25 May 2024

Feeling unsafe, small retailers in Hamilton, Waikato down shutters against rising crime

Majority of small retail businesses in and around Hamilton kept their shops closed for two hours today, Sunday 27 November in solidarity with other “very scared to be working” retailers after the fatal stabbing of Sandringham dairy worker, Janak Patel.

At the call given by the Waikato Retail Group, an estimated 150 plus shop owners gathered at the The Base intersection between 12 and 2pm today to “hold a vigil”.

Protesters held placards while passing motorists tooted to support their cause. Some of the placards read: “We need Guns”, “Wake up Govt, face the truth”, ‘Support the small businesses, not the criminals.”

Among those who were present to offer their support included the National party opposition leader, Christopher Luxon; Hamilton East Labour MP, Jamie Strange; National List MP, David Bennett; Hamilton West candidates, Tama Potaka and Dr Gaurav Sharma.

Retailers protesting at The Base, Hamilton today against rising crime & their safety (Photo: NewsViews)

Manish Thakkar of the Group who organised today’s protest, was critical of the lack of action on the part of the government and sought more support for businesses who were feeling very unsafe to run their businesses.

When asked by NewsViews what they expect government to do, Thakkar said “We need protection. Crime is at the peak and government is not taking any action against it.

We expect govt to change youth laws…support retailers who are highest tax payers. Give more rights to police, insurance premiums must be covered by govt and tough punishment to criminals.”

Touching on the rising crime rate, including ram raids and rising gang memberships, National leader Christopher Luxon  was critical of the government’s failure to apply ‘serious consequences for serious crime’ and wanted more support for victims.

“Govt has not been applying serious consequences to serious crime,” he said.

Chris Luxon with Tama Potaka (left picture); Gaurav Sharma, & (extreme right) Jamie Strange (Photo: NewsViews)

When asked what action the National was going to take, Luxon repeated his party’s earlier announced policy to “create a serious youth category for courts and judges to use and apply to 10 to 17 years old young offenders,” and “to put 15-17 years old into military academies (to be) working alongside NZ Defence Force and community organisations, teach them some discipline, boundaries, general life skills…”

“We need more tools, courts need more tools and police need more tools for intervention,” Chris Luxon emphasised.

Labour MP, Jamie Strange paid condolences to the victim Janak Patel, and assured Government’s commitment to safeguard the community and assured that Hamiltonians’ concerns had already been conveyed by him to the PM and Police Minister a couple of weeks back.

Talking to NewsViews subsequently, Strange said the PM Jacinda Ardern in whose electorate this tragedy occurred, had already expressed her deep sorrow at what had happened. She had also spoken to the victim’s family members.

Small retailers remained shut for 2 hours today

According to Strange, the solution was long term as ‘generational challenges’ were involved.

“Many of these people who are committing these crimes, come from a dysfunctional family environment, and there are generational challenges associated with these families. Answer to that is long term that includes education, health, bringing families out of poverty.”

The Hamilton East MP, however, agreed that it’s important for community to feel safe wherever they are.

“It’s important that while we address these long term challenges, people feel safe today, And I’m hearing from the community that people want action, that will enable them to be safe here and now.

(Mayor) Paula Southgate and I met the PM Jacinda Ardern and Police Minister Chris Hipkins (two weeks back) and explained the Hamilton situation… I understand conversations have been taking place for past two weeks around what government can do to support and keep people safe. We will have to wait and see what response may come.”

Candidate for Hamilton West and former labour MP, Dr Gaurav Sharma criticised the government for “failing to acknowledge crime is going up.”

“How can they (the government) solve problems, how can they find solutions when they don’t even acknowledge that there is a problem?” he asked.

Mentioning the rising costs of insurance for small businesses, he wanted the government to provide insurance for those affected.

One of the victims whose business was ram-raided repeatedly wanted criminals to be held “responsible.” This was seconded by another liquor store owner Paramjeet Parihar who was also critical at lack of consequences for young offenders. “Young offenders against whom no action can be taken, should at least be made to wear ankle bracelets to track/monitor their every movement, and their parents should be held responsible for their offending.”

Another nation-wide half-day protest closure has already gone out from NZ Indian Central Association.

Today’s protest gathering may not yield immediate results as it’s a ‘generational’ thing, but for now businesses need to feel safe and are asking the Prime Minister “we want action and want it now.”

Related story: https://www.newsviews.co.nz/jacinda-enough-is-enough-we-want-action-and-want-it-now/

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