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“Pulled Out A Gun”: Papatoetoe Vape Store Closing After Robbery

Fume store at Great South Road was robbed on 30 March

The Kiwi-Indian owner of a vape store in south Auckland’s Papatoetoe has decided to close down his business after a robbery over the Easter weekend, another one just within weeks. 

Himanshu Batra says he had requested a friend to mind his Great South Road shop, Fume Store, on March 30, 2024, as he was travelling out of Auckland.

His friend was at the cash counter at about 7pm when a man wearing a hoodie walked into the store nonchalantly. He picked up as many as 40 vapes and approached the counter.

“He made me scan each of the 40 vapes. When the time came to make the payment, he reached inside his trouser pocket and pulled out a small gun,” recounts the man who does not wish to be named.

The robber pointed to the gun and told the man to let him take the vapes for free or else he will shoot. “He even told me to not chase him. I didn’t.”

Himanshu told The Indian Weekender the latest robbery was the final nail in the coffin for his retail business in Papatoetoe. “I’ve been losing more money than I earn. As it is insurance companies don’t offer us coverage. It’s a last resort and we aren’t too happy doing it, but we cannot go on like this. We’ll be shutting soon.”

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Just two months back, robbers broke into a neighbouring shop, worked their way through the walls in an adjoining property and eventually entered Fume Store through a vent in the wall.

“They cleared out the entire store! Not even a single vape was left. That robbery cost me nearly $20,000,” Himanshu says. A few days later, two girls in school uniforms walked in brandishing a pocketknife at the father of Himanshu’s business partner who was at the store at that time.

“Luckily, uncle managed to shove them and scare them away. But ever since we’ve had gang members trying to rob us every now and then,” Himanshu says. 

The police were called in after the latest robbery, but Himanshu says he isn’t holding his breath for the investigation to conclude. 

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“Nothing ever comes of it. I remember once when our store had been robbed earlier, the culprit had posted a video of the robbery on TikTok. I even provided the account details to the police but there have been no arrests as yet.”

Small business owners have for long been calling for stricter laws to punish robbers and ram raiders, pointing out a lack of serious consequences only emboldens criminals. 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon today announced that formulating stricter laws to curb such crime is on his government’s agenda for the next 100 days. 

Among those measures is a plan to open military-style bootcamps where repeat offenders will be rehabilitated and trained to have a greater chance of landing a job and, hopefully, mend their ways.

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