A BP 2Go service station owner has blamed cigarette tax hikes for an increasing number of burglaries and ram-raids on service stations around Dunedin.
BP 2Go Alco Motors in Gordon Rd, Mosgiel, was ram-raided at 1.20am yesterday and the BP 2Go Oval in Princes St, Dunedin, was hit at 2.40am.
Both stations were closed at the time, and large quantities of cigarettes were taken.
The ram-raids have left staff reeling.
BP 2Go Alco Motors owner Allan Fiddes said the incident was a ''real kick in the guts''.
''I don't know if they're specifically picking on BP. I just think it's the smoke prices.
''It's all right the Government putting the prices up, but it's the poor old retailer that takes the fair whack of it when they [burglars] start to do this sort of carry-on.
''Dairies and service stations getting held up. It's part and parcel of the annual tax increases on smokes.
''People are taking that risk [stealing], where they probably wouldn't before.''
In the last Budget, it was indicated the cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes would rise to about $30 over the next four years - a 10%-a-year tax rise.
Mr Fiddes said a glass repairer told him yesterday that he had repaired windows at eight service stations around Dunedin last year following break-ins, and he had made repairs following four incidents since the beginning of this year.
Mr Fiddes believed the damage to his building alone would cost ''a few thousand dollars'' to fix.
There was also the cost of products damaged during the ram-raid and the loss of more than $2000 worth of cigarettes.
''It's gut-wrenching, really. You work your butt off to make ends meet, and then people like this come along and give you a punch in the guts.
''We're a small, independently owned service station.
''It's not like we're a big corporation. These costs come out of my back pocket.''
Mr Fiddes believed he had been fortunate because it was the first time he had been ram-raided in his 14 years at the station.
BP 2Go Oval manager Amrit Tiwana said his CCTV footage showed a car reversing into the wall next to the front doors.
Three men wearing hoodies and scarves over their faces were in the car. Two entered the service station.
''They haven't used any weapons. They just smashed the car into the door and took smokes.''
He could not identify the vehicle.
''We're a bit shaken by it here. It is terrible.
''This has not happened before. I've been working at this gas station for two or three years now, and this is the first time.''
Mr Tiwana said security measures would be improved at the station, including the installation of more CCTV cameras and possibly installing bollards.
BP staff spent much of yesterday morning cleaning up broken glass and store products.
Sheets of plywood were placed over the large holes in the service station's front entrance.
A police spokesman said while the increase in aggravated robberies was of concern, it was difficult without further analysis to say what might be behind the increase.
Police did not centrally collate theft or robbery data by description of the individual items taken, so it was not possible to identify the number of robberies targeting cigarettes or tobacco specifically, he said.
''However, what we do know is that cigarettes and tobacco have always been popular with thieves, with some anecdotal evidence suggesting that these small, high-value items are targeted in small-business burglaries and robberies.''
He warned residents to be wary of people selling cheap cigarettes.
''Those trading in or receiving stolen items can face serious charges if caught. If an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is.''
• Dunedin police (03) 471-4800, Crimestoppers 0800-555-111.