A Hamilton convenience store could be forced to close after burglars strike twice in four weeks, taking $ 35,000 worth of cigarettes.
Store owner Harry Luther is now calling on the government to ban cigarettes altogether or reduce tobacco tax so that it is no longer an attractive product for criminal groups.
His staff, who live upstairs at the Glenview store, had called for closure after the last raid on the store at 5 a.m. on Saturday.
âSix people broke in, one of them went upstairs where my staff live,â Luther said. Thing.
* Five arrests in connection with four aggravated thefts in Christchurch
* Community rallies around beloved dairy owner after robbery
* Store owners brandish wooden table leg against armed cigarette thieves
“We had a daughter [staffer] call the police right away and they’ve locked themselves in their rooms.
âThey are scared enough and told me that they could no longer work here.
The first raid took place on June 17, just after 9 a.m., when families arrived at a nearby daycare and people were on their way to work.
âEven with all the cameras that we have, with the people around, they just have no fear,â Luther said.
Luther said that by examining the footage from the latest heist, he could see the thieves were in no hurry, one stopping for a drink and the other for ice cream on the way out.
He said ram raids and break-ins at dairies and convenience stores were now commonplace, linked to the high cost of tobacco imposed by the government to reduce the number of people buying cigarettes.
âThe government must ban smoking or lower taxes. None of this while waiting to be smoke free in 2025, I can’t see that happening.
Luther said the latest break-in made him think about removing cigarettes from the shelf, but that he would have to calculate the loss in earnings.
âI also have high insurance costs. I pay $ 70,000 for this building a year and now I have no more staff.
“I don’t know how I’m going to continue to run this store.”
Hamilton East Labor MP Jamie Strange said rising tobacco prices had “unintended consequences”.
âYes, it made fewer people smoke, but it exacerbated thefts and caused safety concerns for our dairy owners.
âFrom a government perspective, we’ve released a discussion paper, looking at feedback on the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 action plan.â
One section asked whether the number of shops selling tobacco should be reduced.
âWe are starting to have a difficult conversation with dairy owners about whether cigarettes should be sold in their stores.
âMost want to continue because it is a reasonable part of their income.
“Others have stopped and it keeps them from being a target.”
Hamilton-based National List MP David Bennett was planning to meet with Luther to discuss available help.
He said the issue was not whether the cigarettes should be sold, but tougher penalties against those who committed the crime were needed.
âThere are too many ram raids like this happening in the dairies in Hamilton. The owners of these stores are hard working people who provide service to the community.
“Store owners should be able to keep selling cigarettes, people still want to buy and there is still a market there.”