26 May 2022

Police Minister announces government's crime prevention package

12:41 pm on 26 May 2022

Police will manage a $6 million crime prevention programme, installing bollards and similar measures to prevent ram raids, as part of the government's response to such attacks.

Police Minister Poto Williams announced the Small Retailer Crime Prevention Fund at Chartwell Food Centre in Auckland this morning, saying it would help the small retailers who did not have the resources to protect themselves.

It would be funded through the Proceeds of Crime Fund, which comes from assets and money seized from criminals under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act.

Dairy owners have been among those calling for tougher penalties for the offenders after a spike in ram raids. Some of the businesses that have been ram-raided have incurred losses totalling thousands of dollars.

"Retail stores and dairies and superettes are the two most common locations for ram raids and other types of crime ... it is expected that an estimated 500 retailers will likely qualify," Williams said.

"This funding will enable Police to work closely with vulnerable small retailers to identify effective and practical solutions based on the particular features of each location."

She said ram raids were "something that is definitely spiking", rising in recent months to about 40 per month. Police were doing what they could, and an operation had made 150 arrests with more than 750 charges laid.

The new scheme would allow them to individually consider the risks for each small retailer and what measures - which could also include fog cannons, security alarms or screens - were most appropriate.

Bollards were one option, but often could not be installed due to underground infrastructure. Other measures could also include strobe lighting or high-pitched sound bars.

The work would begin with five stores in Auckland and expand wider as required including in Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and other centres.

"This is not a one-size-fits all approach. In some cases council consent or other approvals will be required before things like physical barriers or bollards are put in place," Williams said.

"While there has been a significant reduction in youth offending over the past decade, there has also been a recent spike in ram raids and related offending which we urgently need to address for these business owners."

Experts such as Children's Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers say an increase in young people behind the wheel in ram raids is being created by families living in a "total state of hopelessness" and social issues need to be addressed.

Willliams said the National Retail Investigation Support Unit was also working with Retail New Zealand to identify high-priority repeat retail offenders who would be held accountable, as well as offering advice on smaller things that could be done to improve safety like keeping windows clear of advertising and having lower shelves to improve visibility.

A cross-agency team set up with the South Auckland Social Wellbeing Board would also work to reduce the causes of crime, she said, with on-site workers from youth justice, care and protection services, youth aid, bail support services, Kāinga Ora, the Ministries of Social Development and Education, and local non-government organisations.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said retail crime was the number one issue facing the sector today.

"It's always been a problem, but over the last few years's it's becoming steadily worse, it's becoming steadily organised, and it's becoming increasingly aggressive and violent."

He said people who worked in retail were increasingly living in fear of coming to work and having to clean up the mess from criminal activity and it was costing the country a fortune.

"The costs of crime are ultimately being passed on to consumers through a higher cost of goods."

Retail NZ was "really pleased" the government had brought the fund to help small businesses deal with the challenge, he said.

This year's Budget also added $562m to Police, and Williams said the first priority for that funding was increasing the number of frontline officers, with a new population-ratio requirement.

She would not commit the government to future funding of the Small Retailer scheme at this point but if it was needed and made sense, that could be considered again in future, she said.

"It's relatively inexpensive and it's a great way ... for police to partner with business."

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