners met with local MPs, Labour's Louisa Wall and National's Parmjeet Parmar, where they again expressed their concerns.
They called for a special police task force to deal with violent crime on businesses and more rights to defend themselves.
"A number of these crimes have been fuelled I believe by a combination of poverty," Ms Wall said at the time.