An Auckland business owner is calling for funding for proactive community patrols in the aftermath of a smash and grab at a busy shopping centre.
A group of up to eight people wearing masks and carrying batons targeted Stewart Dawson's in St Lukes mall, in Auckland late Tuesday afternoon, smashing glass cabinets and grabbing jewellery before fleeing to the car park.
Witnesses told police some of the attackers could have been children as young as eight.
The getaway vehicle was found a short distance away from the mall but police have not yet arrested anyone.
While no one was injured in the attack, the incident has left staff shaken and in tears.
Mt Albert Business Association member Catherine Goodwin told Morning Report businesses were losing faith in the justice system's ability to protect them.
"I feel that this is a sign that the justice system has lost control, youth crime is escalating, cross-agency social services are not operating effectively."
She said Tuesday's incident was particularly shocking as the robbery took place during usual business hours.
Meanwhile, other ram raids in the Mt Albert area had seen family-run businesses left tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket over the course of the year, Goodwin said.
Goodwin said she was unconvinced by recently released Stats NZ figures that showed the number of youth appearing in court had declined since 2021.
"I would expect it's because people aren't being taken through the process to appear in court, it doesn't appear to us there are the arrests that would be expected and in fact the system isn't taking people through the full youth crime process.
"I wouldn't suggest that is in any way a reduction in youth crime occurring, it's the fact that the system isn't holding people accountable."
Auckland Transport (AT) has responded to the rise in ram raids by inviting businesses or sites experiencing ram raids or repeated vehicle incidents to apply to be considered for installation of bollards.
Goodwin said this response was "farcical" as the pressure fell on the landlord to pay for the application, installation, maintenance and any upgrades to the security measures.
"Security grills cost tens of thousands of dollars, roller doors and bollards are similarly expensive.
"They require council consent and I've found it to be arduous, so, on behalf of our landlords people are making it as difficult as possible," she said.
Security installations were a stark and unsightly reminder of division within communities and they should not be necessary, Goodwin said.
Instead she called for a proactive funded approach to community policing.
"We need to see proactive security response from our local police, business associations should have mechanisms by way of community patrols, Mt Albert is very active in that space but it all comes down to volunteers.
"These are the initiatives that should be funded so if we have genuine walkabout community patrols you would find that this would be reduced because they wouldn't be vulnerable businesses."
Goodwin said small businesses, such as dairy owners, were also facing higher operational costs for staffing as it was no longer to operate their business on their own.
Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Bridges said businesses of all sizes were increasingly at risk of robbery and could not rely on police.
He said a recent survey of businesses had shown a clear concern and a sense no one was immune to the risk across the city.
"There's a real sense that's growing that police aren't going to keep them safe so they have to employ their own devices whether it's bollards, whether it's security, whether it's a bunch of other costly security measures."
Businesses told him security measures like bollards were hard to set up and expensive, Bridges said.
Earlier this month, the government introduced a 'Better Pathways' package to place more young people in education, training or work, to help drive down youth crime.
Minister of Police Chris Hipkins said the package was designed to prevent young people involved in crime being pushed further into a life of adult crime, but harsher punishments across the board would not work.