No one can deny that the method of the criminal is changing and number of crimes is increasing. There are many reasons given for this, but all the information I have seen points to the rise in the use of methamphetamine as a major factor.
The Police admit that the price of meth is as low as it has ever been and, despite a number of recent seizures, the volume into our communities continues to flow at record rates.
In a business case to the National Government’s Cabinet in December 2016, the Police themselves stated that they needed 1165 more sworn officers at a cost of $555 million over four years to ‘change the trajectory of rising crime.’
Instead they have been only been given 880 new sworn officers and $388 million over four years; a number that the Police stated would provide ‘limited additional crime prevention capacity.’
The Police have also recently announced a $1.8 million fund to help dairy owners pay for security measures that might keep them safe from the robbers who have terrorised the sector over the past 12 or so months.
I am not against such a fund if it would help dairy owners, their families and employees feel safe, but I see it as an admission by the Police that they can no longer keep dairy owners safe.
This is a terrible admission, because dairies with grills, perplex screens and duress alarms is not the New Zealand in which I grew up and certainly not the country I think we hold up as Paradise. Another long-term and pragmatic solution is actually more Police in our communities.
I am a huge advocate of Community Policing. This definition is one that, as Police Minister, I would love the opportunity to implement across the country
“Community policing is, in essence, a collaboration between the Police and the community that identifies and solves community problems. With the Police no longer the sole guardians of law and order, all members of the community become active allies in the effort to enhance the safety and quality of neighbourhoods.
Community policing has far-reaching implications.
“The expanded outlook on crime control and prevention, the new emphasis on making community members active participants in the process of problem solving, and the patrol officers’ pivotal role in community policing require profound changes within the Police organisation. The neighbourhood patrol officer, backed by the Police organisation, helps community members mobilize support and resources to solve problems and enhance their quality of life. Community members voice their concerns, contribute advice, and take action to address these concerns. Creating a constructive partnership will require the energy, creativity, understanding, and patience of all involved.
Foundation of Trust
“Reinvigorating communities is essential if we are to deter crime and create more vital neighbourhoods. In some communities, it will take time to break down barriers of apathy and mistrust so that meaningful partnerships can be forged. Trust is the value that underlies and links the components of community partnership and problem solving. A foundation of trust will allow the Police to form close relationships with the community that will produce solid achievements. Without trust between Police and citizens, effective policing is impossible”
So, my message is that hiding behind grills and setting off duress alarms while officers are dispatched from a distant station is not the answer to 21st century problems that bedevil our communities.
Labour has promised 1000 more sworn officers during our first term, thus meeting the Police’s request for the resources to substantially deal with crime and criminals.
As Police Minister, I would advise the Commissioner of Police to concentrate on developing a wide and robust community policing network permanently located in our shopping centres and areas of concern, as well as significantly increasing the number of officers in the Organised Crime Squads; whose primary responsibility is to go after the gangs.
Fresh approach needed
What the Government is currently doing to keep people safe and communities engaged is simply not working, and we need a fresh approach in the way policing engages with our communities.
As Police Minister in the Andrew Little-led Government, this would be my number one priority.
Stuart Nash is elected Member of Parliament from Napier and Labour Party’s Spokesman on Police matters.