Jewelry store robbery: Brazen smash-and-grab was ‘actually really dumb’ – expert

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One of the masked thieves holds an ax as he flees from the scene of the robbery through the Te Awa mall.

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One of the masked thieves holds an ax as he flees from the scene of the robbery through the Te Awa mall.

A University of Waikato crime expert says only one firm conclusion can be drawn from an apparent upsurge in brazen violent crime in New Zealand: those who commit the crimes are really stupid.

Professor Devon Polaschek’s analysis follows an incredible broad daylight robbery of a jewelery story in a Hamilton shopping center – an act that unfolded in front of dozens of horrified shoppers, many of whom were accompanied by children.

The group of around eight men took part in the dramatic daylight robbery at Michael Hill in Te Awa, The Base, shortly after 11am on Sunday, jumping over counters and breaking into shop windows with hammers and at least one ax before fleeing with handles of jewels.

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Polaschek, an expert in criminal psychology, security and crime science at the University of Waikato, said the theft set a benchmark.

“Obviously it was an event that broke a number of rules. [The Te Awa raid] took place in daylight and in a well-lit and well-occupied area.

The Te Awa thieves fled the scene, followed by dozens of shoppers exasperated by the brazenness of their actions.

The criminal group was allegedly attacked by shoppers who threw rocks and opened car doors as they tried to escape at the back of the shopping complex.

“Criminals don’t usually take these kinds of extreme risks. It’s fascinating to wonder what their thinking might have been… It’s actually a really stupid thing for a person to do.

“You see, these kinds of crimes are really high risk. You never know who might be there at the time and what they might do in response.

“Ordinary people are often very willing to be stewards of things.”

The jewelry store heist was clearly not carried out by a clever group, she said.

“I read an account that they had to do a three-point turn to get out. It doesn’t seem very well organized to me.

University of Waikato professor Devon Polaschek, an expert in criminal psychology, security and crime science, believes the group behind the Te Awa raid were no geniuses.

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University of Waikato professor Devon Polaschek, an expert in criminal psychology, security and crime science, believes the group behind the Te Awa raid were no geniuses.

The robbery follows two very similar incidents at the Chartwell Mall earlier the same day, in which a security guard was beaten; and a raid last Tuesday at Stewart Dawsons, a jewelery store on the second floor of St Lukes Westfield shopping center in the Auckland suburb of Mt Albert.

In this latest incident, shoppers barricaded themselves in the back room of a nearby Specsavers store as the group of thieves ransacked the jewelry store’s displays.

The raids added to a series of brazen crimes across the country in recent times, including randomly assaulting teenagers by thugs in Christchurch.

But it was hard to say whether that meant crime — particularly violent crime — was increasing without hard police statistics and data, Polaschek said.

24092022 News Photo: Supplied/STUFF Flight to base

MARK TAYLOR/Waikato Times

24092022 News Photo: Supplied/STUFF Flight to base

“There have been some high profile crimes recently. Stabbings in supermarkets and ram raids. Many of them get very good media coverage, which can lead to a really distorted sense of prevalence.

She doubted that similar crimes would necessarily follow.

“The copycat moves would be pretty dumb…even dumber.”

If criminals persisted in participating in such risky activities, they should expect things to go wrong, mainly because New Zealanders generally had a low tolerance for miscreants among them.

“Not putting up with this is really important.”

Fortunately for criminals, New Zealand was not a very well-armed society.

“Of course, with more weapons, it would be a much more dangerous society in general.”

Police have so far arrested and charged one person in connection with the Te Awa raid. The person was one of six people arrested in connection with the incident at St Lukes on Monday night.


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