Police are monitoring social media sites and investigating several dairies in a bid to crack down on thieves selling stolen cigarettes.
Counties Manukau Area Commander Dave Glossop said "active investigations" were under way into several dairies suspected of re-selling stolen tobacco, which he said was the fastest growing crime in the country.
"Some of the dairy owners we deal with are saying they have been offered cigarettes," he said.
"Clearly the ones that are receiving stolen goods are not telling us, but we'd like somebody to dob them in."
Police last week started a month-long campaign to crack down on violent crime, including against dairy owners, offering to reward people who provide information leading to successful prosecution.
Inspector Glossop said increasing police numbers was not the answer, as the rise highlighted a wider issue - that so many youth "feel it's OK to go and rob the local dairy".
Police were aware of stolen cigarettes being sold on social media sites like Facebook, he said.
"The biggest growth area is cigarettes because they're highly disposable, light, easy to get hold of and they're really expensive."
Unlike Trade Me, which had strict monitoring policies in place, sites like Facebook had a system that "works in the criminal's favour", he said.
While many of the criminals had gang connections, the police did not believe cigarettes were being stolen to order.
"Most of the robberies we deal with are often just a group of people who get together ... alcohol is often a contributor ... they go out and commit these robberies."
Buyers 'need to be exposed', shop owners' group says
The Crime Prevention Group represents hundreds of shop owners who are sick of the rise in violent robberies, especially armed ones, in south Auckland.
Anyone with information about who was buying stolen cigarettes should report it to the police, the group's spokesperson, Sunny Kaushal, said.
"They need to be exposed."
While the police's new operation to tackle the problem was a good step, they still failed to turn up to many robberies in the first place, Mr Kaushal said.
"The police are trying to do a good job but more police are needed."
But Inspector Glossop disagreed.
"If anybody out there seriously thinks that we don't want to come to a robbery then ... they're in a twilight zone."
Shopkeepers often reported a robbery when it was technically shoplifting to theft, which was given a lower priority, he said.
"It's a bigger social issue as to why we have this increase, particularly in youth, who feel that it's OK to go and rob the local dairy.
"What is happening with all of the things in our society that is creating these pockets of people who have no social conscience. We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem."