25 Nov 2022

Sandringham stabbing: Shop worker safety 'goes beyond fog cannons and bollards', business leader says

1:13 pm on 25 November 2022
Flowers are seen outside Rose Cottage Superette in Sandringham, Auckland, after the fatal stabbing of a dairy worker on Wednesday, 23 November, 2022.

Flowers are seen outside Rose Cottage Superette in Sandringham, Auckland, after the fatal stabbing of a dairy worker. Photo: RNZ / Jonty Dine

An Auckland business leader says it will take more than fog cannons to protect shopkeepers from violent crime.

A 34-year-old man working at the Rose Cottage Superette in Sandringham was fatally stabbed in on Wednesday night.

Police said there was a confrontation between the victim and a robber who took the drawer from the till.

On Thursday night people gathered outside the dairy to mourn the man, describing him as an innocent soul, and laying flowers in his memory.

A distraught relative of the dead man said he was on the phone to him when the robbery happened.

The family member runs a dairy in Cambridge and said he heard the man's wife say something was going on in the shop, but he didn't know what happened next.

The relative said something was going wrong with people in this country.

"It's very bad, if you take something you just take it and go outside, that's it. But why hurt people, why kill people, that's not right."

He said he hoped he would be safe in New Zealand but he was scared "all the time" and wanted something done to prevent other families losing loved ones in similar circumstances.

Rose Cottage Superette had reportedly been turned down twice for a fog cannon despite a 15-year history of violence and theft.

Police Minister Chris Hipkins said based on what he could see the business should have qualified, and was asking police for an explanation.

"What we know from evidence is that fog cannons can make a difference in situations like this.

"It is still not clear to me at this point why it was that they weren't able to access one, so I don't want to say that there was nothing further that could be done because at this point I don't have enough information to be able to really answer that."

A subsidy for fog cannons has been available since 2017. RNZ has asked police for comment.

The superette isn't the only business in the area denied funding for a fog cannon, according to the Sandringham Business Association.

Chairperson Jithin Chittibomma said one local vape store was attacked six times before it finally got a state-funded fog cannon, and a liquor store gave up asking and bought its own.

But the real problem to be addressed was how to stop violent offending.

"Someone was stabbed here after the perpetrator was confronted, so a fog cannon or a bollard wouldn't have helped in any way in that situation," he said.

"What we've seen is absolutely 'I don't care' attitude, a sense of entitlement" that someone could go into a shop and take what they want and there was s nothing anyone could do to them.

"How do you change that attitude? It goes beyond fog cannons and bollards."

The owner of vape store Fume, Subhash Batra, told RNZ he felt somewhat safer now that police had helped him install a fog cannon and multiple cameras in his shop.

But he said he had twice been threatened with knives during robberies and this week's incident had again raised questions about "what to do" in the face of such serious crimes.

"I mean, if somebody has made up his mind to harm you..."

Anger, guilt in the community

Chittibomma said there was anger towards the authorities that not enough was done to avoid the death.

"We all saw this coming ... but for it to actually happen a couple of nights ago it's just incredibly sad."

He had no hope that anything would improve if the government continued with the same reactions.

"We still are in shock, we haven't even come together to discuss what we're going to do next."

Everyone was emotional and angry right now and a few business owners told him they just want to shut up shop.

"It's all up in the air right now ... we need to let things settle down and see how people react."

Chittibomma said some in the local business community were blaming themselves and wondering whether they could have done more as the Rose Cottage Superette was somewhat isolated from the suburb's main retail area.

"He's just down the road, he's away from the hustle and bustle; had he been in the village, maybe we could have done something for him, maybe he could have been alive right now," he said.

"Everyone starts thinking that way and starts blaming themselves for it."

But the victim hadn't done anything wrong, he added.

"They were there just doing their day's work and someone else came in their environment - safe environment - made it unsafe, stole from them and killed... That's barbaric."

Fund opens to help family

Auckland businesses are raising money to support the family of the dairy worker who was "senselessly killed" this week.

The GiveALittle page was created by the Dairy and Business Owners Group to provide financial support for the victim's elderly parents after he was fatally stabbed in Sandringham on Wednesday evening.

"This could be any small family-run business," the group wrote. "But it has left a law-abiding shopworker that had so much promise dead.

"Above all, it has cost a family a cherished loved one."

The Rose Cottage Superette was lined with flower bouqets this morning as members of the community paid their respects. A candlelight vigil held last night attracted a crowd of 200, with another scheduled for Saturday evening.

The Dairy and Business Owners group said it planned to liase with the victim's family to ensure they were supported.

Flowers laid at site of Sandringham dairy where worker fatally stabbed

Photo: RNZ / Lucy Xia

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