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A Lamentation

Retail violence reflects the descent into incivility of criminals and consumers alike

CCTV User Group Comment: Despite this being an article written for a society (New Zealand) many thousands of miles away from the UK, it resonates here too and is worthy of sharing.

For many, violent retail crime is part of the normal day in the public spaces for which they have responsibility to monitor using their CCTV cameras. Clearly this is an issue seen across the USA where stores are stripped of their stock by rampaging mobs leaving security guards nd law abiding customers seemingly powerless to intervene.

How many of you have also witnessed the decline in behaviour of normal people across towns and cities across the UK?

Once again, many thanks to Nicholas Dynon, Chief Editor of Line of Duty Magazine for sharing this article with us.


"Is violent retail crime trending up in Aotearoa? Yes it is. But so is retail customer initiated violence. We’re shopping more violently and we’re shoplifting more violently in the public squares of the 21st century", writes Nicholas Dynon.

I came across a word the other day that I didn’t recognise: ‘jeremiad’. For a wordsmith like me, not knowing the meaning of a word can be intolerable, so I looked it up. A jeremiad, Wikipedia told me, is a “long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in verse, in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of society’s imminent downfall.”

I instantly liked this new word, and immediately turned my mind to the exciting – if not self-indulgent challenge of how I might make myself look intellectual by dropping it into an upcoming article. The topic of spiralling out-of-control retail crime in New Zealand presented a possible fit.

Media and political commentators tell us that we’re being subjected to increasingly brazen and violent retail thefts – smash-and- grabs and ram-raids in particular. Crime statistics are providing metrics that justify the hysteria.

Could this proliferation of violent thefts by gangs of youths who possess a flagrant disregard for lives, livelihoods, laws and school attendance and a penchant for posting postcoital ‘theft porn’ provide me with the content to justify a jeremiadic rant?

Could I denounce all of society for its wickedness and prophesise its downfall based on the hormone and inflation-fuelled acts of these young criminals alone? Surely not. What about the rest of us good folk, the law abiding consumers who are happy paying for the stuff we want?

I didn’t ruminate on that question for too long before debunking my assumption around “happy” consumers. Customer- initiated violence, aggression and anti-social behaviour is retailers are telling us – at unprecedented levels far exceeding pre-COVID. If violent thieves stealing their goods isn’t bad enough, retail staff are being subjected daily to verbal and physical abuse by a continuous flotsam of self- righteously aggressive customers.

The operators and staff of shopping malls, strip malls and dairies [ a NZ term for a corner shop] across New Zealand have become the new punching bags of an increasingly pugnacious, perfunctory and polarised society. Bruised and bloodied, they stand fast behind their counters as their fellow citizens beat a retreat from civility and descend one ram-raid, one racial slur at a time into modern-day barbarism.

It’s not just the criminals, it’s all of us.

Download PDF • 240KB

About the author: Nicholas Dynon is chief editor of Line of Defence Magazine, and a widely published commentator on New Zealand’s defence, national security and private security sectors.


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