Hundreds voice concerns over Christchurch crime

Hundreds of people gathered in Christchurch last night to voice their concern over the city's crime problems.

Many took their turn to speak, including a woman who posed a question that many had come to ask: "Could we all please have our streets back?"

When someone handed her a microphone at the end of the meeting she said she was a normal woman trying to live in the city.

"I'm sick to death of all the noise, the wheelies, the intimidation. It goes on weekend after weekend, night after night."

It was useless to make a place for young drivers to carry out their antics, the Christchurch Court News website reported.

"Their biggest thrill is breaking the road laws, causing as much noise as possible, and intimidation of others and I have had a gutsful of it."

Her comments were applauded at the Christchurch Town Hall meeting, arranged by National Party list MP Nicky Wagner.

It heard from politicians, the Sensible Sentencing Trust, the Christchurch police, victims of crime, and from people who just came along to have something to say.

It was a meeting full of diverse views which brought some unexpected reactions.

MP Ron Mark got a round of applause when he berated gangs and their culture and said he would do everything he could to eliminate them.

There were mixed responses to lawyer Nigel Hampton who criticised the media for its emphasis and over-reporting of violent crime.

Mayor Bob Parker said he had heard from elderly people who felt unsafe in their homes or walking in the city at night. Their fears were both well founded and unfortunate. "How do we change the reality and perception?" he asked.

What emerged from the two hours of addresses was a series of initiatives and ideas.

The police are under way with Operation Crusader with higher visibility foot patrols, enforcement of the liquor ban, and a zero tolerance approach to disorder.

The city council is about to review its alcohol policy and by-laws, and may consider enforcing a 1am closed-door policy at bars so that when patrons leave they cannot go to other premises.

Other areas might be considered for liquor bans, and the council and the police will set up and man more surveillance cameras in problem areas.

Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust said criminal justice policies in New Zealand had swung too far in favour of the offender.

He was critical of the culture of social welfare, parole provisions, and family group conferences which he described as "the biggest disaster this country has ever implemented".

He called for a tough new approach to imprisonment policies, in line with overseas practices that had reduced crime.

- NZPA

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