Fog cannons, security cameras, invisible dots and vending machines are among the arsenal of tools available to Whanganui retailers to fight back against crime.

With cigarettes and cash the current commodities of choice for robbers, Whanganui businesses were urged to take steps to protect themselves at a crime prevention seminar in the city on Wednesday.

About 35 small business owners and staff from service stations, dairies, liquor stores and other retail premises have attended the series of three seminars ran during May by Safer Whanganui, Whanganui Police and SelectaDNA. The seminar provided advice on how to keep safe and reduce the opportunities for crime in their premises.

The final seminar on Wednesday came after three robberies in the city during the previous week in which cigarettes, alcohol and cash were stolen.


"The message we want to get across is don't put yourself at risk for the sake of a few dollars," Detective Senior Sergeant Neil Forlong told participants at Wednesday's seminar.

"It's crucial that the safety message is first and foremost."

Police staff talked about how to minimise the opportunity of being robbed by considering the layout of business premises and ensuring there was good visibility so passersby could see what was happening inside.

"Increasing visibility is one of the most effective ways of reducing the opportunity to target your store," Forlong said.

Detective Sergeant Varnia Allan said the majority of robbers checked out the premises first to find the fastest ways in and out, with most robberies taking less than a minute.

Installing a CCTV camera outside, as well as inside, the premises could assist police by filming offenders on their way in and out and helping to identify vehicle registrations, Allan said.

Business owners and staff were urged to be alert for suspicious behaviour and to call 111 if they believed someone was in their premises with the intention of committing a crime.
"111 is there for crime that's happening now so ring it if you think someone is casing your shop," Forlong said.

"You should develop a set of procedures to follow and be prepared for what to do if there is a robbery."

Constable Keith Butters said products from SelectaDNA, which forensically marks items, were a deterrent for robbers and assisted with identifying stolen items that were recovered.

"The microdots that are applied to your items are unique to you and even the glue used is uniquely registered to you," Butters said.

Senior Sergeant Shayne Wainhouse said fog cannons were another tool available to help deter robbers.

The cannons quickly fill the premises with a non-toxic mist so the robbers leave and staff can get to a place of safety and call police.

There is a government subsidy available to eligible small at risk businesses, reducing the cost to the business from around $4000 to a maximum of $250.

"Business owners can register their interest and police will do a survey to see if they are suitable for a fog cannon," Wainhouse said.

Forlong said initiatives such as the cigarette dispenser installed at the Z service station in Dublin St were helping to prevent crime. The dispenser releases one pack of cigarettes at a time.

Safer Whanganui manager Lauren Tamehana said business owners who wanted additional support or advice on the layout of their premises could contact Safer Whanganui or Whanganui Police.

A booklet on business crime prevention is available online at, along with other advice on protecting your business. The booklet is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean and Punjabi.