Actions, not statistics ensure community safety

Mark Thomas – Mark Thomas

Almost 50% of Asian and Indian families in Auckland do not feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods at night.

This was the worrying finding of the latest Families Report produced by the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit.

Yet, Mayor Len Brown’s ‘Auckland Plan’ has the goal of improving community safety and the feeling of being safe. The Plan has a target to reduce the rate of total criminal offences per 10,000 population from 939 in 2010 to 800 in 2040.

Interestingly, this 30-year target was actually achieved by 2014 and it improved again by 2015 – despite half of Auckland Asian/Indian families feeling unsafe.

Wrong measures

This shows that the current Auckland Plan is not measuring the right things and that is something I will change if you elect me as Mayor of Auckland this October.

Interestingly, despite this progress in reduced criminal offending – my mayoral opponent Labour MP Phil Goff regularly criticises the government and the Police for what he thinks is a lack of their commitment to fighting crime.

I was disappointed to read his recent criticism of the Police. I think the New Zealand Police do a very difficult job well. Like all large organisations, there are always times when things do not go as they should but just criticising is not effective.

We need to work more effectively together and that has been my approach as an elected member of Auckland Council.

Town Centres speak

Also, I am not campaigning to be Minister of Police, I want to be Mayor of Auckland.

So I recently held a meeting on crime and security with town centre managers from south Auckland to discuss what they need the next Mayor to fix.

Town centres are an important part of the Auckland’s neighbourhoods.

We have 50 of them across Auckland that fund themselves via an Auckland Council targeted rate policy – but there are many other informal associations.

In my current Auckland Council role as a local board Deputy Chair, I have served on the board of my local central Auckland business association and worked closely with several others over the last six years.

Town centres, often working closely with residents; associations or neighbourhood groups, can play a vital role in improving community safety.

There are a range of tools available which council can support – but what was clear from my meeting is that the Council is not making it easy enough for town centres to always access the support they need.

These tools include such things as CCTV monitoring systems and volunteer community patrols as well as targeted street lighting and alarm systems. Crime prevention through environmental design or CPTED is another key approach council uses when assessing how to improve safety in a location, or when planning new public works.

Neighbourhood Watch

A number of local boards also work closely with Neighbourhood Watch and my board regularly holds these briefing and information sessions.

I have also attended meetings of the City Centre Taskforce on Alcohol and Safety which Councillor George Wood convenes. This combines police, local board and councillors, residents, business association reps and other key local stakeholders to keep an eye on trouble spots and coordinate new activity. This Taskforce approach can be valuable and I will establish this in other areas in Auckland.

The town centre managers do not always feel well supported by council and that is something I can change.

Rather than criticise the government for what it is doing, I know from my experience and what those at the coal face tell me that there is more the next Mayor of Auckland can do to help people feel safer.

Providing greater access to some of these tangible tools will be at the heart of my approach.

Mark Thomas is a candidate for the Auckland Mayoralty.

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