Christchurch business owners fear increased crime as the price of cigarettes rises

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Christchurch liquor store and dairy owners fear that a rise in cigarette prices in January will fuel more aggravated thefts.

Christchurch Hills Rd dairy owner Hemant Chauhan says he feels like a “sitting duck” every day.

He keeps a wooden cricket stump behind the counter, not as a weapon, but for self-defense.

Hills Rd Dairy has been broken into and blocked off for the past two years.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON / FAIRFAX NZ

The Hills Rd Dairy has been broken into and blocked off for the past two years.

Over the past two years, Chauhan has been detained for money and cigarettes, and his store has been robbed numerous times.

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“I feel intimidated all the time… We sit here like ducks. “

Hemant Chauhan at his company, Hills Road Dairy.  He is among those in the Indian community who are worried about thefts and burglaries.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON / FAIRFAX NZ

Hemant Chauhan at his company, Hills Road Dairy. He is among those in the Indian community who are worried about thefts and burglaries.

New rates of excise duty on tobacco and tobacco products would come into effect on January 1, 2016.

“It’s every year that the prices go up… It’s going to fuel crime again. It’s getting as good as gold because of the prices and there’s a good black market out there,” Chauhan said.

His concerns come after statistics released to Labor through the Official Information Act indicate an increase in crime in the region over the past two years.

Drug use increased 36 percent, burglaries 33 percent while during the same period, police foot patrols fell 16 percent.

Earlier this year, a spate of aggravated thefts hit small shops across the city, though in several cases the offenders left empty-handed.

Mukesh Patel said he closed his dairy at 6 p.m. just to avoid being a victim of crime.

Others agreed they should go out of business early in the winter, when the nights get longer and darker.

“I don’t want to create a problem, that’s why I’m closing early,” Patel said.

Retailers said they were losing faith in Canterbury Police and “felt left behind”.

Indian social and cultural club treasurer Thomas Shaji Kurian said many cases of theft were now unreported.

“They don’t want to report it because they know nothing is going to be done,” he said.

Nationally, “trust and confidence” in the police has remained high. Some 77 percent of those surveyed in the 2015/2016 New Zealand Police Citizen Satisfaction Survey said they had “full / fairly high confidence in the police.”

Canterbury District Commander’s Superintendent John Price said police are doing their best to work with business owners and have offered crime prevention advice.

“We apprehended most of these offenders and brought them to the justice system. And we have also seen a decrease in the last few months of these dairy thefts.

Price said police would always attend an event when called and where someone was at risk of being injured.

“We put investigative teams there, I had detectives on it. We’ve done a lot in this space.”

Price said Canterbury’s 20-year trend showed crime was on the hunt and there was four percent less crime than the same time last year.

Food market owner Dipak Kalidas said heI would love to see patrol cars in every suburb during the winter.


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