According to figures provided by police, the Bay of Plenty has seen an overall decrease in aggravated robberies across the region. Rotorua Daily Post reporter Katee Shanks speaks to dairy owners about the threat of serious harm to staff who often work alone and in isolation.
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Knives are the weapon of choice for aggravated robbers intent on taking property belonging to dairy owners throughout the Bay of Plenty.
Police provisional numbers for aggravated robberies in Rotorua, the Eastern and Western Bay of Plenty and Taupō for the past two years highlighted that in the 16 aggravated robberies recorded, knives were the most common weapon used, with hammers in second place.
And while cigarettes topped the list of items taken in the 12 months to June 2018, money was the preferred item taken throughout the Bay of Plenty in the 12 months to June 2019.
Although the numbers showed an overall decrease in aggravated robberies from Bay of Plenty dairies, that did little to appease dairy owners who said the threat of a weapon-wielding robber was a constant in the back of their minds.
Springfield Superette and Lotto owner Raj Kumar said armed robbers high on drugs had no concerns about damage caused or people hurt.
"They just want money to fund their next high," Kumar said.
"They don't care that it costs dairy owners thousands to fix the destruction they cause, or staff are left shaken and afraid to work - all they see is a short-term solution for a short-term high."
Kumar said it was not as bad if robberies were carried out after-hours, simply because that meant the very real fear of serious harm or injury was ruled out.
"These people don't rob big places like supermarkets because there are too many people around. They see one or two staff in total at a dairy, especially isolated dairies, and think it's easy pickings.
"They are also aware of how many convictions they can get before the consequences become serious. Most get a slap with a wet bus ticket which is hardly a deterrent."
Kumar said he would like to see a nationwide dedicated police task force to deal with aggravated robberies.
"Telling us to get better cameras, install fog cannons and make sure our windows are locked isn't enough."
Tauranga's Cameronian Dairy owner Surej Nair said he had bought the dairy six months ago and had not had any experience with aggravated robbery.
However, he did admit it was something that sat uncomfortably at the back of his mind.
"Especially if you find yourself working alone," Nair said.
Dimpal Kumar from Tauranga's Matua Dairy had a gun pointed at him on October 11, by a man demanding money.
"It was close to 7.30pm and he came in with a gun and asked me for money," Kumar said.
"I gave him what I had and then he asked me for smokes."
As he walked to the cigarette cabinet, Kumar managed to run and escape through a back door of the dairy.
"He didn't chase me or anything, he just walked out."
Kumar said he had been fortunate not to have been the victim of a robbery previously in the three years since he had bought the store, but the recent ordeal had been terrifying.
"It won't stop me operating though, I have to be here and I will be here."
Bay of Plenty district commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said police figures showed a 40 per cent decrease in commercial aggravated robberies since April, 2017, and a 41 per cent decrease in serious injury aggravated robberies.
McGregor said it was pleasing to see the decrease in serious injury but added any aggravated robbery, at a dairy or other commercial premises, was unacceptable and caused needless harm within communities.
"We actively work with business owners to offer advice to help prevent them becoming targets for offending."
Figures showed 16 Rotorua dairies installed fog cannons in the 24 months to August 2019, as did 18 dairy owners in the Western Bay.
Twelve Eastern Bay dairies and 11 Taupō dairies also installed the cannons.
Tauranga First Union organiser Graham McKean said while it was up to business owners to provide a safe and healthy work environment, factors in society could make it challenging.
"We would like everyone to be safe and have a good life but this isn't always the case," McKean said.
"I understand many dairy owners are working with police and the Government on safety measures like cameras, fog cannons and safety cages to help create a safe workplace.
"My question would be, what are we lacking in society that makes things like aggravated robberies continue? What do we have to do to see a fair and equitable society?.
Dairy robberies in the Bay of Plenty
Has seen a decrease in aggravated robberies
• Nine in the 12 months to June, 2018
• Five in the 12 months to August, 2019
Western Bay Has seen a decrease in aggravated robberies
• Three in the 12 months to June, 2018
• Five in the 12 months to August, 2019
No change in number of aggravated robberies
• Two in the 12 months to June, 2018,
• Two in the 12 months to August, 2019
Has seen an increase in aggravated robberies
• Three in the 12 months to June 2018
• Four in the 12 months to August, 2019
- Provisional data from NZ Police