A group of young thieves ploughed a stolen car through the doors of an iconic Kaipara store to steal a swag of chocolate, postage stamps, and vapes.
A "smashing" sound roused the owner of the Paparoa Store, near Maungatūroto, from his nearby home around 2.45am on Tuesday shortly before the shop's alarm sounded.
"I checked the camera and saw five young people. I didn't want to go outside to confront them in case they had weapons," he said.
According to the owner, the youths used a Honda stolen from Auckland to ram the glass storefront "four of five times".
"They broke the front door, the outside structures – which has done big damage – then took vapes, they took New Zealand Post stamp rolls...and took some chocolates."
He said they ditched the stolen car in the storefront with the engine still running and fled with their loot in a second vehicle.
Forty-five minutes after the alarm was first raised two police officers arrived from 55km away in Whangārei to help the frightened store owner.
This was the first time in his experience that the Paparoa Store had been targeted in a ram-raid.
The store has been a part of the "tight-knit" Paparoa community since its 1884 inception more than 130 years ago.
"We have a lot of older people around here – they're our main customers. They're really upset today, worried they'll have to go 50km to Dargaville...they don't drive."
But he said workers had gone out of their way to help customers as the cleanup – started at 3am – continued and officers scoured the scene for fingerprints.
The owner was dubious as to whether the culprits would be caught as he acknowledged how robberies or ram-raids were becoming familiar ground for dairies or small-scale shops.
A new National Retail Investigation Support Unit to address patterns of high priority repeat retail offending across the country is expected to kick off early this year.
The unit will partner with the retail sector and crime prevention organisations to draw on current data, identify patterns and work with local staff to better address repeat offending.
Retail offending causes a $1b loss a year, according to Retail NZ.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the unit would see police provide strategic support, core policing and prevention activity and advice; as well as other information to curb retail crime.
"The financial impact of this offending is significant however we're also seeing an impact on the safety, wellbeing and health of people working in retail in New Zealand," he said.
"No retail worker or customer should experience fear or trauma when going about their day-to-day activities and the establishment of this Unit signals our continued commitment to ensuring everyone can be safe and feel safe."
The Advocate has reached out to Northland police to learn more about how the region, specifically, will benefit from the introduction of the unit.