Where have all the ram raids gone?

“The last time they came right through the wall,” says dairy owner Ravinder Singh.

Speaking from the office at the back of his Pukekohe shop, where he keeps a keen eye over 20 security cameras, Singh tentatively welcomes news that the number of ram raids nationally has dropped off in recent months.

So too, have the headlines about them. For a while, ram raids were a daily fixture on the homepage of some New Zealand news sites. Now a Google search only delivers a handful of recent results.

The most recent police statistics released this week showed 154 fewer between January and October in 2023, than during the same time last year.

Singh, whose shop was last hit on Anzac Day, hopes the trend continues and isn’t just an anomaly that will revert to what it was previously.

He said he and other dairy owners had become so used to being targeted, they’d started to see it as part of their job to put up with it, which he said was “unacceptable”.

“It’s about the right to do your job in safety,” he said.

And at the end of last year, there wasn’t much of an end in sight, as ram raids jumped to more than 700 nationally, up from 412 in 2021 and 140 in 2020.

It should be noted that the numbers are only indicative, and won’t pick up every incident as there is no officially designated ram raid crime, so it can’t be tracked with complete accuracy by police systems.

Instead, police conduct a text search of incident reports looking for the words “ram raid” and use those to build their data set.

The numbers are still useful and show that since June this year, the numbers have begun to drop off, which coincides with changes to the police’s Fleeing Driver Framework giving them greater leeway to enter into a pursuit.

But Dairy and Business Owners Group chairman Sunny Kaushal said he is tentative about the downturn.

He wants to see the trend continue for a bit longer before he is ready to believe a corner has been turned.

He said the numbers could also be skewed by shop owners’ reluctance to report some break-ins, as it would affect insurance premiums or even their ability to get insurance.

He couldn’t put the seeming downturn down to a specific factor and said he hoped the incoming government would take a harder line on youth crime.

Police have been tackling the issue on a number of other fronts, including working with families of young offenders and support agencies.

“Police recognises that in order to prevent further offending, we need to work in a collaborative way to address the underlying causes of youth offending,” a police spokesperson said.

Since December 2022, there have been 441 referrals through a new fast track programme for 309 young people – and 76% of those children and young people have not been referred again, the spokesperson said.

There is also a proposed amendment to the Crimes Act which would designate ram raids as a crime, giving police the ability to charge offenders as young as 12.

Some of the offending was thought to be driven by social media, with offenders sharing videos and streaming their break-ins. Because of that, police have been working with social media companies to have such videos taken down before they can be widely disseminated.

Police have also been dishing out funding to shop owners affected by ram raids or aggravated robberies, so that they can install security measures like alarms, bollards, fog cannons and strobe lighting, as part of the Retail Crime Prevention Programme.

So far, 735 stores have had security installations completed, one of those being Singh’s Pukekohe business, which had fog cannons installed that he said saved his employees at least twice.

“It’s good that it’s declining,” Singh said, adding we’d need to go back to him in another year for his comment on whether the solutions were truly working.