A Te Puke takeaway owner robbed at knife point on Friday wants a law change so shopkeepers can fight back without running the risk of ending up in court themselves.
"I am a good man and I don't want to go to jail," Jian Xu of Te Puke Noodles and Takeaways said after the robbery in which he was forced to hand over the night's takings to a masked man brandishing a knife.
It was the eighth raid on a store in the Western Bay of Plenty since April.
The counter was unstaffed when the man entered the takeaway at 8.15pm. Mr Xu was emptying rubbish and his wife, Hui Han, was in the food preparation area, keeping an eye on the shop through a video surveillance screen.
She saw someone enter from the street, but the image was not clear enough to warn her they were about to be robbed.
When she went out to take the order, she was confronted by a man wearing a mask. She responded by running into the rear of the shop and calling out to her husband.
When Mr Xu entered the shop, the robber repeated the demand for money and then raised his arm from his side to reveal the knife in a gloved hand. His recollection of that moment was seeing fear in the man's eyes.
Mr Xu hesitated for what seemed like a minute, thinking about what he should do. His wife wanted him to fight but he thought it was not such a good idea. He had a 3-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter in the back of the shop, and in the end he opened the cash drawer.
"I was worried about my son and daughter."
The couple have owned the shop for two-and-a-half years. Mr Xu said he thought that one day he would get robbed and, in his head, he wanted to fight back on Friday because he did not feel scared.
Although the presence of his two children decided the issue, Mr Xu said he knew that if he had fought back and hurt the robber, he could have ended up in trouble with the law.
"We work really hard for money, but robbers get it easy."
He believed it was wrong that he could have got into trouble by fighting back against bad people, and said he would like the law changed. Before shifting to Te Puke, thieves struck the Xu family's Gate Pa house twice in six months.
"I have lived in New Zealand for 13 years. We work hard and want a good life and want to do something good for the country.''
Senior Sergeant Mike Membrey said police wanted retailers to be aware of the risks involved in defending themselves when faced with potential violent situations.
"Confronting such situations can escalate very quickly and could lead to serious injury, or even death."
He said police in the Western Bay were concerned at the recent aggravated robberies and were working hard to bring offenders to account. He asked for witnesses to Friday's robbery, or anyone who saw something suspicious, to contact police.
"We continue to follow leads and make inquiries into the offences, and are making arrests when we have the evidence. This can take some time."
Police encouraged store owners to take preventative measures by installing good quality CCTV systems and panic alarms, and to keep tobacco and cigarettes out of sight.
"Our message is prevention first and foremost, and on retailers doing all they can to avoid confrontation."
Mr Membrey said cigarettes and tobacco were often targeted by criminals committing small-business burglaries and robberies. Online sales and friends of offenders were among the ways that stolen cigarettes could be disposed of.
Anyone with information can share it via Crimestoppers, anonymously if necessary, on 0800 555 111.
Police advice to retailers and staff confronted with threatening behaviour
- Back away and try to separate yourself from the offender.
- Put personal safety first.
- Do not resist or follow violent offenders.
- Bay of Plenty Times