It seems remarkable that for an area with the same population as Whanganui, Auckland Central does not have anywhere people can go within the district to make contact with the police.
When the station on Fort St was closed in 2013, there were fears crime would increase. Officials said the city centre would be served by the central police station on Mayoral Dr, then this closed down as well and the police moved out to College Hill.
It is clear from the statistics that crime in Auckland Central has been on the rise and is changing in form. That is not surprising given the huge shock the city has been through. Due to the pandemic many businesses moved out, universities went online, and vulnerable students disengaged from schools across Auckland.
Once we had a city full of international students and tourists. Now we are faced with an increase in gang activity in the city. Young people and teenagers have been drawn into this lifestyle. In Italy, they call them "baby gangs".
We share these challenges with many other major cities internationally because the pandemic has impacted every country, but that is hardly solace for those living and working in the central city.
I am confident that long term our city will be a place where residential and community activity is prioritised but that requires addressing the challenges such as drug dealing, violent crime, and people in distress because they are intoxicated or suffering from mental health issues.
It is also vital for public confidence to both see police officers and know where to go to report crime or speak with officers.
Last week, I went to the central police station on College Hill. There is no parking and you must push a bell to get in and stand at a safe distance. Braving the front desk, even for a confident woman, was a challenge. What if I was a victim of a crime, how would I manage this?
Some may say expecting a warm welcome is unreasonable but I disagree. Some days later I spoke with the Acting Area Commander and told him that one resident waited for an hour and a half for help with a concussed and bleeding man near Fort St.
I told him the night before my daughter had intervened in a fight on Ponsonby Rd, where a child was present. She rang police repeatedly as the fight escalated and officers arrived after 45 minutes. As a mother, I am worried about the consequences and the safety of my daughter and those like her in these situations.
Last week, I consulted with residents, business groups, and other relevant organisations. Most love the attitude of our police force when they come but feel it is too hard to get them to come and even to know who to call and when. On Karangahape Rd the community police officer has one hour a week to engage with locals. They are impressed with her but that is not enough time to get to know a community.
Many issues which might not make it to the top of the priority list, also need to be addressed. At night, residents are jolted awake by boy racers. These aren't violent incidents but the interruptions make it impossible to sleep and intimidate residents.
I have great respect for the area commander and I now have a much better understanding of the vast work the police and many other agencies are doing. I also think there is more work to be done connecting the agencies. There needs to be a shared plan.
We have work under way in central government, building on what is known as "clusters", connecting government departments together with a shared budget. I have been fortunate to participate in a group that has done this with community care during the pandemic in Auckland.
I urge agencies such as the ministries of Social Development, Housing and Urban Development, Education and Health to work with police and Kāinga Ora to address crime in our city. Auckland Council, residents, business groups and NGOs also need to be involved.
Our community has never been more likely to achieve this because it has practised it so much during the pandemic.
This is the same cohesive planning that was mentioned as a must in the "Reimagining Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland" report published by Auckland Unlimited. There also, the need for more consistent, aligned, and integrated planning across multiple agencies was highlighted.
We need Auckland to be a truly liveable city for families. Many people living in the area no longer feel this is the case.
With students and tourists returning in the next few months, these issues need prioritising for it to once again be a liveable and vibrant international city to be proud of.
• Helen White is a Labour list MP based in central Auckland.