Attacks on retailers tear our moral fibre

Michael Wood – 

When I gave my Maiden Speech in Parliament on February 8, 2017, I spoke about my core values.

Amongst these was a belief that every single person in our society deserves the right to live a dignified life in which they can reach their full potential.

On that basis, one must view the recent spate of violent assaults on shopkeepers around Auckland as an assault on common decency.

The people who run these small businesses are just going about their daily business; working hard and trying to provide for their families.

The hours are long and often the migrant families in these businesses have built up everything they have from scratch.

Violence in Mt Roskill

In my own electorate of Mt Roskill, we have suffered a spate of violent attacks over the past six months, including the recent robbery of the Crown Superette on Melrose Road.

The couple who operate the store were set upon with a baseball bat and crowbar, sustaining injuries that required extensive surgery for one of the victims.

The shop is situated between my house in Roskill South and my office in Three Kings, and its shuttered shopfront is an everyday reminder of the terrible events that happened there on the morning of Sunday, March 12, 2017.

Along with others in the community, I have been assisting the victims of the Crown Superette robbery as they try to recover and get on with life.

The question remains however, “What do we do as a community now?”

Action is required and I believe that the following should be prioritised:

More Police in the community

Our Police do a good job, but they have been under-resourced for too long.

With a lack of resourcing, a strong grassroots presence has fallen away. When was the last time you saw Police on foot checking things out along the main street?

I strongly believe that an active Police presence at the community level can make our communities safer by deterring crime, and then providing a faster response when something happens. Well trained Police will be able to spot suspicious behaviour before it escalates into a criminal offence, and their mere presence will put potential offenders off.

Along with many people in Mt Roskill, I was angered when our local Police Station was closed some years ago. The same thing has happened in many other local centres.

Let us get our Community Police kiosks open again and get their visible presence on our streets. This is exactly what Labour’s policy of 1000 new community-based Police officers will deliver.

Tackling the root causes of crime

Let us be clear about this. When young teenagers attack local shopkeepers, something has gone wrong in our society. This is not normal behaviour. As well as taking decisive action after an offence, we have to make changes to ensure that the cycle does not repeat again and again.

I will put good money on the fact that many of the young people involved in the recent attack were not in school and come from homes in which respect and empathy for others have not been taught in the way we would expect.

There is not a simple answer to this kind of social breakdown, but we need real investment at the top of the cliff in our education system, truancy services, and social workers. In addition, all evidence tells us that a more stable and equal society will be safer for everyone.

None of this takes away from the responsibility of young offenders if they engage in violent behaviour. There needs to be real accountability for their actions.

Where necessary, sadly, young offenders who pose a risk to community safety need to be kept away from society in youth justice facilities until we can be confident that they will not offend again.

Better support for victims

In the wake of the Crown Superette robbery, I was surprised by a lack of support for victims of crime. If a small business has to close down for a period in the aftermath of a robbery, the effects can be disastrous with bills continuing to come but no income.

Government agencies such as WINZ and ACC seem to move at a sedate bureaucratic pace when urgent assistance is required.

Along with other MPs, I will provide support to victims of crime to help them get the services they need, but I think that we need a more systematic approach.

I am currently investigating measures that we could implement to ensure that government agencies provide a swift and compassionate response to victims of crime.

Every person deserves to feel safe in their home, on the street, and at work.

There is no single silver-bullet, and any politician who struts about spouting slogans about this issue is treating you with contempt.

Instead, let us work together as a community now for serious and integrated policy solutions that will give people the safety they deserve.

Michel Wood is elected Member of Parliament from Mt Roskill in Auckland and Labour Party’s Spokesman for Ethnic Communities, Consumer Affairs and Revenue.

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