Businesses and users of Napier's Marewa Village Shopping Centre want tougher council action and policing to end street-begging issues which escalated this week with an assault on a shopkeeper.
But it wasn't the first, said the owner of the Marewa Four Square, who was punched as he rang for police on Tuesday afternoon to report harassment of users of an ATM outside his shop.
The retailer, who has been in the area about 10 years and who still had bruises around the shoulder and neck where he was hit, said it'd been "really bad in the last couple of years."
He claimed "hundreds" of customers had been forced to shop elsewhere to avoid being accosted on the street in the popular, major-thoroughfare Kennedy Rd shopping centre of at least 23 premises, of which, significantly, four are now empty.
He, and other retailers, who don't want to be publicly identified, said the beggars commonly sat outside the vacant shop next to the superette and ATM where shoppers are harassed and accosted.
They believed the offenders appear to work together, with even apparent swapping of shifts, which was evident when Hawke's Bay Today staff were in the area.
Retailers said the offenders get angry and abusive when rejected or ignored or when others intervene, as has happened particularly when elderly shoppers have been targeted.
Police confirmed they have been investigating at least three incidents reported by the shopkeeper in the last year, including the December 2 harassment and abuse of a young female shop assistant.
No arrests were understood to have been made by Thursday relating to the latest incidents, but police are thought to be following strong leads in relation to the assault on Tuesday.
Another long-time business operator said she, too, has "had enough" and could "walk away", while another said the offenders are also at risk of "biting off the hand that feeds them" – she forecasts that if the situation doesn't pick up the future of the two ATMs may be reconsidered.
Shopping centre user Gail Hurinui, whose grand-daughter was the victim in the December 2 incident, is worried the situation will get worse before it gets better.
She said security officers and police do random patrols but never at the times the attacks occur which is late afternoon-early evening.
"This needs to be sorted, and sorted fast before someone is seriously injured or worse," she said.
Police and Napier councillors have met business owners and operators to discuss issues, most recently last month, and police are assuring users they are working to deal with the problems retails say was a problem which was just moved out of the Napier CBD to the suburbs.
Police said that in addition to this week's incident, they had been told of the December 2 events, in which a Perspex shield at the counter was damaged as they tried to grab the young woman, but despite the availability of CCTV images had been unable to identify an offender.
On February 22 last year there had been a report of a man threatening and abusing staff, and a man was later convicted in court on a charge of speaking threateningly.