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Supermarket crime rears its ugly head again

An assault on a staff member at Masterton’s New World supermarket on Wednesday resulted in police making an arrest and laying charges.

According to New World owner Clive Webber, the altercation occurred when “a customer tried to steal a box of beer”.

A supervisor who tried to intervene and stop the alleged theft received a “very hard punch” in the chest, leaving her with “severe bruising and swelling”.

Other supermarket staff prevented the alleged assault from escalating and followed the individual involved, who was arrested and charged by responding police.

“Drugs and liquor are unfortunately fuelling the crime at present – we have had a few assaults of this nature in the past few months,” Webber said.

The Times-Age understands another Masterton supermarket was also subjected to several retail crime incidents on Wednesday – one involving a person absconding with a trolley full of goods they didn’t pay for, and two involving the same individual stealing [or attempting to steal] meat on different occasions.

Staff declined to confirm or deny the events in the absence of the supermarket manager.

Police have been approached for comment on the incidents.

These latest examples of retail-related crime follow an observable increase in such events in the latter half of 2022, which prompted a meeting of concerned business operators on December 14, hosted by Masterton District Council [MDC].

“The idea for this meeting was to get proactive solutions for preventing retail crime,” Mayor Gary Caffell said at the time.

“Our message to the business community is that we have your back, and if we can do anything to help, we want to do it.”

MDC said last month that it was working on establishing a retailer’s business support group, with the intention it would ultimately be led by members of the retail community, with council support.

Stella Lennox, who will be MDC’s representative when the group is formed, put out a call yesterday for businesses interested in joining the new organisation, which has the aim of helping “address challenges around antisocial behaviour and … bring back vibrancy and positivity to the Masterton CBD”.

“I encourage everyone to consider joining the group to build links with others facing similar challenges and use this platform to get some actions in place,” Lennox said in a statement.

MDC has also set up a cross-agency leadership group – another initiative that came out of the December meeting – that’s intended to “develop a multi-agency approach to dealing with broader issues faced by the district”.

An initial meeting of the group was held in February.

Attended by the mayor and council staff, along with representatives from police, iwi, Oranga Tamariki, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Development, the meeting resulted in a decision to form two groups: a smaller governance group responsible for providing strategic direction and guidance, and a project implementation group responsible for operational and on-the-ground delivery.

A further meeting of the cross-agency leadership group will be held next week “to refine the purpose of the governance group and discuss how it will operate with the project implementation group”, a MDC spokesperson said.

These initiatives can’t start making inroads into the issue soon enough for Webber.

“All government agencies need to take responsibility as it is their function to keep us safe and currently crime across NZ is not acceptable,” he said – although he was also quick to note that “during all of these incidents, the police have been brilliant: a massive thanks to them from my whole team”.

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