In the last four days starting from Friday, March 10 to Monday, March 13, there have been eight incidents of aggravated robberies and assault that have been reported nationwide.

The incidents of robberies have occurred in places like Christchurch, Hastings, Hamilton, New Plymouth and Auckland, and are reported to have involved chains, hammers, crowbar, rods, and firearms.

Although it may be a small number nationwide and yet to be substantiated statistically to express any concern about the general law and order situation, the recent spurt in these incidents of dairy robberies and assault still deserves some attention.

However, much before this recent notable spurt in aggravated robberies as reported in the mainstream media, Indian Weekender has been conducting its own investigation in the South Auckland region, speaking with several dairy owners in the community about their experience about the threats of aggravated robberies and assault.

Indian Weekender spoke with many dairy owners in the community in the South Auckland region, and not everyone was keen to speak on the record for the reasons of safety and their business-interests.

However, almost everyone was willing to speak in private about their experience of owning a dairy business and the feeling of vulnerability that is so often seen to be associated with this dairy business. 

Fortunately, almost everyone agreed to have enjoyed a smooth and safe run for the most part of the last two decades of owning their respective businesses.

They all have their stories of experiences of peace, tranquillity and sense of belongingness to the community while owning and managing their local businesses.

Dairy owners were also unanimous in displaying an ‘immense’ trust and faith in their respective local communities rejecting any suggestions about the involvement of residents in incidents of shoplifting, assault of robbery. 

In their worldview, offenders always come from some other distant places and in most cases have changed their tactics where they prefer to put young adults at the forefront of the shoplifting and robbery while adult accomplices wait in the cars outside ready to escape after committing the crime.

There was a consensus among dairy owners that the sense of vulnerability of being robbed and assaulted almost at the will of alleged perpetrators is a relatively ‘new’ thing in the Kiwi-life which has not existed in the past.

“It is a new thing, and the people of the younger generation are involved in such bad things,” Kishore Patel, owner of Pamir Dairy in Papatoetoe says.

“I have owned this liquor store since the early 1990s, and in the past, we never use to hear such stories of robberies and assault so often as we hear now,” affirmed another store-owner in Papatoetoe, who wished to remain anonymous.

However, most of them seemed to be extra-careful in illustrating what time-frame would describe as ‘new’ – two years, four years, eight years or more.

Probably, the challenge of speaking with their co-ethnic media representative and being depicted publically as a supporter of one political party over the other was making them extra cautious.

Regardless of their caution, there was unanimity that this sense of vulnerability is relatively a new, and to some extent a ‘permanent’ thing in their otherwise tranquil world.

Almost everyone stated, either out rightly on record, or subtly off the record that they are living in the sense of ‘perpetual fear’ in their dairy shops.

This sense of fear gets exasperated towards the wee hours of the day, either in the evening, or early in the morning, or when the weather is bad.

Usually, every customer walking in the store during such hours is seen with some degree of suspicion and fear. 

“I own this business since last six years and feel a sense of fear every evening or when the weather is bad,” Bharat Patel, owner of Hari Superette on Puhinui Road, Papatoetoe in South Auckland said.

 “We are in constant touch with other neighbourly store owners over the phone and make it a point to close our shops together in the evening time,” Mr Patel further stated

“If I am away from my dairy or at home then I have to call my son 3-4 times a day only to make sure that everything is okay and everyone is safe,” a dairy owner in Papatoetoe who has twice faced aggravated robberies in the last two months and wish to remain anonymous, said.

“The police come and do their work, which is mostly paperwork, but fail to create a sense of reassurance,” he further asserts.

Only a few shop owners were as forthright as above to express their dissatisfaction about police’s role in creating a sense of assurance.

A large number of dairy owners with whom Indian Weekender spoke with acknowledged police’s support in general.

However, there is an apparent gap between what police do, or can do, in a given situation and the sense of fear and vulnerability in which people owning, and working, in dairy stores are forced to live currently.

There is an overwhelming feeling among the dairy owners in the community that law is too weak and needs to be strengthened to deter petty criminals.

There is also a subtle feeling about some room for improvement in police patrolling to deter such criminal activities at the first place and then in their response to crisis situations.

“When we call emergency number reporting a crime at our shops, the operators ask too many questions and waste crucial respond-time,” Kishore Patel of Pamir dairy, Papatoetoe said.

It seems that a very big question that looms large in almost every dairy owner’s minds within the community, especially in the South Auckland, is how to bridge the gap between what police and current law can do to deter robberies at their workplace.

Apparently, leaving this gap wide open for long is contributing much to the sense of “powerlessness” in the minds of dairy owners.

It is a question for the policy makers and the social scientists to address sooner than later.

"We have invested in the business and we do not have a choice, we have to work despite an overwhelming sense of fear," a shopkeeper and victim of two robberies in the last two months summed up at the end.