It saddens me that many of our small business owners dread getting up in the morning and going to work.
Small businesses such as dairies and service stations offer backbone services to our neighbourhoods.
Owners and their workers have a right to go to work in the knowledge they will be safe from violence, intimidation and robbery.
My colleagues and I have been coordinating Law and Order meetings and supporting calls from the Indian community for an immediate focus on safety.
I have also marched with my constituents to draw attention to the hazards they face simply going to work every day.
Despite protests, petitions and media exposure, we continue to see increases in violent crimes of this kind against small retailers.
In the past year, robberies are up 43% in Waitemata, 24% in Auckland City, and 18% in Counties Manukau.
From 2015 to 2016, Counties Manukau West area (Otahuhu, Mangere, Middlemore, Papatoetoe) saw a 29% increase in “acts intended to cause injury” – four times higher than the national rate.
Over the same period, the Counties Manukau East area (Howick, Otara, Beachlands) saw 44.4% increase in robberies, two times higher than the national rate.
We must ask why this Government is allowing these crime rates to keep rising?
Why are they leaving hardworking business owners and shopkeepers alone on the frontlines of a crime spike?
Have they given the Police the resources and the staff they need to keep our communities safe? Well, there has been some response.
But I believe it is too little.
Police received less than three-quarters of what they asked for in this year’s budget. Instead of well-resourced community policing, which we know works – keeping our communities safer – the plan is to put our dairy owners behind bars. This is what allocating some money to put up grills and install duress alarms really means.
Of course, I support these measures if they will increase security but this is not the New Zealand in which I want my children to grow. This support for increased security in shops and service stations must be temporary. The real solution is to attack the root causes of crime in society and to increase policing.
Local leaders in South Auckland have started a campaign to cut the market for cheap cigarettes and alcohol that is the proceeds of these robberies.
If community members refuse to buy these proceeds of crime and report people who offer them for sale, the crimes become less attractive.
It is imperative that your Government listens to you when times are tough, when housing is not affordable and unhealthy, when workplaces are not safe, and when disorder is increasing.
Labour has listened to the community and to the Police and we promise 1000 more sworn officers in our first three years in government plus the resources that they need to perform well and to make our communities safer.
For nine years, National has failed to sufficiently support essential services across health, education and, now, Police.
It is time for a fresh approach.
Labour has a plan which means working in partnership with the Police to urgently tackle the increasing numbers of assaults, sexual assaults, burglaries, robberies, as well as methamphetamine supply. We would put people first and Community Policing would be a priority.
Jenny Salesa is the elected Member of Parliament for Manukau East and Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Skills & Training; Associate Health, Education and Employment.