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Chaos, Panic & Confusion During Northwest Mall Robbery

Photo: Supplied / Google Maps

A retail worker at a West Auckland mall says there was chaos, panic and confusion following an armed robbery on Sunday.

A group of five thieves made off with jewellery from Michael Hill in a brazen smash and grab attack at NorthWest Shopping Centre about 3.45pm.

A 27-year-old man had been arrested and was due to appear in court for his alleged involvement in the robbery, Detective Inspector Glenn Baldwin said on Monday.

Synergy Hair receptionist Tessa van Houten told RNZ she was serving a customer when they heard loud bangs and saw groups of people running.

Van Houten said initially she thought it was kids ''mucking around" on the last day of the school holidays.

''But then there was a lot of yelling, and more people were running and I [saw] further up in the mall stores were closing their gates.

''We didn't know what was going on but I thought 'oh well, it's better to be safe than sorry and lets follow suit'."

Van Houten said she, her co-worker and several customers waited inside for 15 minutes until an alarm sounded telling everyone to evacuate to the car park.

Outside, there were "helicopters flying over, a lot of police sirens and fire trucks ... we still didn't know what was happening''.

Van Houten said mall workers and customers were in the car park for half an hour before they were able to return inside.

"We noticed Michael Hill had been smashed and grabbed ... after my shift we got a closer look and saw that a lot of the glass cabinets had been broken into, the front ones didn't seem [smashed] but the ones towards the back seemed completely broken."

She said the recent fatal stabbings at a Sydney mall were top of mind for her and the salon's hairdresser.



"Me and my co-worker had discussed [the other week] what would we do in a situation like that y'know, so we already were on the same page.''

Another retail worker told RNZ she thought the Bondi stabbings was one of the main reasons people in the mall were panicked.

Van Houten agreed it was nerve-wracking but said she was determined to keep calm for her customers.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the shopping centre said they were limited in what information they could provide as it was an active police investigation.

"However the safety of our customers, retailers and colleagues is of paramount importance to us. We would like to commend the swift action of the New Zealand Police, as well as our retailers, security teams and colleagues for managing the situation in line with our security procedures.

"The Northwest Shopping Centre team continues to support all of those involved following [Sunday's] incident, and are actively assisting New Zealand Police in their investigation."

Police said they would continue to have an increased presence in and around shopping centres and malls and will continue to prioritise prevention patrols over the coming weeks.

"Just after 9pm on Sunday, police responded to reports of the vehicle travelling on Browns Road," Baldwin said.

"The Police Air Support Unit, Eagle, was soon above to provide directions to units on the ground."

Baldwin said the vehicle allegedly failed to stop when signalled to and was driven in a "concerning manner".

It came to a stop on Rowandale Road, where the driver took off on foot. He was found soon after and taken into custody.

He was due to appear in Waitākere District Court on Monday morning on charges relating to aggravated robbery and failing to stop."

Boot camps need to happen quickly - retail boss

Retailers need to see government action quickly, including the setting up of youth academies or boot camps to target persistent youth offenders, Retail NZ's boss says.

Carolyn Young told Morning Report criminals were trying to stay one step ahead of retailers' security initiatives.

"These young people swarming into stores with aggressive behaviour and tools to hurt and harm people and steal goods is a new way that's happening and we're needing to look at how we can combat these sorts of things."

Retail NZ chief executive Carolyn Young

                                                                  Carolyn Young Photo: Supplied

She said many offenders were under 18 and were free again within a day.

"And then they just go again."

Young said it remained to be seen whether government plans to combat youth crime such as boot camps would help.

The crime wave that had been experienced in the last two to three years had made it a very tough environment for retailers.

"At the moment we're really wanting to see some action .... how long will it take them to set up the [youth] academies? We don't know but we need to see if that is going to be a solution and we need it pretty quickly."

Young said businesses put in a lot of time and effort into training staff on how to deal with or de-escalate emergency situations so that both they and customers stayed safe during any incident.

A lot of stores were being fortified, however, retailers did not want to move to controlled entry where they only allowed customers who did not seem to pose a threat to come into their stores.

Mall owners should also be looking at the variety of mechanisms that could be used to improve security, Young said.

"Plan for the worst and then you're going to have a better outcome if something happens."

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