Thousands in cash and cigs snatched

By Kristin Edge

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Thieves smashed their way into three Whangarei businesses over two hours and fled with thousands of dollars worth of cigarettes and tobacco and $3000 of herbal tobacco.

It comes only a few weeks after two other thefts targeting dairies stocking cigarettes and tobacco. Police were yesterday dusting for fingerprints at Pepes Dairy in Onerahi, Stellar Products in Kensington and Foster Food Market Four Square on Maunu Rd following the break-ins between midnight and 2am.

Whangarei police Sergeant Tai Patrick urged anyone who was selling cigarettes or tobacco to take extra steps to ensure their products were locked away.

In two of yesterday's burglaries the thieves had snapped off padlocks to the main tobacco displays and in one case emptied all the bottom drawers of products.

At Pepes Dairy in Onerahi police said two people went to the front door with one of them using a metal bar to force it open.

Once inside they got into a locked cabinet and grabbed about $5000 cash, cartons of cigarettes, and tobacco.

Both intruders were wearing hooded sweatshirts.

At Stellar Products in Kensington, which sells a selection of natural and organic products, $3000 of herbal tobacco was stolen. No one at the business would comment.

Mr Patrick said Daffodil Dairy on Maunu Rd was targeted last Friday about 2.40am with $8000 worth of tobacco being stolen. On December 7 Onerahi was hit with a large quantity of tobacco being stolen.

A dairy owner, who did not want to be named, said the theft hit them hard financially even though they had insurance.

"We have to pay the excess and then our policy goes up so we lose out in the end."

The theft impacted on them emotionally as well.

"We were woken up early in the morning and had to get here and secure the shop. Luckily I had a friend who came and helped. Then we had to open up and work all day ... it's very stressful just before Christmas.

"We work hard and we just don't need this."

Police were warning anyone who was offered cheap cigarettes to contact them immediately.

"These could be sold anywhere and given the current price of tobacco these will seem like a real bargain," Mr Patrick said.

Anyone with information should contact Mr Patrick at Whangarei police station on 09 430 4500.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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