Children’s coins cheer Christchurch dairy owner raided twice
Sangeet Mehta considered selling his shop and moving back to India with his family after being robbed three times in a month, but thanks to an outpouring of community support, he is staying put.
The Prebbleton Dairy suffered two raids and a break-in through smashed windows in a month in April and May. Approximately $2,500 worth of items were stolen.
Since then, even children in the small town, on the outskirts of Christchurch, have stepped up to help.
During the raids, Mehta, his wife Falguni and 16-month-old son Vyom were awakened by frightening noises as glass shattered everywhere, just meters from where they slept.
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“I was right behind that wall, my house is there, I can see it through the cameras, everything, but I can’t do anything because there are three people, four people inside.”
Focused on keeping his family safe ever since, he recently spent thousands of dollars installing bollards as well as steel barriers across the windows and door.
“I don’t want to take any more risks.
The damage to the store was covered by insurance, but by the third time it ran the risk of no longer being covered, he said.
He and his wife thought about packing their bags, selling the shop and “getting out of here” back to India where they came from, Mehta said. “[It] damaged our mentality.
However, he was overwhelmed with the support of the local community who helped him “up” and stay put, supporting him “in so many ways”, he said.
Financial help came from a multi-day fundraiser organized by nearby Prebbleton School. He raised about $1,100 in donations of gold coins to repair his storefront.
The moral support and thought behind it was what helped the most, he said.
He ushered five-year-olds into the store, handing him 20-cent coins, saying, “You can keep that for your door.”
“Twenty cents is $2 million to me,” Mehta said. “They are next to me, it’s important.”
The bollards were installed by a local builder and regular customer who charged him only the material costs for the first three, installed shortly after the raids.
Five more have since been installed and Mehta next plans to put in place the steel bars he was recently quoted for at around $4,500.
The bollards brought “some relief”, but the fear of it happening again is still in his mind.
Even months later, the slightest noise wakes Mehta and his wife in the middle of the night, and they rush to the cameras to check out the store.
In June, a 13-year-old boy admitted to being involved in four dairy burglaries, including a few raids. Three of the burglaries took place at the Prebbleton Dairy. The teenager also said he stole more than 10 cars and had 17 stolen car ignitions hidden in a drawer in his bedroom.
Mehta said he felt frustrated that the consequences seemed insufficient to deter young people, and he felt the only ones to be punished were himself and his family.
“I’m a little relaxed now…but it’s still hard to get him out of my mind.”