Govt announces $6m to help ram-raided businesses

Source: 1News

The Government is putting $6 million towards protecting small businesses impacted by a spike in ram raids.

An Onehunga store has been the latest target in a series of nation-wide ram raids.

Police Minister Poto Williams announced the package on Thursday.

Williams said $6m from the Proceeds of Crime Fund will be invested in a crime prevention programme, which will include solutions such as installing bollards or other protection structures.

“We have heard the concerns of the small businesses being targeted by ram-raids and other offending,” Williams said.

“While there has been a significant reduction in youth offending over the past decade, there has also been a recent spike in ram-raids and related offending, which we urgently need to address for these business owners."

Police told 1News earlier this month that while ram-raids are not new, there has been a spike in young people committing burglaries with vehicles used to gain entry.

Williams said the funding will help police work closely with vulnerable small retailers.

“Police will also look at the range of crime and security risks each small retailer may face, and other options such as fog cannons, security alarms, or screens may be considered,” Williams said.

READ MORE: Dairy owner 'concerned' after attempted gas station ram-raid

“Alongside the obviously physical damage, ram raids can also have serious personal mental health and wellbeing impacts on business owners, their families, and staff and these measures help prevent that."

Police will establish and manage the programme of funding for small retailer crime prevention, with work beginning in Auckland and expanding if required.

Williams said the Government is committed to making sure police have the resources they need to prevent crime and keep New Zealand communities safe.

“That’s why Budget 2022 included a record investment of $562 million as our first priority is increasing the number of police on the frontline which is the key to making people feel safe,” said Williams.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford spoke alongside Williams and said it was "a good, solid announcement".

He said retail crime has always been a problem but it has been getting steadily worse over the past few years, with escalating aggression and violence.

"That's creating massive problems for people who work in retail, it's impacting the mental health of workers, it's impacting the well-being of owners and managers of retail stores, particularly in small businesses but also at the larger end of retail as well."

Harford says people who work in retail are increasingly living in fear about what they are going to face at work each day.

"Ultimately this is costing the country a fortune every year, both in terms of prevention and also in terms of prices because the cost of crime is ultimately being passed on to consumers through a higher cost of goods."

He said he's pleased the Government has come to the party with the fund announcement.

READ MORE: Locking up kids won't stop ram-raids – child advocates

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said work will continue "to provide whānau-centred support for the young people who have been directly involved in ram raids".

“So far they have been able to respond to the needs of 19 tamariki and their families which has included re-enrolling them in school and connecting them up with financial assistance for helping them to access appropriate services, and multi-agency wrap around support targeted at each individual,” she said.

National responds

National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell said in a statement the $6 million has come too late.

“Retail businesses will be deeply disappointed the Government has taken so long just to announce a band-aid solution of only $6 million to go towards strobe lights and fog cannons. It will do little to stop a car from smashing through the front window," he said.

Mitchell said it's been 10 days since Cabinet agreed on funding for ram-raid businesses.

"The Government claimed that they acted quickly in response to the ram-raids, but businesses who have been raided multiple times will beg to differ.

“Youths stealing cars and driving them into retail premises have been causing thousands of dollars of damage for businesses and communities for months. The minister's announcement of $6 million won’t stretch very far, forcing some businesses to fend for themselves.

“The police need to urgently review their pursuit policy - since the change in policy, 83% of fleeing drivers are not getting arrested. Young offenders have realised they can steal a car or flee the scene of a crime without the risk of being pursued or stopped by the police."

“Until this Labour Government cracks down on crime, youth offenders, gang members and organised crime groups will continue to behave and act with impunity.”

It comes as Mitchell is set to meet with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster at the end of May.

It's Mitchell's second attempt to meet Coster after initially being denied the opportunity by Williams.