Sravanthi and Rakesh Bandi with the till that was stolen from them on Friday by a group of armed teenagers. Photo: Brittany Spencer.

‘They copy what’s on TV’

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A hammer and knives have been used to rob two local dairies over the past week and the offenders are getting the idea to do it from television, says the region’s area commander for police.

The NPD Hira Store was robbed on Friday last week and just two days later the Roto St Dairy was also targeted. In both cases the offenders were young and they were arrested not long after the crimes.

Inspector Mat Arnold-Kelly says there is a growing trend of robberies in Nelson, with five businesses targeted in a similar way since the start of the year. “It’s a very worrying trend, not just locally, but also nationally. And youths are telling us that they are emulating behaviour on TV. It seems to be a bit of a common theme, they see reports of robberies in places like Auckland and think ‘we’ll give it a go’.”

At the first robbery in Hira, store owner Rakesh Bandi should have been celebrating his one year anniversary at the business, instead, he had aggressive teenagers waving hammers in his face and demanding cash and cigarettes.

Rakesh says it was just after 8am when the group of four drove a stolen car to his station.

“I was just behind the counter and suddenly they came in screaming at the top of their voices, ‘Oh you f***ing Indians, get out of here’ and ‘keep your arse there, we’re coming in’.

“I told myself, ‘it’s okay, they can’t kill you, just make sure they don’t hurt anyone’, my wife and son were sleeping in the next room so I blocked the doors.

“They came right up close to me with the hammer, waving it centimetres from my face yelling, ‘open the till, open the till’ but I said, ‘I do not know, I do not know how to open it,’ so they just started taking all of the smokes out of the cabinet.”

After the trio ran out with the cigarettes and till, and jumped in the car where their driver was waiting, Rakesh noted the direction they were headed and called 111.

The thieves lead police in a car and on-foot chase but all were caught even before the police unit heading to the store to take Rakesh’s statement had arrived.

Rakesh says he is shaken from the robbery but always knew the day would come. “You can’t prepare yourself for this but I was aware that it would happen. We don’t expect or appreciate anything like this happening but unfortunately, you can’t escape it, this is happening everywhere, even in small, lazy Hira.”

Then, two days later in Tahunanui, Roto Street Store manager Kuljeet Heer was approached by three masked 15-year-old boys carrying foot-long knives and demanding money.

Kuljeet Heer
Kuljeet Heer

Kuljeet says as soon as they approached the till he knew what they would try to do.

“I was serving people and then three people in masks came in asking for money… two of them came up behind me with knives and the other one was at the door on lookout. I said to them ‘it’s never going to happen, so just give me your knife and go away’.”

At that moment, one of the corner store’s frequent customers walked in the door and grabbed one of the young men from behind.

With the customer’s help, Kuljeet overpowered the armed teenager and secured the knife while the other two ran out the back door and another customer phoned the police.

After the attempted armed robbery Kuljet remains unphased.

“I wasn’t scared, it was nothing major, just a knife, I knew they couldn’t do anything… they were holding the knife down.”

However, the owner of the store Chanty Pich says she is frightened every time she stands behind the counter now.

“I am so scared, especially when I’m here by myself, after the Hira robbery police came by and told us what to do if it ever happened to us and then a couple of days later it did, I can’t believe it.”

All of the offenders from both robberies have been arrested.

Mat Arnold-Kelly says police have been speaking with dairy owners and staff about preventing robberies and says a part of that is trying to make the store open and bright.  “Environmental design of a store can be a heavy influence for offenders not picking these places. A lot of this offending is opportunistic.”