A group of vandals has smashed three shop fronts in an early morning rampage in the Auckland suburb of Mangere Bridge.
A restaurant called Ruby Red, Bridge Fruit n' Veg and Lucky Cafe - all on Coronation Road - were affected.
A kitchenhand at Lucky Cafe, Sarom Ros, said he arrived at work about 5am. A short time later, he heard some noise from the front of the shop.
He went to see what was going on with the three women who were also at work, Mr Ros said.
"We saw a group of people - maybe five or six people - they tried to break the glass. I don't know what they wanted to find, maybe the money behind the counter.
"We stood maybe five metres in front of them and then I said loudly: 'What are you doing, why are you doing this?'... but they didn't care. They kept kicking the glass."
He said one of them was holding a stick similar to a baseball bat.
Mr Ros was surprised at their actions because they were not deterred by the workers' presence, he said.
"We were afraid of them because they weren't afraid of us."
Lucky Cafe owner Chantha Pen said he turned up and drove his car to the front of the shop and tried to block in the men's two cars. But he felt like they were going to drive into him so he moved.
He chased them down the street and around the corner with his wife in the passenger seat, he said.
Mr Pen said he wanted to take a photo of their license plate numbers but it was too dark.
"There were at least seven people so I was thinking there were a lot of men so I can't protect me and my wife."
He said he went back to his shop and police turned up a couple of minutes later. But this was not the first time this had happened.
"Every time it's three shops or four shops [affected], every year."
Mr Pen said he moved to New Zealand from Cambodia in 2005 and has been in Mangere Bridge since 2009. This was the first time his shop had been vandalised while people were at work, he said.
The shop has bi-fold doors and one panel was smashed. He said he phoned the landlord this morning and it was all fixed before lunch.
Next door, Paul Kenney said a large pane of glass and the two front doors were smashed at his shop, Bridge Fruit n' Veg, which he has owned for seven years. He said the damage was worth about $4000, plus the day's business that was lost.
"They made a heck of a mess and I've been spending the day cleaning up."
The vandals came into the shop but it did not look like they stole anything, he said.
"To have one burglary in five years, and then three in 18 months. It's like, yeah, it's definitely becoming more common. And it seems to be the same three shops. Ruby Red, Bridge Fruit n' Vege, Lucky Cafe - bang bang bang."
He did not want shop owners to be forced to put garage doors up for protection but he was concerned the vandalism was becoming more common, he said.
For Lucky Cafe's staff, the fear was still looming. Mr Pen said the women who were working this morning were especially shaken and feared they might have the same experience tomorrow.
Mr Ros said he was not sure if he would be at work tomorrow.
"I think Mangere Bridge is so safe but right now I'm a bit scared."
Police said they were investigating and were looking at CCTV footage in the area.
But Mr Kenney said, in terms of identifying offenders, CCTV was only so effective when someone had a big hood or a mask over their face.