Bright yellow signs announce no cigarettes are sold at Calgary St dairy, off Auckland's busy Dominion Rd, and owners Una and Andy Granger will serve you behind heavy set bars.

The couple took over the shop a year ago and just before Christmas spent $1000 on fashioning a cage-like contraption that separates their counter from the public.

They hope it will stop armed robbers from leaping at them.

Although the couple hasn't been targeted, they were aware the previous owner had, and as armed robberies of dairies - usually for costly cigarettes - became more frequent Granger said he was "petrified" to leave Una alone in the shop.

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Three weeks ago they also stopped selling cigarettes as an extra precaution.

"I couldn't sleep at night," Granger told the Herald on Sunday this week.

"I thought no, I have to put something like this up, and even then you're not 100 per cent safe.

"We get a lot of comments from the public. They say it's unfortunate but they're glad to see someone is taking the initiative to stick something like this up."

Granger is not the only one taking matters into his own hands.

There are believed to be dozens of dairies now operating from behind bars as aggravated robberies become more vicious.

Andy Granger serves customers from behind protective bars at his Auckland dairy. He hopes it will stop robbers. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Andy Granger serves customers from behind protective bars at his Auckland dairy. He hopes it will stop robbers. Photo / Jason Oxenham

This week police arrested a teenager who is alleged to have been behind a machete attack on a Hamilton dairy worker.

The victim, Sandip Patel, suffered a fractured skull and cuts to his hands and head following the alleged attack.
Last week another Waikato-based dairy worker was bashed with a hammer, causing a serious eye injury.

Last year the former National Government announced $1.8m worth of measures to help stricken dairies including offers of partial funding for sophisticated prevention methods.

The scheme was amended by incoming Labour who instead announced $4000 fog cannons would be almost fully funded for approximately 420 businesses identified by police as high risk.

This week police national prevention manager Superintendent Eric Tibbott said 52 businesses had fog cannons installed, and the rollout would proceed at the rate of 10 businesses a week for the rest of the year.

Police declined to provide a general geographic breakdown of the most vulnerable businesses.

"Vulnerable locations have been identified right across the country, in every district. In addition, a store owner who believes their business is at risk is able to contact their local police," Tibbott said.

Last year Granger made a number of calls to police to ascertain his eligibility but said he struggled to get information. A local constable told him police would eventually assess his business, but that was months ago, Granger said.

He concedes their store is likely considered low risk compared to others, but: "Any risk is risk in my opinion."

Janine Burrow had a gun pointed at her head in one robbery. Photo / Nick Reed
Janine Burrow had a gun pointed at her head in one robbery. Photo / Nick Reed

Streets away Mt Roskill dairy owner Janine Burrow is relieved that after being targeted four times in one year, including having a gun pointed at her head, she hasn't had any problems since October.

She was uncertain if she was eligible for a cannon. "I haven't heard from police at all. I don't even know if it would do anything."

Frustrated industry representative, Crime Prevention Group head Sunny Kaushal, said the fog cannons were an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and the "culture of fear" was out of control.

Kaushal said he was aware of a number of stores investing in cannons and bars themselves.

He dissuaded workers from arming themselves but said as aggravated robberies became more violent, workers might not have a choice but to keep weapons for protection.

"They fear for their lives and wonder who is going to be next. When they go to work they don't know if they will leave alive."

Dairy strikes

February: The owner of a dairy in northwest Auckland was hit with a wrench when three men burst into his store.
March 14: A father-of-two needed 30 stitches for head injuries after a machete- and axe-wielding duo attacked him at his Hamilton East dairy.
March 18: Three teenagers armed with hammers robbed a dairy in Hamilton. One of the hoodie-wearing trio held the lone shopkeeper down while the others stole cash and tobacco.