While the government is getting an all round pat on its back for successfully walking a tightrope between fiscal conservatism and an urge for splurging in the social sector in this election year, it is important to explore if the budget has anything to offer for crime prevention – a policy area that has some serious impact on our communities.
In total, the government has committed to invest $2b in law and order over a period of four years.
Law and order is a comprehensive area that covers issues relating to corrections, courts, criminal law, police, white collar offending and serious fraud and involves three different ministers working together to achieve a favourable outcome for communities.
Further to this, if the government tends to relate law and order issues holistically along with social policies (which both National and Labour do in New Zealand), other ministries also become involved in overall law and order management.
However, for most in the Kiwi-Indian communities, especially retailers and small business owners who are at the forefront of facing assaults and aggravated robberies, there may be less appetite for knowing about any hike in the social sector, even when there is no denying that social investments do make significant impact on the overall law and order situation.
Against this backdrop, there are a few significant commitments in this budget that will affect the crime prevention situation.
First is the extra investment in Budget 2017 that includes the $503.8 million Safer Communities Package, which was announced earlier this year. This will add an additional 1,125 police staff.
This policy is already a work in progress, and most in the communities experiencing a spurt in crime such as burglary and aggravated robberies will again have less appetite to accept as a significant departure from government’s stated position on the perceived rise in crime.
It is the second investment – the promise of $46.9m to reduce burglary and youth offending that is of some significance and potentially has a direct impact on the incidences of crime in our communities.
Although this funding is part of the Government’s Social Investment Package of $321 million, it is more targeted and focused in its objective.
It includes a new $32.9 million initiative to boost Government’s efforts to prevent and reduce the number of burglaries.
“We want to reduce the risk of hardworking New Zealanders being burgled. The initiative will target burglars under the age of 25, because this group has a high risk of committing more crime long-term, with a predicted 15,300 more burglaries and other offences over the next 30 years,” Justice Minister Amy Adams and Associate Justice Minister Mark Mitchell said.
Nothing written above so far in this piece undermines the need for some innovative operational measures and a supporting legal framework to deter criminal offenders from offending and assaulting almost at will.
However, this budgetary response of $46.9m to reduce burglary and youth offending is still appreciable as it directly offers to ameliorate the rising crime situation that affects so many in our communities.