The new Police Minister strolled into a room full of folk who want much more than just a smile and a handshake.
At the packed public meeting today in Papatoetoe, organiser Sunny Kaushal made his expectation clear to the new Coalition Government.
“Immediate action to address the retail crime – an emergency that everyone now acknowledges is real,” Kaushal, chair of the Dairy and Business Owners Group, said.
Seated next to Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown, Courts Minister Nicole McKee and police officials, Mitchell heard emotional first-hand accounts from victims of retail crime.
“I’ve been a victim of a knife attack in my dairy shop on 5th October. I’m so, so lucky to be alive,” one person said.
Papatoetoe worker Ghouse Majeed was assaulted two weeks ago by masked offenders, who entered the Mobil petrol station he works at, in south Auckland.
“They started beating me, then I tried to run away outside… when I’m trying to run away, one guy at the gate, he was guarding the gate with a hammer,” he said.
“The hammer would have hit my head… I just escaped from that.”
The offenders could be seen stocking up on vapes, cigarettes and cash before fleeing in a vehicle.
Majeed ended up in Middlemore Hospital and is still recovering.
The purpose of this meeting, organised by the Dairy and Business Owners Group, was to put their concerns face-to-face, to the new Coalition Government to demand action on retail crime.
Because it’s getting worse. In their briefing to the new minister, Police warned retail crime “continues to grow in reporting volume, alongside concerns of increasing threats and violence”.
The previous Labour Government’s $15 million Retail Crime Prevention Programme has overseen more than 3000 security installations, like bollards and CCTV and over 2000 fog cannon subsidies have been approved.
Mitchell told the crowd his focus is getting more police on the streets and re-focusing the justice system to be tougher on criminals.
“The focus in our justice system came off the victims and went on to the offenders,” he said.
Courts Minister Nicole McKee acknowledged that backlog in the justice system is a major hurdle.
But she talked up the Coalition Government’s planned crackdown on youth offending.
“This Government has committed to creating a new young serious offender category and establish new young offender military academies,” she said.
“When it comes to retail crime, we are working hard to turn around a situation that has been allowed to bake in over the last six years,” Mitchell added.
But it’s all the people at the meeting who are growing tired of waiting.