Thames police leaders say ram-raids have become "very, very prevalent," and the district mayor says it's left businesses "feeling incredibly vulnerable".
Thames-Coromandel District Council mayor Sandra Goudie sat down with police leaders on Thursday to discuss the issue of ram-raids in the community.
The interview was in response to several businesses experiencing both one-off and reoccurring ram-raids across Thames.
The HC Post last week reported on the plight of Thames shopkeeper Jaswinda Singh, whose store was ram-raided four times since Christmas. He said the experience had affected him badly and he wasn't sleeping.
Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Saunders and Superintendent Bruce Bird, the district commander, said they were working hard to catch the offenders.
Saunders is in charge of Operation Prior, looking into ram-raids in the Coromandel and the Waikato at large.
Saunders said the numbers of ram-raids, "if we weren't doing what we're doing, would be a lot worse".
"We are actually doing our best to stay on top of this."
He said the team works with youth aid and engagement staff, but focused on investigation.
"Our top 10 people [who commit ram-raids] are facing between 250 odd charges ... our focus is the protection of the community, so those high-end people, our job is to find them and get them into court.
"We also identify people that are not at that high end, but are getting dragged along ... so we work with those agencies to, I guess, step in before they become as bad as those other ones."
He said the police "totally feel the frustration the shop owners are feeling – our prevention staff are working with them".
He said they were working with businesses on "target hardening", or making themselves less attractive to offenders.
"Having said that ... the biggest focus is still focusing on the offenders."
Saunders said business owners wanting to create online forums to discuss ram-raids on social media should get in touch with the police for expert assistance.
Bird said raids had become "a topic of interest".
"Since February in the Waikato, they've become very, very prevalent.
"We take these instances very seriously, and we'll bend over backwards to try and hold the offenders to account."
He said the offenders were "principally youth", and "no community is exempt".
"Businesses have had it really hard over the last period of time, so any support that can come through from Government and council I think would be greatly appreciated.
"We're here for you, victims, and we will represent your interests very, very strongly when we apprehend these offenders."
Goudie said she was "concerned about businesses – they're feeling incredibly vulnerable right now".
"They're emotionally very upset, it's very disturbing for them."
Goudie said she would "love to see the police resourced more ... but in the absence of that, there is a concern around response times".
She hoped the Government could provide more resources for their work going forward.
Goudie said the council was "keen to work with businesses individually or collectively to help them work through what they would like to do, and assist them as much as they can".
She pointed out that bollards do not require a resource consent, and Goudie said she was "not opposed" to owners putting them up.
She said those who want to put them up should contact the council.
Speaking to the HC Post, the Thames Business Association's chief executive officer Sue Lewis-O'Halloran said business owners were "very concerned" about ram-raids.
She said owners were "wanting to find ways to handle them, particularly as we expect more in the coming weeks and months".
"And, because they happen so quickly, the police rarely get to them in time.
"It's demoralising as well as frightening for staff; and owners have to deal with insurers, order new storefronts, have the site made immediately safe with temporary storefronts, etc – and the cost can be horrific."
She said there was a mood of "frustration and concern that this is far from over" in the business community.
She said bollards could become a "fixture" of the street if things continue as they are - "they don't make the main street look very attractive, however, they do prevent a recurrence of the ram raid".
"These ram raids are a result of young people not suffering consequences for their actions and being encouraged by their peers ... ..it's actually a societal issue, in which kids don't have great role models and have a huge amount of freedom – a recipe for trouble.
"Social media just elevates the raids; if we don't draw attention to them, they may lose their attraction."