Armed robbers at Te Awa Shopping Centre, Hamilton. Video / Provided
Armed robbers were seen carrying out an armed robbery in broad daylight at a busy shopping center in Hamilton.
It is the second such incident in Hamilton today after a security guard was injured in another early morning raid on a shopping mall.
A group of at least seven masked thieves were seen smashing windows at Michael Hill Jewelers in The Base, Te Rapa Hamilton around 11.30am, leaving shoppers horrified and workers sobbing.
Police this afternoon appealed to the public for information.
Witnesses and people with video footage of the incident are being asked to come forward, Acting Inspector Michael Henwood said.
“Police are following strong investigative leads, including reviewing CCTV footage to establish the damage done and what was taken,” Henwood said.
“The community can be assured that our staff are working hard to identify offenders and hold them to account.”
“We recognize that this type of offense causes concern and harm in our community and will not be tolerated.”
Information can be provided on 105 or via Crime Stoppers, quoting case number 220925/6221.
A saleswoman in Te Awa, The Base, said she was alerted to the theft when she heard a scream.
“I ran out to have a look and saw seven guys, all dressed in black, snapping while yelling at the girls working,” she said.
She said workers at Michael Hill were shaking and crying, and another mall worker was on the floor shaking after the incident.
The worker said the mall was packed with customers today.
“There are so many people and they have no idea what just happened.
“I heard someone say he had guns and I closed up shop and stayed until we were told to get out.
“It’s just working women, myself and my sales assistant today, so I’m not feeling too comfortable right now, so we might shut up a little earlier just for our own relief.”
The Michael Hill Jewelers is located next to the food court, which was busy with shoppers and diners who watched in concern as the incident unfolded.
Roeland Koridon was sitting in the food court with his family as the group began to make their way through Michael Hill.
“We heard this almighty bang, it was almost like something was exploding,” he said.
Koridon said he saw at least 10 people in the group and some looked as young as 13.
He said an elderly man was hit in the head with a hammer as he ran after the group as they fled.
Koridon said he did not see any blood on the man after the attack.
“The hardest part was that we were with our children,” he said.
“It was so scary because of the fact that there were little children all around.”
The family had just visited the area from Northland. Koridon said they were ready to go home after witnessing the ordeal.
He said his sons were “really scared” and “not in good shape”.
He suggested that jewelry stores be removed from malls and instead become stand-alone stores.
Police have been approached for comment.
Meanwhile, a security guard was injured after being assaulted by a group of robbers who robbed a separate Hamilton shopping center early this morning.
Police said a group broke into shops on Hukanui Rd around 5.45am.
Senior Detective Sergeant Kristine Clarke said the group stole merchandise from several stores before approaching a security guard who was in their vehicle nearby.
“The group approached the vehicle and assaulted the security guard before
leave the scene. The security guard was taken to hospital for an assessment of facial injuries. This is really mean and gratuitous violence directed at the security guard who had not approached or challenged the attackers,” Clarke said.
The thieves would then have left in a golden Nissan Tiida.
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate was unaware of the fracas and seizure of jewelers from Michael Hill at The Base after being approached by the Herald.
“It’s so disappointing to hear, these smashes and grabs get out of control and it breaks my heart every time it happens,” she said.
She said Monday morning she would contact Police Minister Chris Hipkins.
“I will contact the minister again and ask him what his urgent response to these questions is.
“Every time this happens it’s more and more demoralizing for the public in Hamilton and I don’t blame them for feeling anxious and worried. It’s gotten to the point where the government just needs to step in and tell us exactly what he’s going to do to help Hamilton.”
Southgate said he spoke with Hipkins a few weeks ago and shared his concerns for Hamilton.
Combating youth crime was one of its goals as well as determining the amount of money allocated by the government to combat ram raids and smash and grabs that would be distributed by the Hamilton police.
“We still haven’t figured out how much of that money is going to Hamilton and that affects me as well,” she said.