Witnesses to a frenzied daylight robbery at Michael Hill say the brazen smash and grab sounded like a car crash.
The Queen St jewellery store was the victim of an aggravated burglary shortly before 5pm on Thursday.
Police said the teenage thief walked into the store at 4.45pm wielding a hammer, smashed the display cabinets and made off with an unknown quantity of jewellery.
Police received a 111 call at 4.50pm.
Witnesses said the incident was over within minutes and elicited a heroic response from pedestrians and neighbouring businesses.
“We heard a smash, smash, smash. I thought it was a car crash.
“Everyone [on the street] was just screaming at him to get the hell out.
“A single person… it was brazen.”
One woman who saw the incident unfold went into Michael Hill to make sure the staff were uninjured, while her companion chased the thief.
“I’m not sure why I did it. He managed to get away with something in a New World bag.
“It could have just been the adrenaline, but it looked like he pulled a blade out of his pants.
“The whole thing was one, two minutes tops.”
A man said a brave woman in a moon boot stood behind the offender’s black Subaru, which was parked outside the store.
“We were so worried that he would reverse over her, she refused to move.
“So he jumped the kerb and went down the sidewalk [in the car].
“It was insane.”
Police issued a statement yesterday appealing for sightings of the car
“At 4.45pm, a man parked his car – a black Subaru Legacy saloon – on Queen St Masterton, before walking into a jewellery store and smashing display cabinets with a hammer.”
The car was believed to be a 2010-2012 model and had black alloy wheels and distinctive chrome strips around the windows.
Police said there were no registration plates attached.
“Fortunately, nobody was injured in the incident but it was extremely frightening for the store staff and members of the public who witnessed it.”
Police said the offender was described as a teenager, of average height, wearing a light-coloured hoodie.
His face was covered.
The burglary happened the same day Michael Hill executives announced a raft of new security measures in response to a spate of raids on Hamilton and Auckland stores
Measures included a DNA tracking spray to help identify people carrying out ram raids, more security guards, fog cannons and alarms, night patrols and personal alarms for staff.
Chief executive Daniel Bracken said he was appalled by the attacks on the stores and particularly alarmed by daytime smash-and-grab raids.
Chairman Rob Fyfe said thieves not only robbed Michael Hill products, but staff and customers of the right to feel safe.
“It’s unacceptable that our staff and customers now live with this constant threat of attack and are now being regularly confronted with this level of destruction.”
Michael Hill did not respond to a Times-Age request for comment but said it was working closely with authorities.
The jewellery store on Queen St sported a sign on its roller door yesterday advising customers it was closed due to unforeseen circumstances.
Inside, staff were seen sweeping up piles of crushed glass.
Police said they were seeking sightings of the car involved both before and after the incident and urged anyone with information or witnesses to the event to contact them on 105 referencing 221006/8566.