Aggravated robberies in Whangārei have remained steady in the last five years, contrary to public perception, police data shows.
There were 58 armed robberies in Whangārei from June 2020 to May this year, compared to 57 the year before, 54 in 2018/19, 98 in 2017/18 and the same number the previous year.
In terms of aggravated robberies, data shows there were 141 in 2016/17, 124 the following year, 93 in 2018/19, 95 in 2019/20, and 98 in 2020/21.
Whangārei police senior sergeant Robert Huys said social media might have played a role in forming a perception of increasing aggravated robberies in the community.
"It is important to know the police are not seeing an increase in serious crime such as aggravated robberies in Whangārei. It has been at a steady rate over recent years.
"We know that social media provides a platform to the members of our community to raise their concerns. Often what is shared on social media is a misinformed and inaccurate reflection of what police are seeing or what is being reported to us.
"The police work really hard to manage those perceptions in a proper way. It is really important that people not only are safe but also feel safe. That fear of being a victim of crime is an important part of what police focuses on.
"We do a lot of work to reassure the community, such as prevention work, social media messaging, enforcement task forces, and others.
"We have had recent success with the arrests for three aggravated robberies. The arrests do provide assurance to the members of the public. Having said that, we do not just stop when a group or individual offenders are arrested, but the police continue to work hard to prevent any further offending despite the fact that these people have been taken out of the picture."
Huys said some crimes did not get reported to the police and he encouraged anyone who was a victim of the crime to report it so they could take appropriate action.
With regards to the misinformation shared on social media, Huys said the police worked with agencies such as NetSafe to regulate concerning posts.
"Social media is a very effective way for us to measure what the general public is thinking as well and if there is a concern about certain crimes for example aggravated robberies, we can definitely take that into strong consideration about how we reassure the public."
However, he warned against giving out specific details including contact information that could lead to reoffending.
The intention behind any arrest was to prevent further offending and if the defenders were underaged, they were made to go through the Youth Aid process depending on how serious the offending was, Huys said.
For the victims of crime in case of aggravated robberies, the standard practice for the police was to refer them to victim support.
"We have a strong focus on aggravated robberies, especially those targeting the shop workers and dairy owners, they are very hard-working and valued members of our community. We take these matters very seriously and have trained and skilled detectives who are committed to holding the offenders accountable.
"We work hard to exhaust every line of inquiry possible in each case.
"We also have a prevention team that works with shop workers and dairy owners, gas station staff, considering prevention options. There have been recent cases where fog cannon was used to successfully prevent the crime from further offending.
"These prevention methods are encouraged by police in conjunction with business owners."
Tikipunga GAS station worker Mandeep Rana, who was working at the station when the armed robbery took place, said the arrest provided a form of reassurance.
"It makes us feel safe to know the police are working hard to catch the offenders and prevent them reoffending.
"We have been more alert since the incident and take extra care if we see any suspicious activity. The door between the Pizza Shop and the GAS station has remained locked."
In 2020/21, Victim Support assisted 1451 people after crime and trauma in Whangārei, including 26 victims of aggravated robbery.
Victim Support Whangārei/Kaipara service co-ordinator Mandy Kahotea said police would offer victims referral to Victim Support after a serious crime.
Aggravated robberies were an extremely traumatic crime that could leave victims not only traumatised but feeling persistently unsafe, particularly at work, said Kahotea.
"AA support worker will be available for a victim for as long they need support.
"For some people, that could be as simple as a phone call to answer their questions. For others, we could be providing support to access counselling or participate in court or restorative justice over an extended period of time.
"Everyone deals with trauma differently and the key thing for us is to make sure that we learn about an individual victim's or family's needs and tailor our support to meet those. We want victims of crime to know that whether the support they need is emotional or practical, there is a service here for them and they don't have to cope alone.
"Our service in Whangārei is primarily provided by volunteers, so getting involved with Victim Support is also a really good way for anyone who wants to see victims get support to take action or give back to the community."
Four staff members and 15 volunteers are based in Whangārei/Kaipara Victim Support.