An Auckland liquor store owner who has endured four burglaries and a ram-raid since November is now sleeping in his shop to deter thieves.
It comes after several brazen ram-raids have occurred this week, including the highly publicised incident at the Ormiston Town Centre shopping mall in South Auckland where three vehicles smashed through the mall, allowing more than a dozen people to steal from various stores on Monday.
Police have acknowledged a spike in ram-raids and are worried these offences, largely committed by teenagers as young as 11, could turn fatal.
Now, some businesses are hiring private security to patrol the streets in the hope it wards off thieves.
Anna Zheng and her husband Andy Lin own the Sandringham Liquor Centre, which sits among the bustling business hub of the Central Auckland suburb.
Sadly, they had become a target for thieves and had been robbed twice in November last year and twice again on Tuesday and Thursday last week.
That was in addition to a ram-raid they suffered on March 27.
The offenders stole cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol and cash. Across the five incidents, the estimated loss in product totalled about $50,000.
Zheng, 55, told the NZ Herald her husband - armed with a bat - had begun sleeping in the store since Thursday, fearful the thieves would come back.
She said how Lin would only allow himself to doze off in a chair in front of security cameras, worried he would fall into a deep sleep if he was on a mattress.
After the ram-raid, the pair had to install a temporary wooden door while they waited for a replacement.
Zheng said she had ordered bollards and a roller door, but she feared demand on building supplies could see her wait as long as 10 weeks until they were installed.
"I just feel angry, upset," Zheng said.
"It's just so stressful."
Zheng suspected the same people were behind the four burglaries, given similarities in how they broke into the store and how they stole items.
The pair had owned the store for 13 years. Up until last year, the worst they'd experienced were shoplifters running out with a bottle or two.
Now, with five incidents in six months, Zheng said she had become very suspicious of new customers and was easily frightened by loud noises.
"I'm just so worried about it."
Sandringham Business Association chairman Jithin Chittibomma and his family owned another liquor store in the area and sympathised with Zheng's concerns.
"It's so sad and also scary because it can also happen to my family as well and my brother could be sleeping in the store," he said.
Among the more worrying aspects was it appeared the perpetrators were members of the Sandringham community, who Chittibomma suspected were fueled by xenophobia towards the area's Indian business owners.
"They don't see them as New Zealanders, they probably see them as outsiders."
Chittibomma believed offenders were also selling on their stolen goods to other businesses, citing an instance where a man offered him 300 vape products well below the market rate.
Both Zheng and Chittibomma didn't want to blame police, acknowledging there was only so much they could do.
However, the pair - along with other Sandringham businesses - were now in talks with a local private security outfit, Patriot Security Services, to establish regular patrols in the area.
"If police can't protect us, we should do something to protect ourselves," Zheng said.
"We're going to fight back the right way," Chittibomma said.
Patriot Security Services head Marcus Gorinski said he had been devastated by the crime small businesses were enduring in Auckland.
"It really hit home for me, I'm really sick of seeing these places being done over."
Gorinski explained there would likely be a day shift and a night shift, with a larger presence in the early hours of the morning when many incidents had occurred.
While he admitted not all crimes could be prevented, Gorinski believed having security staff patrolling the streets would reduce their frequency.
"It will have an impact, [security staff] just need to be seen."
Late yesterday, eight offenders attempted to ram-raid the GAS Kaurilands service station in Titirangi, West Auckland. They were unable to steal anything but caused thousands of dollars in damage.
In addition to Monday's incident in Ormiston, the Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores on Auckland's Queen St, Titirangi's Scenic Dairy, Pāpāmoa Four Square and a Four Square in Thames had also been the victims of ram-raids this month.
Counties Manukau Police detective inspector Karen Bright told journalists today the incidents were a "tragedy waiting to happen", given how young the offenders were.
"We know that [the people involved] are very young, 11-14 in many cases. We have overcrowded cars in the middle of the night being driven by very young people. We are really worried."
Bright said police were working with social media companies after it became apparent footage of ram-raids was often posted online and acted as motivation for others.
Bright recognised the fear reported by retailers and reassured them police were investigating all offences.