Michael Hill burglaries: ‘We’re scratching our heads, the majority get caught’, chairman Rob Fyfe says

Michael Hill chairman Rob Fyfe says he’s noticed a steady increase in burglaries and ram raids of their business, with the hits on the jewellery stores taking a toll on staff.

Burglars struck another Michael Hill store on Sunday – its Dress Smart store in Onehunga is at least the ninth to be hit since November last year.

While some thieves are smashing windows and grabbing what they can, some are driving cars straight through the front doors.

In Whakatāne, burglars drove a flat-deck ute into The Strand store, then used a tomahawk to smash glass cabinets to flee with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.

Its Pukekohe store has been struck more than once, while a Lambton Quay, Wellington, shop was hit during daylight hours.

Michael Hill International chairman, and former Air NZ boss, Rob Fyfe told the Herald the incidents were “a real concern to the board and management team”.

“They’re really distressing for staff. I mean, not withstanding a lot of these incidents are happening out of hours, it still makes people feel very insecure and the level of violence required to break into a store takes its toll on people.

“And then of course the store is shut down for a period of time. I think it creates anxiety in the community as a whole.”

Fyfe said he had been following the stories involving Michael Hill stores and noticed an increase in burglaries and ram raids “in the last year over what we would normally see”.

They’d also noticed an increase in burglaries and ram raids across all businesses, and Michael Hill had been increasing its surveillance to help police catch those involved.

However, despite that increase, Fyfe said the crims were still most likely to get caught.

“A significant number of them, the criminals that are performing these acts are actually getting caught.

“And interestingly I guess as well, we always lock up and save our most valuable items so these are typically not well planned out episodes.

“That’s our observation, but given the increase we’re seeing in incidents across the board, not just Michael Hill, we’re certainly increasing our surveillance and so on so it gives the police a much greater likelihood of catching anyone who commits one of these crimes.”

Asked whether bollards could be installed outside their stores, Fyfe said they were an option “but they don’t necessarily solve the problem”.

“A ram raid is one way of getting in; smashing the window or outside structure of a building but there’s a number of options.

“First and most importantly you want to increase the probability that the criminal is going to be apprehended. That acts as a significant deterrent.

“Increasing our surveillance systems and so on is a part of that although they are already well developed which is why police have a high success rate.”

As for whether they felt Michael Hill was now a target for criminals, Fyfe said he didn’t and most of the time the stores were one of many being hit in the same proximity.

“No, we don’t get a sense per se that we’re a specific target.

“I don’t have a view of the police success with apprehending and prosecuting those that have [targeted] other stores, but in our case … very few people who commit these crimes get away with it which is why I keep scratching my head as to why people do it when the probability of being caught is so high.

“Typically when these incidents are occurring, often multiple stores are being targeted within a geographic vicinity and not just jewellery stores but stores with product that these thieves believe has some value, so they’re very rarely a single event or single incident.”

Fyfe said he didn’t have an exact percentage about the arrest rate but “I would certainly say the majority”.

“Invariably within 24 hours [police] have already figured out who was involved and are on the trail of both the individual and retrieving the goods, which happens in a number of circumstances.”

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