8 May 2017

'Each day begins with ... fear' - shopworkers tell politicians

5:33 am on 8 May 2017

Migrant shopworkers fed-up with being victims of violent robberies are sceptical politicians will keep their promises to protect them.

Each political party had five minutes to relay their plans to the crowd of around 50.

Each political party had five minutes to relay their plans to the crowd of around 50. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Community leaders, police and members of Parliament met at Papatoetoe in Auckland last night to discuss violent robberies and attacks against the predominantly Indian and Chinese shop owners.

Shop owners say people were targeting dairies and liquor stores for cigarettes, cash and alcohol.

Last weekend hundreds marched in South Auckland, calling for more police controls and the reopening of closed police stations.

The retailers want heavy penalties for resellers of stolen goods, the right for shop owners to defend themselves and a larger police presence on the streets.

Detective Inspector Uraia Vakaruru.

Detective Inspector Uraia Vakaruru. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Sunny Kaushal, the president of the Crime Prevention Group which was set up to help business owners of all ethnicities, said action was urgently needed.

"Each day begins with a fear, wondering who's next."

Brutal attacks in broad daylight show the attackers have no regard for police or law, he said.

Police were under-resourced and lawmakers must stop being silent on the issue, Mr Kaushal said.

Each political party had five minutes to relay their plans to the crowd of around 50.

Act Party leader David Seymour touted his three-strikes policy and getting rid of tobacco tax.

The National Party blamed dysfunctional families for the spate of attacks and reminded people of their $500 million pledge, over four years, to add to police numbers.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he too would increase police numbers.

"This is disastrous ... we need 1800 police now, as fast as possible."

Winston Peters wants to increase police numbers.

Winston Peters wants to increase police numbers. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Others offered a less hardline approach.

Poverty was to blame and bridging the gap between the have and the have-nots was critical, Green Party MP Denise Roche said.

The Labour Party said there needed to be a community response, while also calling for 1000 more police officers.

"If we want to look at who is committing these crimes, it seems to be young people living in a hopeless situation," MP for Manurewa Louise Wall said.

While some community leaders said the meeting was a positive step, others remained doubtful parties would take action.

"Nothing is going to happen, they have come here to complete the formalities and wipe our tears," liquor store owner Narinder Singla said.

"I don't have any faith that they'll be doing something."

Last Friday, Mr Singla was left traumatised after two men entered his liquor store wielding screw drivers and stole money, cigarettes and alcohol.

Yesterday afternoon, police said a store in Onehunga was targeted by two men again armed with a screwdriver. Their attempt to grab the till failed but the shop keeper was left injured.