THREE aggravated robberies on retailers in four days is an extremely worrying scenario that is casting a shadow over Whanganui.
Two petrol stations and a liquor store have been the targets of Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday's raids where the thieves have come armed with a crowbar, baseball bat and hammer.
No one has been hurt yet, but the fear is that one day they might be.
And we can only try to imagine the trauma and distress that staff are enduring - staff who are trying to earn a living and who cheerfully serve us through the darker hours when other shops have closed for the day.
It is beyond unacceptable.
It creates a sense of distress and unease, not just among those who work at the service stations, dairies and liquor stores, but among those of us who regularly go there - and that's most of us.
We know these places, we have got to know the people who work there ... there is something about these violent and public robberies that makes them seem like an assault on our community.
The police have had success in catching some of the criminals, and they have been giving out security advice to owners.
Another crime prevention seminar will be held by Whanganui Police and Safer Whanganui at the Cooks Garden tomorrow where retail businesses can get guidance on ways to avoid looking like a target and shop layouts that discourage theft.
Certainly there seems a need for prevention measures to be stepped up, whether it be security cameras; metal rollers in front of the counter; locked doors and a serving window or, as one local retailer has done, installing solid metal cigarette vending machines.
Cigarettes have become a key target for the thieves and it is sadly ironic that attempts to improve the nation's health by hiking up tobacco tax may have had the unfortunate side-effect of a spate of thefts.
Finally, of course, we the public who use these facilities - sometimes rely on them - must be extra vigilant and be ready to report anything that might assist the police.