Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

We don't have enough cops, admits Judith Collins

Police Minister Judith Collins has revealed she is talking with Prime Minister John Key about boosting police numbers. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Police Minister Judith Collins has revealed she is talking with Prime Minister John Key about boosting police numbers. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Police Minister Judith Collins has admitted there aren't enough police officers and is in talks with Prime Minister John Key over boosting numbers.

Recent polling indicates New Zealand First could hold the balance of power at next year's election and leader Winston Peters has said a sizeable increase in police numbers will be a bottom line.

Peters said an acceptable number would be between 1000 and 2000 extra police officers rolled out over a number of years.

The Northland MP asked the Prime Minister about policing numbers in question time yesterday, saying there were fewer police officers per capita now than when Key had promised to boost numbers in 2008.

Key said there were 600 more police officers on the beat, and improvements in mobile technology meant they were more efficient.

But this morning Collins told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB that the government had not kept up with its own "modest" goal of one police officer for every 500 people.

There is about one officer to every 526 people because of population increases. Family violence rates had increased and put pressure on resources, she said.

Collins said a larger police force was needed if police were to turn up to crimes such as "dine-and-dash" thefts. Police in Auckland recently decided not to investigate at least two "dine-and-dash'' thieves, saying it was a civil matter.

"I obviously can't get involved in individual cases, but I would say that that is probably an issue, one of the indicators around the fact that we do need more police."

Collins said she met Key in early June to talk about increasing officer numbers and what police believed was needed, but she could not detail possible numbers or timeframes.

Labour's police spokesman Stuart Nash said Key was incorrect that there had been 600 extra police officers since 2008. Instead, there had been an increase of 223 full-time equivalent constabulary employees, Nash said.

June crime statistics showed a surge in burglaries had driven up the overall "victimisation rate" by 3.1 per cent from 2014/15 to 2015/16.

That amounts to 12,060 more victimisations (a person may be a victim multiple times in a year). At the time, Collins said most of the increase was attributable to burglaries.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said better use of technology and associated increased efficiency had to some extent masked the decrease in the population-to-police ratio.

"However now we're seeing crime increasing and the population increasing while police numbers remain stagnant."

Mr O'Connor said 300 extra staff were added to Counties Manukau in 2008, and it made a huge difference. If that sort of increase was made across all districts, New Zealanders would be much safer, he said.


Last week, Collins maintained that police had enough resources. In fact, she defended the government by saying there was more police under National than the Labour government it followed.

Her responses were to questions that explicitly asked if she had gone to the Finance Minister for more funding and if she believed increasing police resources would reduce recent crime spikes.

She said police received "considerable extra funding" from the government, referring to a 2.8 per cent increase in this year's budget and 600 new positions created between 2009 and 2011.

In the Police's Four Year Plan, signed off by the Minister, the projected workforce numbers are very clearly set to remain the same.

The plan, which outlines key targets, has constabulary figures set a 8907 until 2020.

The description of the numbers in the report says: "Police's strategic direction will require Police to continue looking for opportunities to re-balance the workforce."

A spokeswoman from the Minister's office said that it was not "appropriate" for the Minister to comment on the issue last week.

"There was certainly no denial in there, it was more that your questions were not answered directly.

"When something is under active consideration it is not standard to talk about that until policy decisions have been made. The Prime Minister made a statement so the Police Minister then reacted to that."

Policy decisions still have not been made, she said.

- Morgan Tait and Newstalk ZB

- NZ Herald

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