Government invests $6m in small retail crime prevention programme after ram raids

The Government is investing $6 million from the Proceeds of Crime Fund into establishing a police programme focused on small retail crime prevention.

The programme will be managed by police and will explore solutions to ram raids such as installing bollards or other protection structures. It will be focused on Auckland to begin with, but can be expanded if required. 

"This funding will enable Police to work closely with vulnerable small retailers to identify effective and practical solutions based on the particular features of each location," Police Minister Poto Williams said on Thursday.

"Police will also look at the range of crime and security risks each small retailer may face, and other options such as fog cannons, security alarms, or screens may be considered."

She expects up to 500 premises will qualify for funding from the programme.

"This is not a one-size fits all approach. In some cases, council consent or other approvals will be required before things like physical barriers or bollards are put in place. Police will look at a range of crime and security risks each small retailer may face and then consider the most appropriate options."

The announcement comes after a spate of ram raids in Auckland over the last month. On a near-nightly basis, police were attending call-outs from businesses affected by smash-and-grabs and ram raids. 

"Alongside the obviously physical damage, ram raids can also have serious personal mental health and wellbeing impacts on business owners, their families, and staff and these measures help prevent that," Williams said.

It's being welcomed by Retail NZ.

"Retailers across the country are experiencing retail crime on a daily basis, whether this is violence, aggression, theft, ram raids or anti-social behaviour," said chief executive Greg Harford.

"Accessing this fund to gain suppport from the NZ Police is another step forward in delivering and responding to a signficant issues for the retail sector."

The minister said earlier in May that the Government would respond to the ram raids issue. However, as the package was being developed after Budget bids were locked in, there was no cash announced specifically for it at last week's Budget.

"Money and assets forfeited under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 go into the Proceeds of Crime Fund. This is exactly what the fund was designed for, to rectify the significant harm such criminal activities cause," Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said on Thursday.

A $562 package was announced in the lead-up to the Budget for more police officers, a firearms unit and to tackle gangs. The Government said the work announced on Thursday also builds on the National Retail Investigation Support Unit established by police in November.

Harford said retail crime is "a serious issue and there is no single solution". 

"We are dealing with a significant societal issue that requires multiple initiatives and approaches. As a country we need to look at how we can stop crime in its tracks," he said. 

"This includes combating low level theft, the unfortunate accepted level of abuse and violence Kiwis throw at retailers to the more 'news grabbing' incidents of ram raids. The employees, managers and owners of retail stores are all victims, and there should  zero tolerance to retail crime from everyone in the community and support to combat it."

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the Government's also doing work to address the causes of child and youth offending. 

"We know that families need wrap around support, and MSD and other agencies will continue to work with the South Auckland Social Wellbeing Board which have established a cross-agency prototype to provide whanau-centred support for the young people who have been directly involved in ram raids," she said.

"So far they have been able to respond to the needs of 19 tamariki and their families which has included re-enrolling them in school and connecting them up with financial assistance for helping them to access appropriate services, and multi-agency wrap around support targeted at each individual."