11 Jun 2024

South Auckland crime: Police Minister told of use of weapons, fears for staff amid rise in offences

8:23 pm on 11 June 2024

South Auckland business owners who say they're dealing with crime on a daily basis vented their frustrations at Police Minister Mark Mitchell today.

Mitchell held a community meeting which was standing room only for residents and retailers such was the interest. He also visited shops in Manurewa to hear what residents and shop owners were going through.

Many told him how bad crime had become in the neighbourhood. They called for extra officers on the ground and harsher penalties for offenders.

The first stop for the minister was Apna Spice and Grocery Store, where Raghbir Singh and Sarvjud Kaur said they had been treated with flagrant disrespect by shoplifters.

"[Thefts] happen every day, what do we do ... even the small kids, the four-five kids come in, they're touching everything, they take it and walk out," Singh said.

Kaur told the minister what they saw.

Mark Mitchell addresses meeting on crime in south Auckland

Business people and residents were keen to share their experiences with Police Minister Mark Mitchell. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

"They are coming in as groups, like six, seven people, some are here [at the counter], I'm here and I'm attending to people, and they're stealing from the back side [of the store]."

The minister tried to reassure them.

"We're working as hard and as fast as we can to free up our police, to get them back out there, to partner with local government and with community groups and things like that, because central government can't fix these societal problems by themselves. It's definitely a joined-up effort," he said.

The minister addressed a crowd of more than 100 frustrated residents and business owners last week at a public meeting in the central city.

Mark Mitchell addresses meeting on crime in south Auckland

Mark Mitchell addresses the meeting. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

They told him they didn't feel safe and wanted to see more police officers on the street.

It was a similar mood on Tuesday.

Mitchell said the government was serious about cracking down on crime.

He asked business owners to tell him what their priorities were.

Raewyn Bhana who has worked in the community for 37 years owns multiple businesses.

She said she was worried for the safety of her employees, especially since some offenders were armed with machetes.

"I'm always saying to staff 'use the duress button, ring the police,' because I don't know if they've got guns, I don't know if they've got knives, so I worry about the safety our staff."

Sukhpal Singh said rough sleepers had become an issue outside his restaurant.

"The man drinking alcohol and having food just [at the] main entrance of my restaurant, I asked him to move and he showed me the knife, he said get inside... so I try just get inside."

Mitchell said tackling crime was a government priority, but it was not going to be easy.

"It's a complicated situation that involves emergency housing, social housing, the rough-sleepers, increased police presence, having consequences around offending," he said.

"There's a whole lot of things we need to do and get lined up and get right, to start making really big, meaningful change."

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