Police and small business Minister Stuart Nash has this morning announced that the Government will spend an additional $1.9 million to roll out fog canons to small businesses at risk of violent retail crime.
Fog canons have already been rolled out to about 520 dairies, liquor stores and petrol stations throughout the country, the latest funding would enable these to be implemented in a further 470 as part of the Government's crime prevention initiative, Nash said in Auckland this morning.
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Nash said aggravated robberies were at their lowest level in five years, and Government figures had accounted for a 21 per cent reduction during 2019.
A Massey University study conducted in 2017 found that retail crime was costing the country about $1.2 billion each year. No recent study has been conducted, but Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said he anticipated the impact would still be around the $1b mark.
He said Retail NZ welcomed the extension of the fog device funding.
"It is good news that the Government is providing additional funding to support the installation of these devices in at-risk stores. While the equipment is effective, it can be expensive, and many dairies operate on very low levels of profitability, with owners often struggling to pay themselves minimum wage," Harford said.
"Robberies are deeply traumatic for business owners and their employees, and Government funding for fog devices has proven to be effective at helping prevent and deter criminals."
Harford said the association was concerned by the increase in aggression of offenders who often were involved in organisation crime rings stealing to order.
Government figures show there were 21 robberies in December 2019, a fall of more than 70 per cent on the 78 robberies recorded in April 2017, Nash said.
Many robberies of retail sites were fuelled by a desire "for a quick buck to feed a drug habit", Nash said, and as a result the Police had been given additional resources to focus on this type of crime.
"Fog cannons have been activated by workers in 29 businesses and in all cases there were no injuries to staff and minimal property loss for business owners. The fog cannon scheme has a marked impact on the safety of workers in retail premises."
When activated, fog canons emit a non-toxic cloud of vapour and a high-pitched noise to deter offenders to minimise the risk of violence to shop workers by confusing the offender.
Businesses owners are being asked to apply to Police for the fog funding canon, who will consider the need for the devices based on the number of incidents in the area and robberies that may have occurred in the location in the past.
The devices cost around $4000, as part of the funding initiative, business owners will be required to pay no more than $250 for the canon.