Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Tobacco targets: Another robbery for black market smokes

There have been more than 15 burglaries  of commercial premises targeting cigarettes in Northland alone in the past three months. Photo / Getty Images
There have been more than 15 burglaries of commercial premises targeting cigarettes in Northland alone in the past three months. Photo / Getty Images

Tobacco has yet again been the target of a service station robbery.

At 3.30am this morning, a group of men smashed through the front door of the Caltex on Dominion Rd, Auckland, terrifying the sole employee in the store.

A police spokeswoman said the three men stole cigarettes and tobacco before making off in a stolen car.

An employee at the Caltex said he was in the store alone when it happened and it was "frightening".

He did not wish to be named and referred questions to his manager, who is yet to return Herald calls.

While the men did not present weapons and did not injure the man who was working, the incident was being taken very seriously by police as it follows a string of similar crimes around the country.

There have been more than 15 burglaries and robberies of commercial premises targeting cigarettes in Northland alone in the past three months.

The latest Statistics New Zealand crime figures for the year to June 30 also showed a 12 per cent increase in robberies across the country.

While these cannot be specifically linked to tobacco thefts, Imperial Tobacco spokeswoman Louise Evans McDonald said last week that the company had "definitely seen" an increase in its retailers being targeted.

Police have also launched a number of operations specifically targeting the crimes they say are fuelled by black market demand for cheap tobacco.

In relation to today's robbery, the police spokeswoman said: "Police have made a number of enquiries today including retrieving CCTV footage.

"We are still investigating the matter and have not yet identified those responsible. In general, items such as cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol have long been a targeted commodity."

Anyone with any information can contact Auckland City Police on 09 302 6557, or via anonymous tip line Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

- NZ Herald

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