A spate of brazen break-ins by a thief with a crowbar is leaving Mount Maunganui store owners “devastated”, and desperately grouping together to hire private security to make up for what they say is a lack of police patrols.
In the past six weeks, more than 12 shops on the Mount’s main strip have been broken into, or suffered an attempted break-in, the owners say.
The burglaries appear to be done by the same person or people.
”When he is caught on CCTV in different shops, you can see it is the same guy, although he is wearing a black hoody,” says Emma West, owner of Flux Boutique on Maunganui Road. “
He also uses the same method – breaking in with a crowbar, and then he crawls and slides on his front, always going straight for the cash, and getting in and out in a few minutes.
“It’s so creepy to see him crawling on his stomach as its devious – he’s trying to avoid the sensors and it’s like he knows where they are.”
On Sunday, June 19, Emma was called by a friend to let her know that the glass front of her boutique had been smashed.
The popular Mount Maunganui main street has been targeted by thieves at night. Photo: Rosalie Liddle Crawford/SunLive.
“The thief couldn’t smash the door completely, but you can see the crow bar marks on the glass. All the lights were on in the store, so they were bold. It just makes you feel violated.”
Emma says that from speaking to other business owners, they all believe it's the same man doing all of them.
Her friends, who own Crate streetwear store further down the road, have already been broken into twice.
“Everyone’s getting frustrated because he hasn’t been caught. It’s terrifying knowing that he could strike again.”
The same night Flux Boutique was smashed, someone also tried to break into Blinking Beauty beautician and hairdresser Blow on Tawa Street.
Rocks were thrown at the window to try and break the glass, but that was unsuccessful too.
Kiara Knollys of Blinking Beauty was in tears when she learned of the attempt.
Kinni Dhaliwal, owner of the 264 Dairy just next to Flux Boutique, says his alarm went off in the shop at 5am on Sunday morning, so he came into the store to check.
“The alarm must have scared them away as nothing was taken.”
Mount Maunganui stores have been the target of a brazen thief. Photo: Supplied.
Logan Payne, co-owner of Sisters & Co, says someone broke into the back door with a crow bar on Thursday, June 16.
“It was only 9.15pm. They took the whole back door off and then crawled on their stomach to the till, I guess to avoid sensor alarms. They were wearing a black hood, so you can’t easily identify him on the CCTV footage. It seems like he knows what he is doing in terms of checking out where the alarms and cameras, and he always just goes for the cash till, no matter what is in the shop, he’s not interested in that.”
Sam Kidd, owner of The Kid Store on Maunganui Road, agrees that the thief is not interested in thousand-dollar strollers.
Sam's store was robbed at the end of May, and she believes he has already scoped it out to check where the alarms are positioned.
“We had sandbags at the back of the store and one of them was busted open like someone had been using it to stand on and look through the back of the store.”
As with other recent break-ins, the perpetrator wore black clothing with a hood, and crawled the whole length of the shop to avoid the alarm sensors.
Emma says that Mags Fish and Chip shop has also been a targe,t with the thief using the same method.
“They broke into the back with a crow bar and took the till.”
“I understand times are hard for many people and some people are desperate, but when you are stealing from us, we are just business owners making a living. It’s too close to home.”
Victoria Thomas, owner of Pluto cafe and juice bar. Photo: Sunlive.
Victoria Thomas says her Mount Pluto store has also been a target, and the person had taken the whole till even though there was nothing in it.
“We don’t leave cash in the till, so he didn’t get anything, although he took the whole back door off. Another time he cut through all the cables, I think he thought he was switching the alarm off, but they were the cables to the freezers so all our food wasted and had to be thrown away. They even tried to get in the second hand bookshop next door.”
Claudia West of Mount Mainstreet, the business organisation that supports shops and businesses in the Mount, says many of the business owners have asked her about the option of getting private security, so that there could be a police patrol car at night.
“We are getting some quotes, and it will be put to the board tomorrow. It is awful for our local stores as the owners have all been through so much in the last year with closures from Covid, no tourists and the like. I understand how stressful this is for them and we want to do all we can to help.”
Mount Mainstreet is also organising a safety meeting for all its members attended by local police and security experts.