Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

'Rubbish' to say crime is caused by poverty - Judith Collins

Police Minister Judith Collins says poverty is not a cause of crime. NZ Herald photo by Mark Mitchell.
Police Minister Judith Collins says poverty is not a cause of crime. NZ Herald photo by Mark Mitchell.

Police Minister Judith Collins has stuck by comments that parental influence has more to do with crime than poverty, saying it is "utter rubbish" to suggest crime is caused by poverty.

Collins has been criticised by Every Child Counts, which represents organisations including Barnardos, after her response to a question at the Police Association annual conference in Wellington yesterday.

After inviting questions after her speech, a Northland delegate referenced a recent UN report on child poverty, and said that was the background of all people they dealt with, particularly gang members.

"Do you think your government is doing enough for child poverty, and the gap between those that do have, and those that don't have?" Collins was asked.

LISTEN: Judith Collins speaks to Mike Hosking

She said the government was doing a lot to bring down rates of child poverty, but there was financial support for everyone in New Zealand who needed it.

"It's not that, it's people who don't look after their children, that's the problem.

"And they can't look after their children in many cases because they don't know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children.

"I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring."

This morning, Collins did not back away from that view, telling Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking that it was the "usual suspects" who were upset by her comments.

"Frankly, Mike, I am in the Papakura electorate, we have kids there who go without meals, we have many kids who do very well and parents who do their best.

"But when the inference is made to me that crime is crime because of child poverty, that is totally unfair to kids and to families who don't have a lot of money. And in this country nobody starves to death - we have obesity as one of our biggest issues.

"What we do have is some kids miss out on caring parents and we have a lot of people who don't have a lot of money who are really good parents. And I really reject and will always reject the statement or inference that crime in this country is because of poverty. Utter rubbish. It is about criminality."

Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash said that view from the Police Minister was worrying.

"If you look at cause and effect, you don't find many middleclass or rich people committing the sort of burglaries or crimes that we are up in arms about.

"Poverty causes crime. Let's be honest about this - people steal because they are feeding a drug habit, because they are have lost aspiration, people steal because they haven't got any food to put on the table."

Parents absolutely had responsibility, Nash said, but we didn't live in an ideal world and it was necessary to respond to that.

Outgoing Police Association president Greg O'Connor used his last speech at the conference to slam the Government over a lack of police resourcing, and called for an urgent increase in officer numbers.

O'Connor said the country was facing a "second wave" of the methamphetamine problem, as the Government efforts to curb the drug's availability were failing utterly.

And he said gang numbers were swelling, particularly those of the Head Hunters, as proactive policing of organised crime declined.

Prime Minister John Key has indicated police numbers will increase, after lobbying from Collins. An announcement is expected soon.

Labour leader Andrew Little will address the Police Association conference this afternoon and make a policy announcement.

- NZ Herald

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