The audacious ram raids at the Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores in Auckland CBD earlier in the week should remind the government that it's time to take deteriorating law and order seriously.
To say that the law and order situation is deteriorating will be an understatement as the news of ram raids in dairy stores and retail outlets across the country continue to rise unabatedly.
With hushed voices within the community even suggesting that not all incidences of ram-raids are being reported to police, out of a growing fear of attracting more such acts of adventurism or just sheer frustration.
For dairy owners and retailers, life immediately after such boisterous acts of destruction and stealing is already quite stressful and risks several more hours of business loss when the police's forensic teams gather the so-called evidence that seemingly rarely gets used, in the absence of arrests and successful prosecution in courts, is not worth reporting to police.
Despite this perceived less reporting to police of such acts of burglary or retail crime, the latest data on retail criminal offending is outright concerning.
As per the data released by the police under the Official Information Act, on the one hand, the retail offending is increasing while the police is making lesser arrests.
In the first eleven months of 2021, the dairy and convenience store theft were up 30 per cent on 2020 figures, and burglaries were up nearly 20 per cent.
Expectedly, Auckland is leading in this list, with retail offences rising by 25.8 percent, followed by Waikato (19.7 percent) and Christchurch (14.2 percent).
Meanwhile, the fall in the rate of arrests during the same period is around 23 per cent.
The Labour Party had stormed in the government in 2017 with a firm conviction that the current criminal justice system was skewed and dysfunctional and the high incarceration rates were not helpful in reforming or preventing the rate of criminal offending.
It had an overt abnegation towards the three strikes law that was brought by the previous National government, which meant that if someone was caught three times for similar nature of the crime, they would then has to bear the consequences of their actions and be prosecuted. The law is being repealed now by the current government, sighting that there was no clear international or NZ evidence to suggest that the law has reduced serious offending.
At the heart of the government's thinking while repealing that law was the “unfairness of sentences handed down.”
Many in the community, especially those at the forefront of experiencing the spate of retail criminal offending, argue that the “concerns of victims” remain amiss from this government thinking.
They argue that while it is okay for the government to repeal a law that seems to have not worked in preventing repeat offending, it is not okay to repeal a law and not come up with measures that it thinks will eventually reduce the rate of crime.
If high rates of incarceration is not the answer to fixing the systemic issues facing the judicial system, then what is the alternative?
How does the government propose to quell the rising tide of retail crime, that has seen an audacious explosion in the last two years, when the government has been largely seen distracted in managing a global pandemic and the police had been spread out too thin on the ground to make a meaningful impact?
Till now, the stories of ram-raids were less reported from the heart of CBD areas and confined to dairy stores located a bit remotely, thereby reinforcing a perception that there was enough deterrent of law enforcement agencies in those areas.
Now, it seems that that pretence is also being removed and laying bare the government's perceived confusion on how to respond to the rising spate of crime without shedding their ideological baggage.
This government is already appearing as a third term government – tired, jaded and lacking in motivation to act energetically after having exhausted the option of hoping that any emerging issue will automatically self-fix by itself.
The latest decision to change the traffic light system (moving the country into the orange light setting) ahead of the Easter break and school holidays seems to be another decision coming late and without any consistency.
However, the issue of the rising crime-graph cannot be left till late and should not be left with the hope that it will be fixed on its own.
It's time for the govt to take the fast deteriorating law and order situation across the country seriously.