Staff at one of the Bay of Plenty's largest malls say they are working in fear of young, "brazen", "out-of-control" offenders — with one business owner saying the violence is "getting out of hand".
The comments come after a kiosk, Kings & Queens jewellery shop, at the Bayfair Shopping Centre was burglarised in the early hours of Wednesday morning for the second time in six weeks.
On Saturday, a mall worker out for a walk during a break was allegedly assaulted by a group of youths near the Farm St bus interchange and suffered a significant injury to his eye, police said.
The city's police boss says police are aware of the "serious criminal offending" at the mall and view congregating youths at Bayfair as part of a larger issue in Tauranga.
Police would have an increased presence at the mall where possible.
About 2.20am on Wednesday, police received a report that a group of people had broken into Bayfair and stolen jewellery.
Owner Mayur Patel said he felt "sickened" after he got a call that his kiosk had been smashed and goods stolen - again.
He said his store's display windows had been smashed.
Patel said the store had been in the mall for about six months and it was the second time it had been destroyed.
The last time was about six weeks ago when roughly $7000 of products was stolen at 8am. He was unsure how much had been stolen in the latest raid.
"I'm sick of all of it, the violence is getting way out of hand," he said.
"I don't know how we're going to survive this."
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend spoke to several mall employees about the violence and aggression and has agreed not to name staff or the stores they worked at.
One retail store manager said the aggression made her nervous to work in retail, and people were "so brazen, they don't give a damn".
"When you leave the mall in the evening around 6pm, it's terrifying," she said of the walk in the dark to the car.
Another staff member also said she felt nervous leaving work at night as she caught the bus.
The manager said she would quit retail soon because it had changed over the years, becoming dangerous.
"Everyone is angry all the time."
She said the mall's late-night Thursday and Friday, when shops closed three hours later than normal at 9pm, was "a waste of time".
She said there was no point because the store barely sold anything and it left the staff to be sitting ducks.
"What's going to happen next?"
A staff member from another store who had worked in the mall for a number of years said the violence and aggression had become worse in recent months.
She said it was mainly youths, and while it was mostly outside, she had seen verbally aggressive altercations inside the mall.
She said the alleged assault on a mall worker on Saturday "shook everybody".
She said security staff were in the staff carpark on the top floor when they left after work and that made her feel safer, and she knew she could call security if needed.
She said while security was good and kept staff in the loop, the violence and aggression were from people who were "not bothered" by the consequences.
"It's hard when [the offenders] are out of control."
She said there needed to be more of a police presence at the mall.
A staff member from a different store said while she felt safe at work, she sometimes felt "uncomfortable" walking to her car at night.
She said there were "strange" people hanging around at night, and she had been approached on several occasions by people asking for money, but they were not aggressive.
Bayfair Shopping Centre manager Steve Ellingford confirmed there was a break-in, police were notified immediately and were doing a full investigation.
"The safety and security of our customers, tenants, and staff is our key priority and we continue to assist police with their enquiries."
He declined to comment about whether there had been an increase in violent or aggressive behaviour at the mall and any concerns about it, how often police were called, late-night safety, and what else Bayfair would do to keep everyone safe.
Western Bay of Plenty police area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said police were aware there had been "serious criminal offending" at the mall recently.
"We understand that these incidents are distressing for our community and especially for those who work within the complex."
He said police saw the congregation of youths at Bayfair as part of a larger issue of youth congregating around the city.
Police supported the mall's security staff, would continue to respond to calls, and have an increased police presence at the complex where possible, he said.
Police provided prevention advice to shop owners and employees to ensure the safety of their stores, employees and patrons, Paxton said.
He said the ongoing issues at the mall could not be resolved by the police alone.
It would continue to work with the community and partners to address the concerns of youth congregating and work with other interested parties to find positive outlets for youth development.
Police encouraged anyone aware of potential issues or offending to report it to the police to identify those involved and take necessary action.
If an incident is happening now, call police on 111. If it has already happened, report the matter to police via 105