Armed robberies 'reach historic level'

By Rachel Tiffen

Police are concerned about the latest robbery, of the ASB Bank branch in Grey Lynn last week.
Police are concerned about the latest robbery, of the ASB Bank branch in Grey Lynn last week.

Police and the banking community are concerned about an armed robbery at the ASB Bank in Grey Lynn, which follows what a senior bank manager has described as "probably the highest number in history" of such robberies across New Zealand last year.

Owen Loeffellechner, BNZ national manager security and fraud, said 84 armed robberies had taken place last calendar year.

"For the last nearly three years we have seen a trajectory upwards."

He said note-passing was still the most common form of threat, but the "soft" method did not detract from trauma on staff.

Police say they are concerned about the latest heist, which took place last week at the ASB Bank on Great North Rd in the central Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn.

Two men, who ordered bank customers to the floor with a pistol before jumping the counter and forcing staff to empty the tills, are still on the run.

"They are considered dangerous," Avondale Detective Sergeant Joe Aumua said.

Mr Loeffellechner said security staff from the various banks had been in a strategy meeting when the recent ASB hold-up occurred.

They were constantly looking at ways to improve measures.

Mr Loeffellechner said inroads were being made in the fight against bank robberies.

Last September, BNZ branches began installing new SelectaDNA spray machines, which douse fleeing robbers with a solution that glows blue under ultraviolet light.

Since machines have been installed at various locations, no robberies have occurred at those banks.

Mr Loeffellechner said the machines were now fitted in about 100 of the bank's 180 branches and would soon be standard.

"But I don't see SelectaDNA or any security control measure as a panacea to bank robberies.

"All we can really do is take a holistic approach and hope these things will mitigate and lower the chances of it and deter as many as we possibly can."

Counties-Manukau field crime manager Detective Inspector Mark Gutry said his staff would have been briefed on the Grey Lynn hold-up.

"All robberies are on our radar. We take these things seriously.

"If it [a robbery in another district] occurs we will look at whether we have had anything similar to see if we can connect it," he said.

Mr Gutry urged people caught up in bank robberies to comply with the robbers' demands "because at the end of the day money's just money, and your life's your life. You don't know the state of the person, therefore you should act as if they do have a weapon."

Mr Gutry said armed robberies of security vans en route to banks or ATMs were far too common.

His staff were looking for six people after a van was robbed outside a busy supermarket last week.

Two men armed with rifles and another unarmed accomplice demanded money from security officers at the New World supermarket on Roscommon Rd in Manukau City.

Detective Shane Page of North Shore CIB said police were still looking for two men who robbed a van on its way to a Kiwibank on December 17.

It is understood the pair got away with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One is described as possibly European, of medium build, about 1.83m tall and wearing dark glasses and a blue and white hooded jacket.

The other is Maori or Polynesian, stocky, about 1.78m tall and wearing a light blue hooded top.

- NZ Herald

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