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Labour promises more frontline police, will explore making stalking a crime

Labour leader Chris Hipkins is promising to add another 300 frontline police, and expand the use of mental health officers to respond to callouts, if elected.



Labour leader Chris Hipkins is promising to add another 300 frontline police, and expand the use of mental health officers to respond to callouts, if elected.

He said Labour would also explore making "stalking" a crime, in line with similar laws in Australia and the UK which have penalties of up to three years in prison, and more for aggravating factors.

Hipkins made the announcement after a visit to the Chamber of Commerce and the city council's crime-camera control room in Hamilton on Thursday.

He said the 300 new officers would be constables with full arrest powers, and would be a net increase over and above any attrition rates - making for the highest ratio of police to population in modern history.

It means people would see police on the beat more and police will have more resources to deal with crime when it arises, Hipkins said.

Police had been doing a great job on youth offending and cracking down on gang activities, he said.

The increase in police staffing was expected to cost $124 million over four years, with numbers ramping up over that time: 50 new officers in the first year ($9m), 75 in each of the second and third ($23m and $37m), and 100 more in the fourth financial year 2027/28 ($55m).

The party's policy said 10 percent of all 111 calls were for people in mental distress - equating to over 6000 officer hours in May 2023 alone - despite such events often having little effect on crime or public safety.

It promised to free up police time by ensuring a multi-agency response in every district including a mental health professional able to respond to callouts alongside ambulance and police.

However, this was not expected to be fully in operation for five years.

Hipkins said the increase in police staffing would mean one officer for every 470 New Zealanders.

This will be a huge improvement on the one in 541 ratio in 2017.

"With 300 more cops we would increase the frontline by 2100 officers since we came into office. This is three times the amount National delivered over the same timeframe, when they were last in office.

"This was a deliberate policy to support our frontline and increase community safety, following a decade of underinvestment by the previous National government, which resulted in 30 police stations closing around the country."

Hipkins continued to attack National, saying New Zealanders would be less safe if they were elected.

"Taxpayers will be forking out for their American-style mega prisons and there is a risk of more high-powered military-style guns getting into the hands of gangs and other criminals due to ACT's firearms proposals," he said.

"National's policies on gangs will see Police provided with softer, tokenistic and ineffective measures to tackle organised crime and the reintroduction of bootcamps, which have an 80 percent failure rate."

He talked up Labour's record on crime.

"This builds on our effective work in Government to curb the illegal profits and offending of gangs, including passing laws to give Police more powers during gang conflicts ... we've established a new criminal offence for strangulation, tripled funding for the Victims Assistance Scheme and doubled funding for Victim Support. Recently passed legislation also provides more rights and protections to victims of family and sexual violence."

Asked whether he would commit to 24/7 security staff at every hospital emergency department in the country, Hipkins said he did not think that would be necessary in every instance, but they would work with Te Whatu Ora in terms of hospitals where safety concerns had been raised.

On mental health staff, Hipkins said he was still committed to previously made commitments to increase staff, but more work was needed to train the workforce.

Crackdown on gangs

Labour had also promised to crackdown on gangs.

Hipkins said: "Recently, we've seen communities disrupted and intimidated by dangerous gang convoys. This is intolerable.

"Labour will introduce laws to punish this behaviour and develop new ways to target gangs leaders and break their international links.

"This builds on our effective work in government to curb the illegal profits and offending of gangs, including passing laws to give police more powers during gang conflicts."

Police spokesperson Ginny Andersen told media: "What we're announcing today is specifically targeting convoys so if there would be an intent to intimidate the public and two or more driving along committing some infringements, that would give police the opportunity then to be able to take those vehicles."

In situations where there are large scale convoys disrupting daily life, it would allow police to take the vehicles to restore law and order, she said.

In terms of convoys heading to a tangi where there are infringements, Andersen said police are currently able to use CCTV footage to identify those vehicles with a view to seizing them later if it is not possible to do so at the time.

Andersen said there are currently laws for fleeing drivers, but it has been difficult for police to seize vehicles on those organised large convoys until now.

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