Armed robbers target convenience stores

Violent robberies at convenience stores are on the rise as criminals target lucrative cigarettes.Hefty commonwealth taxes on tobacco products have been blamed for violent armed robberies at convenience stores, while the Victorian government has been urged to impose harsher jail terms on offenders.

The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores has linked the shooting of a shop worker in a botched robbery in Melbourne early on Wednesday to increasing federal government taxes on tobacco.

AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said the (federal) government had turned a minor product into a valuable commodity.

“Tobacco has become a very valuable commodity; tobacco first then cash. If it was not taxed so highly, it would not be so attractive to violent robbers,” Mr Rogut told AAP.

He said tobacco thefts were occurring every day of the week, with some netting up to $40,000 worth of product.

He called for the federal government to end to regular excise increases on legal tobacco products “to wrestle control back from the criminals involved in black market trade” and better protect small businesses from targeted attacks.

“The enormous excise payable by consumers when they purchase legal tobacco has made illicit tobacco a highly attractive option for people facing increasing cost-of-living pressure,” Mr Rogut said.

The association also wants Victoria to adopt zero-tolerance towards “degenerates” and increase jail time for violent offenders.

“We’re supposed to be relieved when these violent robberies don’t result in injuries even more dramatic, traumatic or even fatal,” Mr Rogut said.

“When these criminals are found, we, like all Victorians, demand they are punished with the full force of the law. We want them tried as violent criminals and we want them locked up for a very long time.”

He said he had “no sympathy” for offenders whose victims were ordinary people going about their lives trying to earn a living, adding that illicit tobacco was fuelling criminal activity.

The gunman involved in the failed robbery on the Springvale South convenience store remains at large, and police believe it is linked to an earlier attempt nearby.

The offender had a gun and demanded cash from the shop worker who was shot when he tried to lock himself in a storeroom behind the counter.

The 40-year-old victim was later taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Police are investigating connections to an earlier attempted armed robbery at a nearby service station in which an armed man escaped empty-handed after demanding money from staff.

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