Retailers in Whangārei's central city have launched a petition to have the Cameron St stage and free wi-fi removed after becoming fed up with young people loitering and intimidating staff and customers.
Barkers store manager Angie Hunt said usual behaviour from some of the people who congregate around the stage area includes yelling, swearing, playing loud music, spitting and play fighting. She has also had instances of shoplifting.
"It deters customers and it's costing us money. My staff are too scared to come to work and that's not okay."
In an incident on July 15, Hunt said one of her staff members was threatened with a pair of scissors. The staff member closed the shop and locked herself out the back of the store.
The youth exposed his buttocks, and tried to kick in the doors.
Acting Whangārei/Kaipara area commander inspector Al Symonds said the incident was attended by police but due to other jobs in the area, police could not attend immediately.
"A person was arrested in relation to this incident two days later and charged with breaching his bail conditions."
He said police are aware of the retailers' frustrations.
"While their concerns are valid and we take these very seriously, we would note that this is a low-crime area with a small number of calls for service."
Groups of young people tend to congregate around the stage, which is directly outside Barkers' door, almost every day starting around 3pm.
Sandy Oxenham, from Santreno shoe shop, said it was "not a good look for visitors coming to town" to hear bad language, and see spitting and unruly behaviour.
One retailer, who did not want to be named, said something needed to be done, as it was keeping people out of the CBD.
Hunt said the group can range in size from six up to around 20. She said they look to range in age from 10 to late teens.
The petition has been around various shops in the central city, collecting signatures from both staff and customers.
2Degrees has turned off the free wi-fi it used to provide in the area.
Whangārei District Council community safety officer Dave Palmer said City Safe's presence had been extended to now include Sundays, from 11.30am to 4pm.
Palmer said City Safe staff are ambassadors in the CBD and are extremely limited in their powers to police anti-social behaviour and rely on the police to respond to these.
"As for removal of the stage, this would be a last option that council would consider, before exhausting other options to remedy the situation."
A meeting is being planned for next week for retailers, council representatives and police to discuss the issue.
"Ideally, it would be most effective and desirable to have a dedicated police officer presence returned to the CBD and extend the City Safe community officer presence," Palmer said.
Hunt and Oxenham believe police on the beat is the answer and thought getting rid of the stage would just move the problem.
Symonds said police already conduct regular foot patrols in the area but simply cannot be everywhere all the time.
"We take the concerns of our community on board and will look at increasing our patrols to ensure further visibility of police staff who are already actively working in the area."