What are the lessons that we can learn from the death of Arun Kumar?
The day after he was killed (June 10) in his Henderson dairy, I went with my colleagues Dr Rajen Prasad and Phil Twyford to express our condolences to Arun Kumar’s family.
Any words we could express seemed inadequate in the face of their tragedy. A wife who has seen her husband die in front of her, an elderly father who had lost his son and two children whose own children would never have the grandfather to care for them as they grew up.
There is no penalty that can be imposed on the offender that can change this situation.
We need tougher measures in place to prevent crime in the first place. All that we can hope for is that we can learn from this tragedy lessons that can help prevent such crimes happening again and again.
A week before Arun’s tragic death, I expressed in a press statement my concern that too often ethnic communities working in retail and service businesses were on the front line of crime.
I warned that if the Government kept cutting the budget for police in real terms that we would invite more crime by lowering the risk to criminals that they would be caught.
It was, I said, no consolation to people who daily were victims of crime to be told by the Government that crime overall was coming down. Indeed, the Police, in April this year, published a report that there was a drop of 16,000 in the number of crimes but that still left 360,000 crimes in which New Zealanders were victims.
Five budgets in a row where each year funding for our police has been cut in real terms is not good enough. Nor is it good enough that police numbers have been cut in recent years and community police stations been closed.
In Henderson, other shopkeepers told us that they wanted a Community Police Station and a more visible police presence in the shopping centre. They also told us that out-of-control young children have been a problem in the community for a long time, children who beat up other young people, shoplifted, pestered the public for money and painted graffiti.
The alleged offender in Arun Kumar’s case is 13 years old.
It raises a lot of questions. Was he and the other offender attending school regularly, if not where was the truancy service? If his parents were themselves offenders, what was being done to try to lead him down a different path? Why are young people able to become petty offenders without enough being done to stop them progressing to more serious crimes as in this case?
We need answers to these questions and remedies put in place so that Arun Kumar’s death is not in vain.
Phil Goff is elected Member of Parliament from Mt Roskill and Labour Party Spokesperson for Ethnic Affairs. Phone (04) 8176775 or 021-461476