20 Oct 2022

Central Christchurch businesses on edge as street crime rises

7:57 am on 20 October 2022
Christchurch Bus Interchange building.

Christchurch Bus Interchange building. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

People who work in the Christchurch's CBD say they don't feel safe in parts of the central city where brawls, assaults and theft have become more frequent.

A street attack on 18 October left a man in a critical condition in hospital. An 18-year-old man has appeared in court charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

In August, a man was left in a critical condition after an assault in a popular shopping spot on Cashel Street.

Rosa Tucker worked at Seed on Cashel Street, directly opposite where the incident took place.

But it was not the first one that happened right outside the shop, Tucker said.

"We quite often get a group of youths running past our store. So we just hear loud noises and things," she said.

"On one occasion, we saw them pull someone out of a moving car and beat them up. The cops were called and yeah, it was quite scary."

Around the corner, Vape Vend manager Zi said he believed the neighbouring bus interchange gave rise to a lot of the problems.

Vape Vend manager Zi.

Zi, the manager of Vape Vend, says he has already had to trespass someone from the two-month-old store. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

"The bus exchange is a microcosm of all the rotten parts of Christchurch all rolled up into one place in the central city," he said.

"Certain individuals are known, registered sex offenders. I had to serve a trespass notice to one last week because he would come and stare at the girls when they were working by themselves."

Inside the bus interchange building, iSushi worker Huyeh Max showed RNZ CCTV footage of young people stealing from the shop, which he said had become a daily occurrence over the past four months.

"It's really annoying ... We are not safe," he said.

Canterbury district police commander superintendent Lane Todd said while street crime had risen in recent months, overall crime rates were relatively low and remained below pre-pandemic levels in the city.

Zi suggested police needed to patrol the area frequently.

"The police station is literally a two-minute walk away. It's not that big of a deal for them to just send a cop once an hour to walk down and walk back up - it'd take five or 10 minutes out of his day," he said.

"Because it's all well giving us numbers to call, but then when we need [the police], they're not here."

Huyeh Max and workmate Klein (left) say their iSushi bus interchange store has been targeted by young people every afternoon for the past four months.

Huyeh Max and workmate Klein (left) say their iSushi bus interchange store has been targeted by young people every afternoon for the past four months. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

However, Todd said police had already stepped up patrols in the downtown area.

"In Christchurch, we've got The Strip, where there's quite a few cafes, restaurants and wine bars, so we've been working with them coming out of Covid, putting more reassurance patrols in the central city," Todd said.

"The patrols have been predominantly at night time, particularly on a Friday, Saturday night," he said.

"We've also got our youth teams, who have been working with Christchurch City Council and other partner agencies, in relation to some of the offending that's occurring at the bus interchange."

A central city security patrol had also been trialled over the past three months with the council, Salvation Army, City Mission, liquor industry and the city's Business Association, Todd said.

This week, Christchurch Business Association (CBA) voted to continue funding the patrol for another three months.

CBA head Annabel Turley said the patrol provided a safety presence, which made the programme a success.

Tucker was pleased to hear of the patrol's renewal.

"They definitely have an impact and they've been checking up on us. They come really quickly when we call and we feel like we can come to them any time we need, so I definitely think it's really good to keep them in place," she said.

Additional police patrols will also take place for six to eight weeks over summer, starting in the second week of November.

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