Young crims ‘swamp’ bottle shops as robbery figures spike
PACKS of juveniles "flooding" bottle shops, armed with knives and sharp objects, are believed to be behind a surge in robberies sweeping through Cairns.
Police are set to begin a major operation in a bid to help local bottle shops become tougher targets and protect staff with concerns robbery numbers may rise even further during the virus crisis.
The plan comes two days after six youths allegedly attacked two employees at a Liquorland in Mooroobool before fleeing with a quantity of spirits.
Three of the alleged offenders - a 10-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy and girl - have been charged, with police expecting further arrests.
Far North police Detective Inspector Jason Smith said police would try to work with licensed premises in an effort to curb crime.
"(Detectives will visit) licensed premises and liquor outlets to see what they can do in line with police activity," he said.
"This is not just a police problem."
Crown Hotel and bottle shops general manager Nikki Britain said they had taken swift action in the past week amid security concerns, doubling bottle shop staff, enhancing their security system and boarding up the entrances.
She said the family-owned business, which had bottle shops on Shields and Abbott streets, was desperate to keep its staff and keep them safe.
"We're aware we are going to be a target, all bottle shops are," she said.
"Last week in particular there were a lot more people of concern to us wandering the streets since the pubs are shut.
"It is so important to keep our staff safe."
She said they had also noticed a jump in shoplifting and "snatch-and-grab" type offences in recent weeks.
Robbery offences for Cairns are well up for 2020 compared to the previous year and the figures come just days after restrictions were put on alcohol sales due to COVID-19.
Chief Superintendent Brian Huxley said their greatest concern was employee safety.
"These offenders are arming themselves with sharp implements and knives and going into bottle shops and convenience stores and shoplifting, but this can escalate very quickly to armed robbery if they are challenged," Chief Supt Huxley said.
"We will be discussing (with business owners) ways to prevent employees being at risk of serious injury."
The two employees allegedly assaulted at the Mooroobool store - a 71-year-old man and 52-year-old woman - were either pushed or struck in the face during the attack, but did not sustain serious injury. The store has become a frequent target of hold-ups and thefts in recent months.