‘Businesses are hurting’ – greater police presence wanted in CBD

3:48 pm on 14 December 2022
Police records show crime in Nelson's city centre has not increased significantly, but this isn't what's being seen by retailers. Photo: Nelson Weekly [via LDR single use only]

Police records show crime in Nelson's city centre has not increased significantly, but that is not being seen by retailers. Photo: Nelson Weekly via LDR

Businesses in Nelson's city centre want a greater police presence on the street to deter would-be offenders as they are subjected to the increased rate of crime being seen nationwide.

The desire was expressed at a meeting on 7 December between about 50 retailers and local police hosted by Mayor Nick Smith.

"I've been approached by at least 20, probably closer to 30, mainly retail businesses, but also retail workers, who are worried about an increase in the level of crime in the central city," Smith said.

"What I want to do is to provide the opportunity for those of us that have positions of responsibility in the city to be able to hear directly from [businesses] as to what [they] feel is going on in the city."

And these worries were made clear to relieving Area Commander Mark Clayton and Sergeant Kyle Bunnings.

Incidents raised included business owners being subject to death threats, having weapons drawn on them, and assaults on staff alongside an increase in shoplifting and disorderly conduct from those under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

"We're all experiencing a lift in crime," said Stirling Sports' Wyatt Crockett.

"Going back five years, you'd see one or two incidents per year. Now it's almost daily."

He said shoplifting was costing his businesses "thousands and thousands" of dollars and so he was having to divert staff to keep a watch on customers which had an impact on the atmosphere in the store.

"It's taking us away from what we're trying to do, to create a nice environment for our customers ... it's unsustainable."

Another business owner in the city centre who asked not to be named said she was concerned for the safety of her young teenage staff members and herself.

"I've been there for about five years … it's been a fairly pleasant place to work but now I'm actually considering walking out," she said.

"We've had gang members, just last week, leaning in on the windows and scouting around … I'm getting more and more concerned that something is going to happen."

Another manager who also asked to remain anonymous said she has had to deal with indecent exposure, abusive customers, threats against staff, drunkenness, and a "huge" increase in shoplifting.

"We need to see a change," Crockett said.

"Businesses are hurting from it."

While police statistics from the past five years don't reflect an increase in crime, Clayton said it was clear given the comments made by the business owners that the number of incidents were being under-reported.

"That's going to be fed back to my troops," he said.

"We will be increasing our foot patrols in the CBD."

He also confirmed that a new permanent area commander and a new community constable for the CBD will be each be starting early in the new year.

As for what retailers can do, Clayton recommended businesses "call everything through … no matter how trivial", because having more accurate statistics will have an impact on how an area was policed.

111 was the number to call for anything that was currently happening or may soon happen.

Sergeant Kyle Bunnings also encouraged businesses to trespass problematic customers.

"From a policing point of view, it makes a massive difference to us because rather than us having to wait for them to commit an offence … they actually commit that offence just by entering."

Deputy Mayor Rohan O'Neill-Stevens said Nelson City Council was also taking a longer-term approach to inner city crime prevention through environmental design, such as looking at areas that may need more lighting or CCTV cameras.

"Those are discussions that we're going to be taking through into our annual plan and also into our long-term plan to make sure that we're retaining that safety that should be in the heart of our city."

Clayton said he found the meeting "extremely beneficial".

"It was great to get the pulse of the retail community, and their concerns were fully taken on board."

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs