Being safe in our homes and communities IS the minimum that we should be able to expect in New Zealand.
But under National, even that is under threat.
For years, National has under-funded Police, and crime is rising.
Since National came to office, population growth and inflation have added a combined 25% to Police costs but Police funding has risen by just 14%.
There are Police available. When National came to power there was an officer for every 488 people. Now there are only one for every 528 people.
Worse, Community Police stations have closed.
In my area, St Lukes, Pt Chev and Mt Albert each has lost their community constables through Police restructuring.
They call it ‘streamlining’ but each of those neighbourhoods has experienced it as a serious loss.
Community constables know their local areas, understand the problems and characters involved, and because of that they can be strategic and targeted in the use of their time.
Now they are gone, centralised into a nameless grouping miles away; that is supposed to be more efficient but the faces keep changing and the numbers keep dropping, when they should be increasing.
Stress is telling
Thus, victims of crime in my neighbourhood now sometimes ask me to phone the Police for them – to hurry them along.
Our Police officers do the best job they can, but their caseloads are too big and their stations are understaffed, and hence fundamentals like response times and crime resolution are starting to show cracks.
The result of all this has been a massive increase in crime: burglaries are up 32% since August 2014 – that is an extra 50 burglaries every day.
Assaults are up 8% and thefts up 3%, while robberies are up a staggering 66%.
Despite promises of a ‘War on P,’ the drug has become cheaper and more readily available.
The resolution rate for crimes is falling too. Just one in twenty burglaries is now solved and the offender taken to court. Police are stretched too thin to stop crime and catch criminals because National hasn’t given them the funds to do the job.
While a rise in crime is unsettling for New Zealand families, it’s also very expensive.
Last fortnight, the National government announced that it will spend $1 billion adding another 1800 beds to prisons.
The prison population is forecast to reach 10,000 by 2017 and Corrections is looking to recruit 600 new prison officers by next September.
Spending that much on prisons shows how badly we are falling short.
Even our Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has called it evidence of moral and fiscal failure.
After years of underfunding and neglect of our excellent Police force, crime is getting out of control in New Zealand, and there is now a lot of catching up to do.
The National government needs to make a priority of keeping New Zealanders safe, and take a good hard look at the causes of crime.
David Shearer is an elected Member of Parliament from Mt Albert in Auckland and Labour Party’s spokesman for Foreign Affairs.