Almost 3000 victims of retail theft - including armed robberies - have come forward to Northland police in the last three years, new crime figures reveal.
These include store owners and shop assistants left shaken and traumatised. Sometimes aggressive offenders threaten or injure staff before making off with cash or stock.
Even after offenders flee, it's not over for the victims. The fear of another theft hangs over them. Often traumatised, some don't return to work. Flashbacks can be triggered at the slightest reminder.
Owners lose money needed to feed their families and pay the rent. This has been experienced by many of the 2934 victimisations in less than three years.
These startling figures are part of the most in-depth look at crime data ever undertaken in New Zealand, led by Herald Insights, which launched yesterday.
The wider Whangarei area had 1877 victimisations of retail theft between July 2014 and April this year. The Far North was the location of 826, and Kaipara 231.
Almost a third of Whangarei's (522) took place in the southeastern part of the central city. Shops inside this area, which include The Warehouse, Briscoes, Noel Leeming, Kmart and Harvey Norman bore the brunt of the city's retail theft.
There were 286 robberies committed during the period, including aggravated and non-aggravated incidents. Whangarei district had 193 robberies, including 175 aggravated robberies. Aggravated robbery involves grievous bodily harm (serious injury to someone), two or more people working together in a robbery, or a robbery where the offender had a weapon.
The Far North had 78 robberies and Kaipara had 15.
These figures were the number of individual victims, rather than individual incidents. Some incidents may have more than one victim.
Retail theft numbers, contrary to the belief of many, had actually fallen slightly over the last two years, from 651 between May 2015 and April 2016, to 639 from May 2016 to April this year.
In Whangarei, Thursday was the most common day retail thefts occurred, with theft peaking in the four hours between midday and 4pm.
In the Far North, Saturday and Monday afternoon were the most common times. And in Kaipara, Monday and Tuesday between 12 and 2pm.
Northland police district commander Russell Le Prou last week announced 20 more officers would be stationed across the region in the next 12 months. Two officers focusing on burglary would be based in Whangarei.
Northland has another 46 officers on top of this to be allocated throughout the region in the following three years.
One Otaika liquor store owner said police had been so slow to respond to thefts, he and others in the area now took matters into their own hands.
Quentin Moriarty, manager of the recently-robbed Otaika Liquor store, said he doesn't think extra police officers would make a difference.
"I don't think so personally. I've been here 13 years and we've come to deal with a lot of the incidents ourselves," Mr Moriarty said.
"They might prove me wrong, but I don't think it will help us in any way. They'll probably utilise towards other resources, but retail crime I don't think so."
Police did apprehend at least one offender in the incident in March.
Mr Moriarty said it was difficult for police to keep a handle on crime when government decisions and economic factors played such a big factor.
"It's all down to the Government putting up the price of cigarettes, and our economy. There's a whole range of issues - our employment is low - and a lot people these days doing the robberies just need a good kick up the ass."
Kaikohe Community Patrol leader Tony Taylor said the law was too soft on offenders who went through youth court.
"They're catching these kids, they're arresting them, they're taking them to court and the court just lets them go," Mr Taylor said.
"Until we can change the New Zealand law, there's nothing we can do. It's namby pamby crap ... Number one is we want to see harsher sentencing for the crime they do."
However, he said Kaikohe had experienced a lot less crime recently.
"The community is working very closely together, and they're dobbing their relatives in, and that's a good thing. The parents are dobbing their kids in. It's just quietened right down at the moment, and there hasn't been any major burglaries around the place, even over in Kerikeri."
Northland district prevention manager inspector Dean Robinson said police were committed to ensuring the safety of the community.
"Northland police work with local retailers to ensure business owners are taught appropriate crime prevention advice and learn ways to protect themselves from becoming victims."
There were almost 77,000 retail thefts nationwide during the same period. This was about one retail theft for every 61 people. Northland had a higher rate; about one retail theft for every 50 people.
Rotorua had around one theft for every 28 residents and Tauranga one per 37. Auckland (52), Hamilton (57), Christchurch (59), and Wellington (72) followed.