The mother of a man who was stabbed to death is calling on judges to get tougher on people caught with knives.
Figures show there have been 19 homicides in New Zealand this year. Last year there were 14 between January 1 and March 31. Of the 19 homicides this year, eight involved knife attacks. There were 14 stabbing murders in 2011. Last year's crime statistics will be released by police next month.
Lynda Timmer-Arends' 27-year-old son Michael Valentine was found dead on a gravel road off State Highway One, just north of Levin, on February 1. He had been stabbed in his chest and died at the scene.
Timmer-Arends said she was concerned by the rise in knife crime. "It's horrific," she said. "We are hearing about too many young people who are carrying knives.
"There is so much drug-fuelled violence on the streets. His life has been taken away and a father taken away from a little boy."
Stoyan Militch, 31, a chef, has been charged with Valentine's murder. He has also been charged with assault with a weapon, a sharpening steel. Two other men - Levin factory hand Michael Paul Zimmerman, 29, and labourer Brayden Windley, 22 - are facing charges of assault with a weapon. Police confirmed this week a joint murder charge had also been laid against those two. They will reappear in court on March 27.
Changes to the Crimes Act a year ago increased the maximum penalty for possessing an offensive weapon from two years to three, and limited the ability of accused people to claim they were defending their property.
Valentine's stepfather, John, said the harsher penalties did not go far enough.
"What use are harsher penalties if judges don't use them? Judges need to be held accountable," he said.
Police national crime services manager Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said it was not uncommon for homicide statistics to vary from month to month. "Whilst we are concerned at the number of homicides in 2013 so far, we expect these numbers to even out throughout the course of this year," he said.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Government had taken action. "We've increased the maximum penalty for possession of an offensive weapon, introduced improved education about the dangers of carrying knives ... and Fresh Start programmes for young offenders."
Ian Lambie, associate professor in clinical psychology and a member of the Ministry of Justice Independent Advisory Group on Youth Offending, said eight fatal stabbings so far this year was a high number. "Potentially more needs to be done to educate young people not to carry knives. Also more needs to be done to limit access of drugs and alcohol," he said.