A crime prevention initiative to improve the safety of workers in small businesses like dairies, liquor stores and petrol stations is to be rolled out to hundreds more locations.
Police Minister Stuart Nash has announced new funding for fog cannons in retail premises where workers face a high risk of aggravated robbery.
“We are almost doubling the number of fog cannons to be installed thanks to extra funding,” Mr Nash said. “An estimated 470 extra retail premises will be eligible. Fog cannons have already been installed in 523 locations.
“Fog cannons have been activated by workers in 29 businesses and in all cases there were no injuries to staff and minimal property loss for business owners. The fog cannon scheme has a marked impact on the safety of workers in retail premises.
“Commercial aggravated robberies are at their lowest level in five years. We have experienced a significant decrease in the number of robberies. There were 21 robberies in December 2019, a fall of more than 70 percent on the 78 robberies in April 2017.
“There was a 21 percent reduction in aggravated robberies during 2019, compared to the previous year. Since April 2017 Police have identified and dealt with 1,277 offenders.
“Many robberies are fuelled by a desire for a quick buck to feed a drug habit. Wastewater analysis indicates that methamphetamine use has fallen by 17 percent in the first full year of nationwide testing. It’s still early days but it’s headed in the right direction.
“Extra Police resources have also enabled a new focus on aggravated robberies. This includes more detectives, more staff to work with youth, and Police who work with small business owners and industry groups.
“Police are making it easier to report crime with the new 105 (ten-five) number. They urge the community to report people trying to sell bulk or discounted goods like cigarettes or alcohol, which have likely been stolen.
“Most of the fog cannons, around 82 percent, have been installed in superettes and dairies. Fifteen percent are in petrol stations and three percent in liquor stores.
“Police also provide other crime prevention advice to business owners. This includes options like CCTV cameras, securing tobacco in a lock box, bolting down cash registers, removing advertising posters which block windows, and adding mirrors to blind spots.
“Almost half the fog cannons currently installed are in the Police districts of Counties Manukau, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty, and others are distributed all over the country. The $1.9 million additional funding is from the Proceeds of Crime Fund.
“Fog cannons emit a non-toxic cloud of vapour and a high-pitched noise to deter offenders and minimise the risk of violence to workers. They effectively create a barrier and a no-go zone that confuses the offender and allows workers to escape.
“Not all businesses are eligible. Owners apply to Police who do an assessment based on risk, such as whether they have been robbed in the past and the number of Police callouts to incidents within 100 metres of the shop.
“We expanded support for at-risk businesses in 2018 after only three took advantage of an earlier scheme. That scheme required an up-front contribution of around $2,000 and shop owners could not afford to take part. Under the new scheme, business owners pay no more than $250. Fog cannons cost around $4,000.
“The Coalition Government is also focussed on other ways to improve community safety and prevent crime. We are training extra Police, targeting organised crime such as gangs behind the methamphetamine trade, and tightening controls on firearms,” Mr Nash says.