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Auckland City Crime 'Getting Worse', Businesses Fear For Survival

File image. Photo: RNZ / Calvin Samuel

Criminals in Auckland's city centre are harassing staff, stealing and scaring customers away, business owners say.

One restaurateur is making his staff walk to their cars in groups over safety concerns, while another is calling for more police patrols.

Michael Dearth owns two restaurants in Auckland's city centre: The Grove in St Patrick's Square and Baduzzi in Wynyard Quarter.

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He said both had seen a spike in crime in recent months.

"We have had some of our staff, as they walk to their car, their purse was taken from them and the person just ran off," he said.

"I've had people try to break in, smash the doors and do a lot of damage ... grab some things and take off again."

Dearth said the situation had got out of hand.

"I have 65 to 70 staff. I'm concerned at many levels. I'm concerned about my employees, my customers coming into the city, and as a father, I'm concerned about my kids," he said.

"I don't know what the answer is but I do know that it's getting worse."

He said staff walked in groups to avoid being targeted.

"If we have one of our female managers and they're closing up we make sure they go to their car in groups," he said.

"We're really conscious when we're closing up the restaurant, we have our security protocols that we follow. For our city to grow we need to do something about this crime."

Yael Shochat of Ima

Yael Shochat. File photo. Photo: Supplied

On Fort Street, Ima Cuisine owner Yael Shochat worried that her once-bustling restaurant would not survive.

"I'm concerned about our survival and crime and safety is just one of the reasons our businesses are dying," she said.

"Parking, the cones... it's all just piling up."

Shochat said there was little reason for people to visit Auckland's CBD.

"People never liked coming into the city even when times were good," she said.

"Now times are bad. The parking is expensive, the city isn't safe, there's cones everywhere, there's less happening in the city and people aren't working in the city as much."

For the year ending June, business association Heart of the City spent $1.3 million on security patrols throughout the CBD.

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said it deterred criminals and gave business owners peace of mind.

"Having people walking around, patrolling, engaging with businesses ... that does make a difference," she said.

"They escalate to police when necessary and they work alongside others like the council's CityWatch service which we part-fund."

Police v security guards

But Shochat said the patrols were a double-edged sword.

"I had a guy sitting in my restaurant disturbing the customers ... he was vaping and he was off his face and wouldn't leave," she said.

"The guards were there, and normally the police would come but because they knew the guards were there they didn't come. Police are busy and they think 'Oh it's okay, the guards are there,' but the guards couldn't get rid of him because they're not police."

Dearth hoped Budget 2024 would include funding for more police officers in the CBD.

"I'd like to see more of a presence of police officers [in] these spots that we know are trouble, as a deterrent," he said.

Beck agreed.

"We definitely want to see a commitment to more police, and we'd like to see a commitment for a downtown police station," she said.

"There needs to be a specialist approach to mental health and addiction. [The government has] already indicated that they're keen to see that, but we would certainly like to see what is going to happen and when."

She said businesses in central Auckland would be watching closely when the government unveiled its budget on Thursday, 30 May.

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