For more than three years, I have been battling to get government recognition of the critical shortage of Police in Auckland.
I have raised it in questions to the Minister, in the Annual Financial Review and Budget estimates debates, and in the media.
Year after year, the response has been denial that there is any problem.
Police Minister Judith Collins has repeatedly said that the Police had adequate resources. Crime, she said, is going down.
Unfortunately for the Minister, the weight of evidence against her position has been growing and will become irresistible.
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Indian retailers have for a long time been complaining that crime and violence have been increasing and statistics back them up. Robberies, burglaries and assaults have been rising across Auckland. There have been 13% more burglaries per year, 12% more robberies and 6.5% more assaults this year than last.
The Police response to growing crime has fallen short of what we need.
People reporting crime and even giving evidence to Police that identifies offenders have too often been told that Police are too busy to help.
Crime resolution figures have steadily been getting worse over the last four years with more than 92% of burglaries across Auckland going unresolved.
In a press statement on the eve of the 2008 General election, John Key promised, and I quote directly, ‘We will boost overall New Zealand Police numbers so there is one officer for every 500 people, and we will keep this ratio as the population grows’ (October 20, 2008).”
In fact, the reverse has happened.
The ratio of police officers to population was 1:486. Today it is 1:504.
According to research done for me by the independent Parliamentary Library, we need 630 additional police officers in Auckland to achieve the ratio promised by the Prime Minister.
Police Association President Inspector Greg O’Connor admits that there is a serious shortage of frontline staff. He attributes rising crime to having too few Police to deter criminals from offending.
This situation simply isn’t good enough. People have the right to feel safe in their homes and businesses and out in the community.
As I move around Auckland meeting thousands of people, I get constant feedback from the public that they want a more effective and better resourced response to crime.
I agree with that absolutely.
Auckland in particular has once again suffered because rapid population growth has not been matched by the resources to cope with it.
Policing is a central, not a local government, responsibility.
However, as Mayor, I will be a strong advocate for our City getting increased Police resources which match our share of the Country’s population and its growth.
Given my track record of campaigning for this in Parliament, central government (led by either Party) will be on notice for what they can expect to hear from the incoming Mayor and Council.
All we want is a fair go.
Phil Goff is a candidate for Auckland Mayoralty.