Tauranga cycle shop manager speaks out after $16,000 worth of e-bikes were stolen in smash and grab

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Anthony Van de Pas, Vanquish Cycles Store Manager. Photo / Mead Norton

A retailer left housekeeping after a burglar smashed his storefront with an ax and stole $16,000 worth of e-bikes says he feels like he’s preparing for the ‘zombie apocalypse’.

Vanquish Cycles on Cameron Rd in Tauranga was the target of an early Sunday morning smash and grab.

It is the latest episode in what a Retail NZ boss called a “crime wave” of incidents, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying the crimes were getting “excruciating” and “utterly brazen”.

Vanquish Cycles store manager Anthony Van de Pas said CCTV footage captured someone smashing his front door window with what appeared to be an axe.

Two e-bikes worth a total of about $16,000 were stolen and the stock knocked over and scratched, he said.

“There was glass everywhere – and things got knocked over and damaged. It was all over the show.”

The damaged storefront of Vanquish Cycles.  Photo / Provided
The damaged storefront of Vanquish Cycles. Photo / Provided

Van de Pas said it was the fourth time the family business has been targeted since it opened five years ago.

“You feel completely drained. You feel emotionally heartbroken. As many small business owners understand the times of Covid have made things difficult. Turn around and have your store robbed and inventory stolen – make it right emotionally difficult.”

Van de Pas said the reinforcement of the store’s windows made him feel like he was preparing for the “zombie apocalypse”.

“We’re always looking for ways to continue to tighten security. If you were at risk of being attacked by zombies, that’s pretty much what you think you should do, being an outlet right now.”

After being hit four times in five years, he said the bikes were locked up and bollards had been installed in his shop to prevent ram raids.

“We’re not new to this, I understand bike shops are a common hit store.”

Van de Pas said three customers visited the store on Sunday to see one of the stolen bikes, so it was “pure inconvenience” that it had been taken.

“The bikes that were stolen are both very popular models of bikes that people come to see almost every day. When they’re not on your floor to see them, you have this lost revenue because you don’t don’t have the product to show them.”

The insurance would only cover damage and stolen bikes “to a small extent”, he said.

“The deductibles and premiums are very expensive for a retail store like ours. Yes, you get some money back, but not enough to cover damages and losses, that’s for sure.

“It’s a pure inconvenience where you have to raise funds from places to put stock back on the ground.”

A police spokesman said police received a report at around 6.20am on Sunday that a property on Cameron Rd had been broken into.

Police were following investigative leads, including whether CCTV could be of assistance, a spokesman said.

Matt Cowley, Managing Director of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce.  Photo / Mead Norton
Matt Cowley, Managing Director of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce. Photo / Mead Norton

Tauranga Business Chamber chief executive Matt Cowley said retailers have always faced occasional theft but there has recently been an increase in anti-social behavior and serious property damage across the country.

“Traders are on edge, wondering when it will be their turn to be woken up in the middle of the night by their security company notifying them of a break-in.”

Some said they struggled to retain staff if they regularly encountered “aggressive and intimidating” behavior from shoplifters, he said.

He said the costs were compounded if a retailer suffered repeated break-ins.

“There are direct costs such as loss of stock, repair of damaged goods, disruption of future trading hours while repairs are completed, insurance deductible, as well as possible future premium increases.

“There are also the indirect costs on retailer welfare and employees, particularly if locations are repeatedly targeted.”

Retail New Zealand chief executive Greg Harford said the country was in a “crime wave” with the number of incidents rising. His biggest concern was that the severity of retail crime was increasing.

Greg Harford, managing director of Retail New Zealand.  Photo / Provided
Greg Harford, managing director of Retail New Zealand. Photo / Provided

“It’s really disconcerting for the people who work in these companies and the owners of these companies. There is a risk of someone getting hurt – and it’s traumatic for everyone.

“It’s a lot more serious, it’s a lot more organized, it’s a lot more aggressive and cheeky.”

Last week the Bay of Plenty Times reported that the area had New Zealand’s second highest number of ram raids in the year to October.

Store owners targeted by retail robberies shared the devastation of burglaries, including a convenience store owner who sleeps with security footage next to his bed after being raided, and jewelry store owners who say they were targeted 30 times in 15 years – many of them recently.

At least six retail stores in Auckland were targeted overnight Sunday, with thieves fleeing with alcohol, cigarettes and vaping products.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the AM show that more than 30 people had been arrested and 200 charges laid after the police retail unit was established targeting ram raids and smash and grabs.

Ardern said many of the “heinous” and “totally brazen” crimes involved teenagers, but there were still consequences for young offenders depending on the individual and the crime committed.

“It’s fair to say though that if someone is particularly young… efforts are often made to use consequences and punishments that don’t necessarily lead to that person being in facilities that result in their prosecution. [to offend]…

“Often in cases…if a young person enters our formalized criminal justice system, it basically means that’s the trajectory they’re on.”

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