Whangārei dairy owners fearing for their lives after alleged Auckland robbery murder

Destination Dairy owner Jayesh Patel has hit out at the Government’s lack of action. Photo / Jaime Lyth

Northland dairy owners who are fed up with fearing for their lives are calling for stronger youth laws and punishment to stop aggravated robberies against their businesses.

Yesterday dairies nationwide closed their doors as part of the nationwide “vigil” for slain Auckland dairy worker Janak Patel.

Patel, 34, was fatally stabbed last week following an alleged aggravated robbery at the Rose Cottage Superette in Sandringham, Auckland.

A universal feeling of hopelessness was clear from dairy owners who closed their doors across Whangārei yesterday.

Destination Dairy owner Jayesh Patel, based in Whangārei, was among the shops closing their doors at 12.30pm for the two-hour vigil.

Patel spoke out at what he said was the Government’s lack of action around protecting dairy owners and their staff.

“They don’t want to change the law,” he said.

“We had to put the bollards [up] so no one can ram raid [us] with a car. But now they’ve started to (allegedly) murder.”

Following the protests, the Government announced a multi-million dollar package to tackle retail crime and reoffending.

“While youth crime is now much lower than in the past, the risks and harm from ram raids and other retail crime is concerning communities and creating victims,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

A group of 60 dairy owners, workers and members of the local community gathered in protest outside the Whangārei Labour electorate office yesterday.

Ralph Correa of the Northland Indian Association said protesters were standing in solidarity with the man who was killed and wanted to protest at a lack of action on crime.

“We want a safer community and we want people held to justice,” he said. ”There’s a lot of talk and [the Government] saying there’s minimal crime when it’s just the opposite.”

Whangārei MP Emily Henderson invited protesters into her office to discuss the issues, which included access to the Crime Prevention Fund.

“We all crammed in and we had quite a good discussion,” Henderson said. “Obviously, the community’s in real grief because what happened was horrific.”

She has agreed to meet with the group again, and discuss their concerns with Cabinet and the wider Government.

Work is already happening in Whangārei to help reduce retail crime, Henderson added, with local agencies working together.

“That’s one thing I’ve been actively working on with police and MSD as well as council,” she said.

Henderson said the amount of youth crime was now declining, with ram-raids down 83 per cent.

The Government announced yesterday it will establish a new fog cannon subsidy scheme open to all small shops and dairies in New Zealand that want a fog cannon installed.

“Funding of $4000 will be available for each shop who will be able to have the fog cannon installed through an approved supplier, meaning they can access them directly without an onerous process. Additional details will be released shortly,” Prime Minister Ardern said.

Northland retail businesses are increasingly turning to security guards for protection in the wake of recent ram raids, robberies and burglaries.

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