$6m to protect retailers from ram raids but Nats say it's not enough

By James Perry

Police Minister Poto Williams says the injection of money from the Proceeds of Crime Fund will help resource small retailers against the surge of ram-raid style burglaries.

“We’ve heard the concerns of small businesses being targeted with ram-raids and other offending, and we are taking action. This is exactly what the Proceeds of Crime Fund was designed for,” she says.

Retail New Zealand chief executive Greg Harford welcomes the support, saying it is necessary to help manage what he describes as the No. 1 issue facing the retail sector today.

“Ultimately managing the specific impacts of crime is all well and good, but it is a wider societal problem, and we’re really keen to help with government and others to address those issues.”

Small businesses, and large retailers including malls, have been hit by a wave of hit and run style burglaries in the middle of the night in recent weeks. In some instances, the burglars have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and thousands more in stolen goods.

Thieves have long targeted local dairies, and liquor stores but in recent months clothing and electronic retailers have seen an increase in attacks, by youth offenders, some as young as seven-years-old.

Williams says police will begin working with five retailers in a trial to identify the particular needs of each retailer.

She expects 500 retailers will qualify for the project once rolled out, with most spread across wider Auckland and others in parts of the country including Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.

'Won't stop ram-raids'

“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."

Police will also work with small retailers to identify other options to keep themselves and their business protected, including fog cannons, security alarms or screens, and offer advice such as keeping windows clear of advertising and having lower shelves in the store.

However, National's police spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, says businesses will be disappointed it has taken the government more than a week to commit $6 million and adds it won't stop offenders from driving vehicles through shop windows to access goods.

“It has been 10 days since the cabinet agreed on funding for ram-raid businesses. The government claimed it acted quickly in response to the ram-raids but businesses that have been raided multiple times will beg to differ.

“Youths stealing cars and driving them into retail premises have been causing thousands of dollars of damage for businesses and communities for months. The minister's announcement of $6 million won’t stretch very far, forcing some businesses to fend for themselves,” Mitchell says in a statement.