Community leaders, local retailers, and members of the public gathered outside Crown Superette in Mt Roskill on Tuesday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. to share their solidarity towards the victims of Sunday morning robbery. The gathering raised concerns on the increasing number of assaults and robberies in Auckland.
The protest was an aftermath of the aggravated robbery at Crown Superette on Melrose Road that left one of the staff at the shop grievously injured and is awaiting his third surgery to be conducted at North Shore Hospital.
It was earlier reported on Indian Weekender that an armed group of seven robbers stormed the dairy just after 7 a.m. on Sunday, March 12 and hit the shopkeepers Jitesh Arora and his wife Preeti Arora, before taking an unaccounted amount of cash and cigarettes from the store.
The gathering organised by community leader Sunny Kaushal garnered support from local store owners and members of the public from different parts of Auckland. Jeet Suchdev from Bhartiya Samaj, Navtej Randhawa from Radio Spice, Alkesh Sharma, president of Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), Suresh Ramji, Vice-President of the Manukau Indian Association, and Shail Kaushal, a member of Puketapapa Local Board were present at the gathering.
“This act of despicable crime needs to stop. The law should be more stringent for the perpetrators,” Mr Kaushal said.
A community action group has been formed because of the number of robberies and assaults on local retailers in the area.
“These brutal attacks and daylight robberies say that these offenders have no fear of police or the law and the consequences,” he added.
“This crime prevention or community action group will closely work with the police and educate the public and the businesses on prevention and safety initiatives. It will include different religious bodies, education groups, local boards, and retailers so that we together can make the community feel safer,” Mr Kaushal said.
The owner of the store Raj Chopra said that he has been in the business for 17 years, and there have been small shopliftings earlier but this attack was despicable.
“This attack is not just on two people; it was an attack on the whole family. We all are disturbed, the shop is closed, my sister is hurt, and brother-in-law is in the hospital with multiple fractures and stitches. It is just appalling,” Mr Chopra told Indian Weekender.
Area Commander for Auckland City, western area Inspector Jacqui Whittaker spoke at the gathering and assured the police is working towards catching the offenders.
“Just to update the public, we have arrested two teenage girls with regards to this incident and the other four have been identified, and the police staff is doing everything to hunt them down,” Ms Whittaker said.
“We want to be a part of this action group and ask you to please involve us in the action group discussions,” she added.
“I know the family for 20 odd years, and they are lovely people,” Nek Mohammad, a family friend of the victim said.
“There is a black market for these stolen cigarettes and gangs are using teenagers to get them using violence,” he added.
“We do not need another Arun Kumar or Navtej Singh for lawmakers to take this issue seriously,” a member of the public at the gathering said.
Indian Weekender live streamed the solidarity gathering for the victims on its Facebook page and received numerous encouraging comments and support from the viewers.
The police and forensics investigated the scene of the crime on Sunday, and the dairy store was later opened for the public to view.
The scene inside the dairy was disturbing to many as blood spots of the victims lay splattered on the floor throughout the store. The cash till was empty with a few coins on the ground, the cigarette rack had been emptied as well, the food and drinks stall was damaged, and furniture had been turned upside down.
“I know Raj Chopra. I occasionally work with him at his motel, and I have been coming to this dairy since I was a kid. This area is not safe at all. Three people’s houses were broken into the same night last week,” Johnny, a neighbour and friend of the victim, said.
“The police need to make it illegal for the gangs to operate from the houses. That is where they do their planning and operate from, so the police should close the gang houses down,” he added.
“I have spoken to the businesses in this neighbourhood, and we have come up with some recommendations and suggestion we will be looking at,” Shail Kaushal, Puketapapa Local Board Member, said.