A female dairy owner was grabbed by the neck and dragged through her store when three masked men armed with a gun and axe stormed in during a violent aggravated robbery.

It is the second time Janine Burrow has been threatened by armed robbers in the last month. She had a gun pointed at her head in September.

The Mt Roskill store she has owned since May has been targeted four times in the last year, sparking calls for tougher sanctions against violent offenders who are routinely targeting cash and cigarettes from convenience stores.

Close to tears yesterday, Burrow told the Herald she had no choice but to continue operating, having sunk all her money into what had been her dream business.

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"I haven't got a choice, really. I have to keep this place open."

She was badly shaken but unhurt after her Parau Street Dairy was robbed about 1.40pm on Saturday. The robbers stole the till, tobacco, her phone and a BB gun she kept behind the counter for protection.

Police yesterday recovered the attackers' getaway vehicles. Officers were analysing CCTV footage but were yet to make an arrest.

Meanwhile, Burrow reopened the store yesterday.

Despite working long days, seven days a week, her business is only just breaking even.

"The first time I was robbed, I yelled at the guy that all we try to do as normal people is try to earn some money, and to have someone else try to take that from you...Well, I said the karma would get him one day," she said.

In Saturday's attack, Burrow was just returning from the back of the shop, where she was working alone, when a man came at her, shouting.

"I actually thought he was one of the regulars, until I clocked he had an axe."

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To her confusion, he demanded to know if she was "Diana", then shouted for her to hand over her phone. "I said I didn't have it, because it was behind the till, and he showed me the handle of a gun tucked in his pants.

"Then he grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and sort of dragged me to the front of the shop."

The three men left in a yellow Mazda 3 that she'd noticed driving past earlier.

"They got, maximum, $120, if that," Burrow said. "And around 20 packs of cigarettes. They left the screens scattered all over the place when they left. The shop was a mess. I was a mess."

Although the main attacker was wearing a hoodie and a bandanna across his face, Burrow told police he was a light-skinned Maori, having seen the skin of his stomach as he showed her the gun.

Janine Burrow is recovering after a recent aggravated robbery. Photo / Nick Reed
Janine Burrow is recovering after a recent aggravated robbery. Photo / Nick Reed

She'd also caught sight of the driver as he peered in the window, describing him as darker-skinned.

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After the latest robbery, Burrow admitted she felt "palpitations" whenever she saw someone in a hoodie, and apologised for her red eyes.

"I'm not a crier, generally. But as soon as someone asks how you are, it's like...

"The locals have been great. One guy asked to see the CCTV footage so he could see if anyone knew them, and pay them a visit."

She said police had not offered any advice on avoiding further robberies, other than recommending she look into some DNA spray.

In a statement last night, police said they had visited the store after the most recent attacks to provide support and offer prevention advice.

Burrow, who is now considering removing cigarettes from the dairy, said her greatest relief was that her "little friend", a local boy who had been chatting to her just minutes before the robbery occurred, hadn't been in the shop at the time.

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Her store is just a five-minute drive from the Crown Street Superette, whose owner Jitesh Arora was hospitalised after a baseball attack in March this year.

Meanwhile, a Hamilton dairy owner had a gun pointed at her head on Saturday when a masked gunman burst into the store and demanded she open the till.

While her husband took a nap upstairs, Mitcham Avenue Dairy owner Usha Patel said two men "came running in", one holding a gun.

Patel was dragged by her wrist to the counter.

The robbers threatened to shoot her if she didn't comply with their orders, before stealing cigarettes.

A 21-year-old has been charged with aggravated robbery.

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Sunny Kaushal of Stop Crime NZ, the crime prevention group established to help shop owners, said shop owners were living in fear.

"When we spoke to the Government last year they promised some solutions, but those solutions have not worked.

"We need decisive action now. Ultimately we will take to the streets."

Kaushal said shop owners were trained to defuse situations by offering robbers whatever they wanted.

But robbers were now attacking and hurting owners before any demands were made.

"The courts are too lenient and too weak. They are letting the offenders go with a tap on the wrist. They have no fear of the police, no fear of the law, no fear of the consequences."

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Aggravated robberies of shops have more than doubled in the past two years, with cigarettes being targeted by thieves almost 500 times in just over a year.

Police recently announced they would pay half the cost of installing crime prevention equipment including "DNA" micromist spray, fog cannons and sound barriers in more than 50 dairies considered at high risk of armed robbery. However, they would not identify the locations of eligible dairies.

National crime prevention manager Superintendent Eric Tibbott said police were concerned about the increase in aggravated robberies.

"Unfortunately some people are extremely motivated to commit crimes and will go out of their way to commit an aggravated robbery. Police are putting extra resources into investigating aggravated robberies and are working hard to identify the offenders involved."

Shop owners could take steps to make their businesses less of a target and should call police if they saw anything suspicious.