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AACS calls for tougher penalties for tobacco related robberies

convenience storeSeveral convenience stores around the country have recently been the target of aggressive tobacco related robberies, according to the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS).

The group is urging the government to enforce tougher penalties for those behind the crimes.

AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said, “The seemingly endless string of violent and aggressive robberies targeting convenience stores in Victoria, and in almost every case focused on tobacco, requires proper consideration from government, the judiciary and law enforcement authorities.”

“Criminal gangs are enjoying obscene profits from the sale of illicit or illegal tobacco and the fact these robberies typically single out tobacco products can no longer be ignored. Victoria Police can do only so much in seeking to apprehend these criminals when an incident occurs, but we need to look at preventative measures as well. There’s no question that Australia is seen as one of the world’s most lucrative markets for illicit tobacco and the gangs in Victoria especially are proving savvy to this sad state of affairs.”

On Thursday, AAP reported another armed robbery at Windale, NSW in which two men targeted a 24-hour service station on Lake Street. The 22-year-old console operator locked himself in a store room while the men stole cigarettes and food.

Rogut said implementing a moratorium on all future legal tobacco excise increases is vital in tackling the sale of illicit tobacco.

“Every time the price of legal tobacco rises, criminals who sell illegal products cash in. It must stop,” he said.

Moreover, AACS boss Rogut has applauded the Victoria Police for recently changing the policy of investigating every petrol theft crime in the area.

“The change in policy acknowledges the serious nature of petrol theft and as an industry we’re committed to working with Police to ensure offenders are brought to justice,” said Rogut. “However, this is just one stream of criminal offence convenience store owners and operators are routinely falling victim to as the state’s crime crisis spirals out of control. The people in our industry deserve to feel safe when they go to work and this means a coordinated effort to curb the illicit tobacco market, starting with the regulatory environment responsible for the spike in demand for illegal products.”

The AACS boss challenged the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews last January after the Victorian Police commissioner Graham Ashton declared there was no crime crisis in Victoria.

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