A south Auckland liquor store owner says he's been left mentally traumatised and struggling to go to work, after being robbed by men wielding knives and screwdrivers.
Two masked men came into Narinder Singla's Thirsty Liquor store on Great South Road, Papatoetoe, just after 4pm on Friday night.
Singla said the men immediately became aggressive, demanding cash and cigarettes.
"The first one pushed the knife towards me. He tried to stab me.
"I stepped a little bit back.
"Then the other robber came to me and said, 'I will kill you. Give me the money. F***ing kill you, do you like this world?'"
Singla quickly decided to do everything the men asked, but was fearful they would hurt him anyway.
"I was worried that they'll get money, get cigarettes, alcohol, and then after that either they'll beat or stab.
"I thought it was better to open the till, so that they can get money and whatever they like."
A bystander called the police, who are now investigating.
Despite the terrifying incident, Singla went back to work behind the till the very next day.
"I have to earn my bread and butter, I have to pay rent, I have to pay wages.
"What can I do? I have to do a lot of work here.
"I'm mentally traumatised, I'm shaken. Nothing looks normal to me now, it looks scary.
"Everyone looks like a robber here now."
Singla said he wouldn't even feel better if the men were caught, as he felt the law wasn't strong enough and the men wouldn't be punished.
He worried they'd soon be back in his store to rob him again.
"The laws are so soft. So they will come again and do the same thing.
"There is no fear of police. No fear of the law."
The two men left the scene in a stolen car, a 1990s silver Nissan Bluebird with registration DEB613.
It was found abandoned a short time after the robbery on nearby Swaffield Rd.
The investigation into the aggravated robbery is ongoing.
New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores executive director Dave Hooker said the increasing price of tobacco motivated many robberies on smaller stores.
Those in the industry were noticing increasing numbers of violent incidents, but there were no statistics available to prove their case.
"We've actually asked for the information under the Official Information Act, and they simply said they don't drill down that hard," Hooker said.
"Anecdotally it feels like there's been more, and there's been a lot more reporting.
"Just working in the convenience world, you know there's a lot more happening than there has been in the past."
He said increasing tobacco taxes had painted a target on shops that sold it.
"If $20 a pack is attractive, what's $40 a pack going to look like?
"The tobacco companies are likely getting questions from shop owners now, 'okay you want us to sell your product, can you help me with security'."
While stores tried to prevent robberies, Hooker said it was hard for the smaller operations to protect themselves.
"The BPs and Mobils, they've got big associations that can put time, money, and training into looking after their staff.
"But the real high risk area is the individual dairy owner.
"They don't have the funds to buy the preventative measures that big companies can do, the likes of fog cannons and bollards out front.
"It all costs money for them, and these aren't often particularly profitable businesses, with lots of spare cash to spend on security."
Acting Counties Manukau District Commander Inspector Julia Lynch said they were working hard to reduce the number of robberies.
"We understand how distressing these events can be for the victims involved, and will continue to offer them ongoing support and advice as we work through our investigation."
Lynch noted that, since February, Counties Manukau Police had arrested 62 people for aggravated robberies.
She said they were also working to prevent robberies through Operation Dukan, which involved visiting liquor stores and dairies with crime prevention advice.
So far, police have visited 916 stores across Auckland.
The Counties Manukau district will soon receive an extra 91 constabulary staff under the Safer Communities Package announced earlier this year.
Any witnesses or people with information on Friday night's robbery should call Counties Manukau Police on 09 261 1300 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Tobacco thefts are rampant
Police statistics for the year to February show a 3.9 per cent increase in theft, robbery and unlawful entry with intent or burglary.
The Herald on Sunday has found 128 tobacco-related hits on petrol stations, liquor stores and dairies since the beginning of last year. These were from media reports as police do not keep a record.
The actual number is likely to be higher.
Last Sunday 700 shopkeepers marched in Manukau, calling for more police on the streets and a review of the law to protect them from violent crime.