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Almost A Quarter Of Aggravated Robbery Victims Were Of Indian Descent In 2023

A person was critically injured during a robbery on Dawson Road in Auckland's Clover Park on 1 December 2023. Photo: RNZ/ Rayssa Almeida

Latest data from Victim Support suggests the Indian community was disproportionately impacted by aggravated robberies in 2023.

Twenty-four percent of the victims caught up in aggravated robberies who were referred to Victim Support last year hailed from the Indian community, the organisation said.

Latest population statistics from the 2018 census shows that the Indian community makes up nearly 5 percent of the country's total population.

Victim Support said an additional 11 percent of victims in aggravated robberies in 2023 were from the wider Asian community, including Chinese, Korean, Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Filipino residents.

Victim Support provided assistance to 1,176 individuals affected by aggravated robberies in 2023.

Of these, 30 percent of victims who were referred to the organisation did not disclose their ethnicity.

In accordance with New Zealand law, victims of crime are entitled to receive support, with police typically referring those impacted to Victim Support.

A police spokesperson told RNZ they did not compile ethnicity data from victims of aggravated robberies.

The disproportionate impact of aggravated robberies on victims of Indian descent revealed in the Victim Support data reflects the community's increased vulnerability to retail crime.

"In the minority of aggravated robbery victims we supported, the sad reality is that aggravated robbery, including ram raids, does appear to hit the Indian and Asian communities harder," says Petrina Hargrave, a spokesperson for Victim Support.

Sanjay Bagia, owner of 11 petrol stations and convenience stores in the North Island, has experienced multiple attacks on his businesses in just three months.

"We have had 10 incidents (in my stores) since January and our staff is extremely stressed," Bagia says.

Sanjai Bagia owns 11 petrol stations and convenience stores across the North Island.

Sanjai Bagia owns 11 petrol stations and convenience stores in the North Island. Photo: RNZ / MARIKA KHABAZI

He says that heightened stress levels have compelled some of his employees to seek therapy.

Bagia, 58, says the recent surge in aggravated robberies has also resulted in a significant loss of employees.

"Responses vary but some of our employees are severely affected post-robbery, with some ultimately opting to leave their jobs," Bagia says.

Kelly Feng, chief executive for Asian Family Services, says the organisation's helpline has witnessed a threefold increase in usage over the past three to four years, suggesting that many individuals who are hesitant to engage with Victim Support turn to her service for assistance instead.

"The numbers are shocking," Feng says.

She says the Asian community in general doesn't perceive themselves as safe and often feel targeted.

"There are no appropriate support services to help them cope with their trauma and experiences," says Feng, highlighting a need for tailored support services.

Kelly Feng is the CEO of Asian Family Services.

Kelly Feng is chief executive officer of Asian Family Services. Photo: Supplied

Victims from the Asian community face significant cultural and linguistic barriers, she says.

"Often, they don't receive support services because of these barriers," Feng says.

Victim Support told RNZ it had 127 staff providing support services in New Zealand.

"Our team is widely diverse and includes people from the Asian, Māori and Pacific communities," Hargrave says.

The Victim Support spokesperson told RNZ that approximately 10 percent of its volunteers were Asian of Asian descent, including Indian.

In the meantime, small business owners such as Bagia can do little more than sit and wait for another of their outlets to be hit by an aggravated robbery.

Despite increased police efforts, he says the number of incidents remains unacceptably high.

"I think it's high time for the government to strategize long-term solutions and delve into the root causes of these issues," he says.

"Understanding the motivations behind such actions is crucial and we must engage all stakeholders, including community leaders, to address this comprehensively," he says.

"This issue with young offenders is complex - there's no quick fix."

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