From pinching a pack of gum to an aggravated robbery, the Westend block in Rotorua is becoming a place store owners are growing increasingly fearful of. Their hard work, their bread and butter, has become a task of juggling the decision to catch a shoplifter or letting it slide - a decision that stems from fear for their own safety. Journalist Cira Olivier reports.
Thefts, aggression and intimidation have some Rotorua Westend store owners fearing for their safety.
"Every day I open the door I feel scared because of all the people around," said one store owner, who did not want to be named for fear her store would be further targeted.
The store owners' fears have prompted police to remind everyone to continue reporting all crime to police, no matter how small, despite the fact police couldn't always attend immediately.
The Westend store owner said she often saw people stealing but felt too intimidated to do or say anything and let some of the thefts slide.
"Young, old, it doesn't matter, they act threatening towards you."
She said the store caught about two shoplifters each week and believed thefts were on the rise.
The value of the items stolen ranged in value and it could be anyone.
"One day, that petty thieving will result in someone getting hurt."
She said it continued because people knew they could get away with it as she believed police were too busy dealing with other things to worry about petty thefts.
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She said much of her fear came from not knowing what a person was on and she believed many were under the influence of drugs.
"I can't leave, the business is my livelihood."
Rotorua's New World owner said the crime was getting "out of control".
"It's a huge problem, we probably catch about 20 people every week stealing."
He said the number they caught did not scrape the surface of the amount that went on.
He said to try to combat the problem, the store had implemented safety precautions behind the scenes including a request for hoods not to be worn in the store.
The "no hoods to be worn in store" policy had been in place for six years.
In a written statement to the Rotorua Daily Post, Foodstuffs NZ head of corporate affairs and CSR Antoinette Laird said the store was independently owned and the decision to request no hoods in the store was done at the owner's discretion.
"Our first and foremost concern is the safety of our staff and our customers . . . we take shoplifting and safety very seriously and any shoplifting offenders are likely to be trespassed and/or turned over to the police."
A 37-year-old man appeared in Rotorua District Court on Tuesday charged with the aggravated robbery of a Westend bar on Malfroy Rd last Thursday.
A police media spokeswoman said last week the police received a report of a robbery on Malfroy Rd at 1.50pm on Thursday.
No one was injured but a sum of money was taken and the man was reported to have presented a weapon.
Rotorua area commander Inspector Brendon Keenan said the use of weapons or showing a weapon, was becoming more common in shoplifting.
He said the crime had spread further afield than just the city centre but there was no influx in the reported shoplifting in the Westend area.
He said it was likely people did not report everything and it was important they did to ensure police got a true representation of crime in certain areas.
There were different reasons why police didn't respond immediately to callouts, including what else was the priority at that time, he said
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said he was not aware of an influx in crime in the Westend area but said the crime across the district was an election issue.
He said he knew homelessness was an issue.