The cigarette crime spree is a real problem for National. It’s out of control –
Police statistics for the year to February show a 3.9 per cent increase in theft, robbery and unlawful entry with intent or burglary.
The Herald on Sunday has found 128 tobacco-related hits on petrol stations, liquor stores and dairies since the beginning of last year. These were from media reports as police do not keep a record.
The actual number is likely to be higher.
Last Sunday 700 shopkeepers marched in Manukau, calling for more police on the streets and a review of the law to protect them from violent crime.
The news is full of recent accounts. This is what happens when increasing poverty meets addiction. People turn to desperate measures. The police have lost control – Violent robberies continue across New Zealand amid police reassurances for shop owners. Dairy owners are facing violence – Dairy robbery victim… ‘NZ is totally unsafe’. Someone will get killed – Dairy worker fears he will be killed over smokes – Shop owners fuming as tobacco-related robberies increase: ‘I will kill them’
How did we get to a place where dairies depend on selling a product that straight up kills people for a major part of their income? How do we fix this? No easy answers.
The government’s goal of eliminating cigarettes is the right one. But raising prices is too slow, and has now contributed to escalating crime – Dairy owners blame cigarette price hikes for robberies.
Ban cigarettes, find a way to compensate dairy owners for a transitional period. Or watch the problem keep getting worse, and cigarette related deaths continue.