Despite what the current government tries to tell us, we are in the middle of a crime epidemic. The particularly worrying trend is the change in violent crime. The attacks get more vicious and the offenders are getting younger. This shift is not only having a devastating impact on our community now, but it will only get worse as these offenders get older. 

The New Zealand Police have done a fantastic job keeping us and our communities safe. However, the National government has starved them of resources. As police numbers have stayed stagnant, the amount of work each officer has to do has been steadily increasing. It has got to a point where they just don’t have enough hours in the day to get their job done. Offenders have realised this, they know they can rob a dairy and most likely get away with it. It starts with just minor shop lifting, they get away with it. Next time they just fill up a basket and walk out, they still get away with it. And before you know it they are armed with weapons, demanding cash and cigarettes. 

There are underlying causes of crime that will need to be addressed by the next government. Many of these can be traced back to the growing inequality in this country and massive increases in poverty. However, in the short term, there also needs to be changes made to keep the communities safe while these broader issues are addressed. 

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of incarceration per 100,000 population in the world. We are only behind the America in the developed world. This increasing prison population and rising crime rate shows it isn’t the solution. We can’t arrest and imprison our way out of a crime epidemic. There are instances where stronger deterrents have shown to be effective. For instance, Western Australia introduced mandatory sentencing guidelines for assaults against police officers, and as a result they have seen instances of front line officers being attacked tumble dramatically. 

The best way to curb the rising crime rate is to give NZ Police the resources to build stronger ties with the community they operate in. The National Party has announced an extra 880 police. However, they won’t make any meaningful change to the force. The police are currently so understaffed that these extra police won’t even account for population growth by the time they are all on duty in 2020. 

Announcing extra police in an election year is a vote-grabbing stunt that comes at the expense of the safety of the community. Our Police need the resources and policy guidance to be able to react to changing trends that have an impact on their ability to do their jobs. Police should be able to recruit based on changes in the New Zealand population and not just for churn. As a country, we shouldn’t make them come begging every election year. We need to do better, for us. 

Of the policies announced by the other parties thus far there has been little by way of concrete solutions or meaningful change that would make our communities safer. It is time for a shake up, not just more tinkering around the edges. Next week the New Zealand People’s Party will be announcing their law and order policy. We have worked hard to formulate a policy that addresses the immediate needs and safety of the community but also make substantial changes that will address issues around youth crime, high reoffending rates and rehabilitation. 

This year is your chance to stand up and say enough is enough. We will make your community safer for everyone, today and tomorrow.