Police Minister Chris Hipkins on the death of a dairy worker in Auckland last night. Video / Mark Mitchell
Police Minister Chris Hipkins wants an explanation from police why the Auckland dairy where a fatal stabbing took place was not given support from a Government initiative to equip businesses with fog cannons to prevent robberies.
A male offender, who has evaded police so far, allegedly entered the Rose Cottage Superette in Sandringham yesterday evening, armed with a knife, and killed the newly-married shopkeeper who was onsite.
Police, who are searching for the offender, have appealed to the public for help from those who might have seen him in the area last night – describing the man as wearing black clothes, a cap and a black and white bandana.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose Mt Albert electorate the stabbing took place in, has expressed her sorrow at the man’s death but has disagreed with calls from business owners that they should be armed.
Hundreds of members of the local and business community gathered at the dairy today to pay their respects, while Dairy and Business Owner chairman Sunny Kaushal is criticising the Government for what he considered its lack of action to protect business owners.
It comes amid a slow rollout of another Government programme designed to protect small retailers from ram raids after a spate occurred earlier this year.
Sandringham Neighborhood support coordinator John McCaffery told RNZ earlier today the dairy’s owners had previously made attempts to get more security at the shop, but police had denied their requests.
”We were working with our neighborhood support co-ordinating group in Auckland to try and get fog cannons and other support services [for the superette owner],” McCaffery said.
“[The owner] approached the police and we believe that twice he was visited or contacted by the police and twice he was turned down as not being a priority.”
A 2017 Government initiative devoted funding toward installing fog cannons to protect at-risk businesses, which led to 1000 fog cannons installed.
The fog cannon was created to impede robbers. Given the dairy’s till was taken, it appeared yesterday’s offender intended to commit a robbery.
Speaking to media this afternoon, Hipkins said it was “not clear” to him why the dairy wasn’t approved for a fog cannon and wanted to know why.
“Based on what I can see, that business should have qualified so I’ve asked for an explanation [from police] as to why they didn’t get a fog cannon,” he said.
Later in the House in response to a question from National police spokesperson Mark Mitchell, Hipkins said the dairy should have been eligible to receive a fog cannon from as early as 2017, based on the information he currently had.
Hipkins had no further information about police’s efforts to locate the person responsible for yesterday’s stabbing, noting that his first thoughts were with the victim’s whānau.
“All New Zealanders will be feeling for [the family] today, it’s a horrible situation to find themselves in.”
Ardern told media earlier today she met with Hipkins, Justice Minister Kiri Allan and Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni yesterday to discuss how to address young offenders such as those younger than 12 who were not able to go before the Youth Court.
Hipkins wouldn’t detail what specific proposals were discussed until they were ready to be announced, but he did acknowledge ministers were looking at the nature of offending, offenders and victims in order to develop targeted and effective measures to reduce crime.
Nationally, youth crime had been decreasing but there had been spikes in Auckland and Waikato with some offenders being younger than 10 years old.
Hipkins referenced decisions made about five years ago to change the nature of policing to reduce the number of local bases to instead prioritise officers being “out and about” in the community.
He acknowledged this created a “visibility challenge”, but he assured the public it didn’t result in a decrease in police resources on the ground.
Kaushal, who was a regular critic of the Labour Government’s approach to crime and was supportive of National’s stance, said earlier today that he believed yesterday’s death indicated New Zealand was “becoming lawless”.
Hipkins said he didn’t regard that kind of “inflammatory rhetoric” as “particularly helpful”.
Like Ardern, Hipkins pushed back on any calls supporting the arming of business owners, saying it could potentially lead to more deaths.
“We need to take a deep breath here and make sure that what we’re doing is actually going to make a difference for the businesses, for the victims, [and] is going to prevent more of this type of offending.”
National recently announced its plan to tackle youth crime, which included sending the country’s most problematic youth offenders aged 15-17 to military academies – a proposal that had received wide criticism and appeared to be unsupported by various studies on similar programmes.
In a rare moment of agreement between the two major parties on crime, National deputy leader Nicola Willis today said she did not support business owners being armed.