An Auckland Chinese mother says she no longer feels safe in the city after her handbag was snatched from her lap in Newmarket while she sat in a parked car.
Julia Chen (not her real name), who is in her 30s, was sitting in the front passenger seat with her two children, aged 1 and 2, sleeping in the back seat when a man opened the driver‘s door and grabbed her handbag strap.
Chen said the incident, which happened on Teed St last summer on a Sunday afternoon, had left her shaken.
“I don‘t feel safe anymore in Auckland. Now I am terrified and wary of strangers everywhere I go.”
Auckland‘s ethnic communities have identified crime and safety as their biggest concern, and Auckland Council is organising a public meeting next Monday asking them for ideas on how to make the city safer.
Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel chair Sunil Kaushal said the meeting, to be held at the Council Chambers in Henderson, would discuss what these communities believed was a growing problem.
In 2016, more than 6 in 10 of 8500 Chinese who responded to an online survey said they felt unsafe in New Zealand. About 92 per cent also said they were not satisfied with the anti-crime response by authorities.
Police are warning of handbag snatchers targeting Asian women, but Kaushal said many taxi drivers, dairy owners and small ethnic business operators were also feeling vulnerable.
Many shop owners and operators were living in fear as aggravated robberies increased, with 2316 recorded across New Zealand between last January and October.
Of those, 1047 were robberies in retail business sector – which includes dairies, liquor stores and petrol stations.
In June, two people were stabbed during an armed robbery at a Grey Lynn dairy.
Kaushal said people in the communities identified crime and safety as their biggest concern during public feedback sessions in March.
“They wanted the council to make crime and safety as its top priority for them,” Kaushal said.
“This was ahead of concerns about Auckland‘s clean and green image and wanting to see more diversity and inclusion.”
Next week‘s meeting would focus on public safety and be attended by police and other council representatives.
“We are seeking ideas from people in the communities on making Auckland safer and we will present them to council for implementation into its wider strategy,” Kaushal said.
He said the panel advised the council on how to engage more effectively with ethnic communities, among other things.
Dr Andrew Zhu, the researcher behind the 2016 Chinese survey, said a spike in crime against ethnic communities was “both perception and reality”.
“When crime happens they are widely shared in social media and microblogging sites that these specific communities use, so the perception can be worse than reality,” Zhu said.
“But it is also a reality that you can no longer leave your homes unlocked, and Asian people are having their handbags snatched on public streets.”
These have created a sense of “real fear” in the community, which could get worse if it is not adequately addressed by local authorities.
“From the survey, we found a vast majority of Chinese are not happy with the response to crime by officials,” Zhu said.
“Having a meeting is a good first step, but it is critical that the council takes some firm action from the ideas and not just treat it like another talkfest.”
Police Asian liaison officer Jessica Phuang is encouraging people to attend the Safer Auckland meeting to make their voices heard.
She asked people to make it a habit to lock car doors as soon as they got into their cars – and to never leave bags in cars.
“Even though there is nothing valuable in a bag … perpetrators will think there are valuables and will break into your car,” she said.
“Put them in the boot.”
• A Safer Auckland, Monday Aug 20, 6-8pm, Council Chambers, level 2, 6 Henderson Valley Rd, Henderson