A sharp spike in local crime has thrust the seeming lack of a police presence on Hawke's Bay streets once again into the spotlight.

Napier MP and Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash called the lack of police into question, citing the force's own statistics which show a correlation between the increase in crime and decrease in police presence in the community from July 2105 to May 2016.

However, eastern district commander Superintendent Sandra Venables has once again come out in defence of her patch saying her area remains well resourced to respond to the needs of the local community and continues to strive to deliver a world-class policing service.

But Mr Nash was not convinced.


"What disappoints me is that foot patrols in Hawke's Bay declined by 48 per cent and 40 per cent across the eastern districts," he said. "This is by far the highest decline in police presence in our communities compared to any other district."

He said, while there had been a staggering decline in foot patrols - burglaries had increased by 26 per cent, serious assaults resulting in injury had gone up by 20 per cent, public place assaults had jumped by 100 per cent [and] drugs supply had spiked by about 200 per cent. But what is most concerning is that assaults on police increased from five to 13," Mr Nash said.

"So not only is this new strategy not keeping the public safe, but the statistics show that the police are not safe either."

Mr Nash said this was a "very real" concern and the district commander should petition the Police Commissioner for more resources "in order to prevent crime, catch the bad guys and keep both the public and her own staff safe".

Ms Venables said staff in the Hawke's Bay area, and the wider Eastern Police District, remained absolutely committed to serving their local communities, and did so every day with professionalism, dedication and pride.

"While we accept criticism as a natural part of the job, such comments do not reflect any reduction in commitment by me or my staff to do anything other than the absolute best for our communities," she said.

Ms Venables said there had been an increase in victimisation across New Zealand over the past year. She said this trend was reflected in the eastern district, where the total victimisation rate for July 2015 to May 2016 is up 10.2 per cent on the previous year.

"Police in eastern districts are working hard to address this increase in demand and bring offenders to account, and we've seen some pleasing recent results.

"For example, in May 2016, eastern district police resolved more victimisations than any month since the new statistical reporting began in July 2014."

She said, like the rest of New Zealand, the eastern district had seen an increase in burglaries over the past year.

"This is a particular focus for police, and eastern district's burglary resolution rate in May 2016 was the highest of any in the country at 14.1 per cent," she said.

"This compares to 8.8 per cent across New Zealand as a whole."

Ms Venables said, while there may be short-term fluctuations in the number of some police activities carried out over a particular period, this reflects the police force's dynamic operating model, "which is driven by demand, with a strong focus on serious violent crime and prevention activities".

"I can assure the community we will continue to police where we need to police, and deploy our staff to the demands of the day."

However, Mr Nash rebuffed this with a nod to Scottish novelist Andrew Lang - that police are using statistics like a drunk man uses a lamppost. "For support rather than illumination."

Ms Venables stressed there was no reduction or shortage of police, in Napier or across Hawke's Bay, who continue to work extremely hard to serve people in the region.

Speaking to the increase in assaults on police - Ms Venables said this was unacceptable, and staff and public safety remained a priority.

"While any assault on staff is of concern, police are better equipped than ever to respond to violent incidents.

"This includes the introduction of equipment such as stab-resistant body armour, improved tactical training, officer safety alarms for those working in remote areas, improved access to firearms and Taser, with the Taser now carried on the body by frontline staff."

The New Zealand Police Association was contacted for comment, but none was forthcoming at press time.