Hamilton Caltex owner robbed three times in last month disenchanted by Government's crime approach

A gas station owner who has been robbed three times in the past month is appalled at the Government's lack of action on crime and says thieves "know there are no consequences for them".  

Amit Khanna owns the Caltex petrol station in Dinsdale, Hamilton and told Newshub retail owners "really need help".   

He said they are not getting this help from the Government, despite promises to get tough on crime in the first 100 days of their term.

There has been a spate of petrol station robberies across Auckland in recent weeks and the auto industry is warning that fuel stations are heading for a "USA-style crime hell".  

Khanna's Hamilton store was robbed twice in the early hours of February 10 and once more recently in the early hours of March 11. 

The first robbery happened around 1am on February 10, when a group of youths smashed through the sliding glass door.

Police surveyed the scene and Khanna installed a private security guard for the night.   

Despite the additional security, at around 4am three cars arrived at the station and emptied anything left from the first robbery.   

Three cars arrived later that night to rob the store again.
Three cars arrived later that night to rob the store again. Photo credit: Supplied

Khanna said they showed "no regard for the fact that there is somebody on site and it is in the middle of a residential area with houses all around."  

The private security guard was powerless to stop the four thieves who stormed into the store.   

"I suffered huge losses of around 35-40k when they literally emptied out my tobacco cabinets," Khanna said.   

In the early hours of Monday morning, thieves again stormed Khanna's store, brazenly smashing the freshly installed glass doors.   

Five people entered. Their statures were slight and one who was unmasked, filming the whole incident, looked barely over ten years old.   

The youths storm the store early Monday morning. One films the entire robbery and makes no effort to hide his face.
The youths storm the store early Monday morning. One films the entire robbery and makes no effort to hide his face. Photo credit: Supplied

The losses from Monday morning are still being assessed.   

Khanna said the whole process has been extremely distressing for him and his staff.  

"We go through all the trauma of us getting the place fixed and getting guards in place and it seems to do nothing."  

He says his staff are scared of "what can happen in the night can happen in the day as well".  

He recalled that a store nearby had been robbed in broad daylight the week before and these fears are compounded by the brazen nature of the robberies.   

"They're not even scared of consequences; we've got to the point where they feel like they can do whatever they want."  

Khanna said it feels like things are getting worse, and while he is happy with the police response, he said it feels like they are also frustrated with an inability to take proper action. 

"They spent the entire day getting fingerprints, doing DNA tests, and getting the offender, and the next morning they have to let them go."  

Police confirmed to Newshub "Investigations are ongoing following three burglaries at a petrol station on Whatawhata Road, between Saturday 10 February and Monday 11 March".

"Three youths were arrested following a burglary where vapes and other merchandise was stolen on Saturday early morning, 10 February at around 1am. 

"Two youths have been referred to youth aid, and an 18-year-old man is due to re-appear in the Hamilton District Court 18 March on two charges of burglary and unlawfully getting into a vehicle."

"Enquiries are ongoing" into the burglary on Monday morning police said.

Khanna wants harsher punishments for young offenders, and he wants them now.   

He also feels like the Government has abandoned shop owners, despite a heavy presence during the elections.  

"Everyone who was floating around on the streets before elections has ghosted us," he said.   

He recalled seeing Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and David Seymour at a Hamilton protest after the murder of Auckland dairy worker Janek Patel.  

"The talk was, once we come into Government, we'll go really harsh on them," Khanna said. 

He also recalled MP Tama Potaka was very visible amongst retail workers during campaigning for the Hamilton West by-election.   

"Now, these guys have disappeared," he said.   

"The Government made false promises about stricter and harsher penalties for offenders." 

While campaigning, National promised the worst of New Zealand's reoffending youth aged between 15 and 17 would end up in military-style camps.  

Police Minister Mark Mitchell told Newhsub today, "in the first 100 days, the Government pledged to start work on cracking down on youth offending and gangs. We have started that work, particularly around young offender military academies and a suite of new tools for Police like banning gang patches and insignia in public spaces. 

"Over six years, the crime situation has been allowed to fester into the huge problem that we are now working very hard alongside the Police to get on top of."

The Government last week confirmed it was progressing with plans for youth boot camps which would begin operating with "the most persistent young offenders" from August, but details are light.   

Mitchell said the military-youth camps are "going to make a big impact in the rates of retail crime because we are targeting the worst recidivists".

Minister for Children Karen Chhour told AM August's pilot programme would involve ten youth offenders.

The programme has been quick to receive criticism, but the Government has insisted it's different from the one implemented by the previous National Government under Sir John Key.   

The analysis found 85-87 percent of those in that programme went on to re-offend within two years.  

Youth Development Worker Aaron Hendry instead said crime is on the rise because the current Government is failing our children.    

"We have to deliver results, there's no doubt about that, we campaigned on that," Mitchell said. 

Regardless, Khanna feels let down by the Government and fears for what will happen once these young offenders get older.  

"Society is going to get worse," he said.