Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Security chief wants Kiwis to carry guns

Damian Water. Photo / Supplied
Damian Water. Photo / Supplied

One of New Zealand's biggest security firms is calling for its staff, and police officers, to carry guns.

The call comes at a difficult time after 20 children were killed by gunman Adam Lanza in the US town of Newtown yesterday.

But Damian Waters, general manager of transtasman security giant Armaguard, said there had been six times as many attacks on Kiwi security vans and personnel than in Australia in the past three years.

Waters, whose company operates in New Zealand as ACM, said it was not his place to comment on the tragedy in Connecticut, but he firmly believed officials should be armed in New Zealand.

"The question of whether the police or the cash-in-transit industry in New Zealand having the option of being licensed to carry weapons should be considered in a New Zealand context in terms of what is best for the safety of New Zealanders."

Melbourne-based Waters revealed 36 of his Kiwi cash-in-transit operations have been hit in the past three years, compared to just six in Australia.

"In the interests of public safety we feel it is important to note New Zealand has a very high rate of armed robbery compared to our Australian operations, where both police and our guards are armed."

Waters said the final straw was two weeks ago when a guard had a shotgun thrust in his face by two hooded men outside a Westpac bank in Auckland's Dominion Rd. The guard swung a bag containing a reported $200,000 into an armed vehicle, leaving the would-be thieves empty-handed.

In February, terrified lunchtime shoppers fled for their lives in Auckland's busy Victoria St as a gun-toting thief wearing a balaclava held up two Armaguard security men as they were restocking an ATM machine. The thug escaped in a waiting car that sped through a busy Queen St intersection.

There are about 15,000 licensed professionals in New Zealand's multimillion-dollar security industry.

NZ Police Association president Greg O'Connor said he was "stunned" by the high number of armed robberies on security vans and guards.

"Why wait until a disaster happens and a robbery goes really wrong before we act?" O'Connor said. "It is time officers were given guns on their hips in order to quickly react to situations like this they might come across."

However, New Zealand police bosses are resisting the call to arms.

"The Police Commissioner has made it clear he does not see any need for general arming of New Zealand police at this time," a police spokesman said. "We work closely with a range of business sector partners to identify opportunities to prevent and reduce crime. This includes the security industry through the NZ Security Association."

Security Association executive officer Greg Watts believed armed police wouldn't deter armed robbers.

He said new technology and updating existing security procedures would be more effective.

Victim Support manager Kathryn Lawlor said guards could suffer long-term trauma.

"The experience can alter people's beliefs and values about the world."

russell.blackstock@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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