If I look closely outside my bedroom window in Auckland's CBD, at any given moment I can see a deal go down as people hover anxiously in their cars on the street below.
If I don't wear earplugs to bed, there's a 50/50 chance I'll be woken up by a screaming match at 2 am, outside the hotel on my street.
I live with a soldier who identified the sound of a 9mm pistol being fired a couple of weeks back. I thought it was a car backfire, but he confirmed – with his extensive military experience – that it was indeed real live gunshots.
This is the current state of downtown Auckland, which is starting to feel like an old Scorsese movie.
Last year, city leaders were told "Downtown Auckland is sinking into anarchy and becoming a lot like 1980s New York City, just with fewer murders".
I took this claim with a grain of salt, figuring it was a grumbly old resident who was upset about his bins not being collected.
This piece was also published slightly prior to moving into the heart of the CBD, having been in an apartment in the more-gentrified Freeman's Bay prior. Now that I'm a bona fide downtown Aucklander, I can say from first-hand experience my fellow resident was right.
Do I regret moving? No, because urban Auckland life is vibrant and cosmopolitan and I can do anything within a 10-minute walk. I do wish, however, that I had heeded warnings about Auckland CBD's rampant crime problem, though.
How central Auckland has taken such a downward turn seems to be a pandemic flow-on effect. It's two-pronged and only occurred in the last few years.
The first issue is more widely known – the gang warfare between traditional New Zealand gangs and "the 501s", who are the Australian-raised but Kiwi-born deportees who have been shipped back here to create havoc.
The heightened gun violence in Auckland has been blamed on the 501s, which include several alleged homicides in recent months. "Sydney-style gang wars", they have been dubbed.
The second factor, the one I see directly across from my apartment building, is the sad impact that long-term emergency housing has on the surrounding communities.
To mitigate the impact on their bottom lines due to lost international tourism, CBD hoteliers and other landlords are making up for lost funds by renting rooms to the government. So far, $365 million has been spent to house 10,000 people for long-term emergency accommodation ("long-term emergency" is an oxymoron by the way, like saying it's a "chronic acute" issue).
Of course, everyone deserves a home and nobody in a country (especially one with such a strong social system like New Zealand) should have to live on the streets. But, should residents (who pay exorbitant property prices and rents, by the way) have our quality of life suffer so dramatically to house those who seem intent on making Auckland CBD a mess?
Is it a reasonable expectation to live in one's central city apartment, and to feel safe? Unencumbered by intimidation, violence, and drugs at your literal doorstep? Have we all not been through enough turmoil in the last two years?
I recently learned that my building manager, and surrounding building managers from other apartment blocks, hope to meet with the hotel owners to try and convince them to hire round-the-clock security for their property. Residents' repetitive calls to the police, while sometimes followed up on with a physical police presence, have not improved the problem. In fact, my building manager even told me, "I know it looks bad, but what's going on inside that hotel is worse than you imagine".
What is worse than what I'm seeing and hearing? I can only assume there are P labs being run out of hotel rooms again, like we saw a decade ago when the methamphetamine crisis really started to heat up.
This leads me to the conclusion that Auckland's "1980s New York" scene – which sounds glamorous until you find out what New York really was like before former mayor Rudy Giuliani ran his controversial "tough on crime" platform to reform the city in the 1990s – needs a really good clean up. Where are the "tough on crime" mayoral candidates at for the 2022 election? Who is brave enough not to accept the violence, the homelessness, the wide-open drug dealing, and actually do something about Auckland's severe crime problem? And surely $365 million of state houses would have been better for the social, mental and physical health of emergency tenants and their host communities?
The police are probably too understaffed, overwhelmed, or afraid to deal with the problem. But it is an issue cities across the world have always had to deal with, and it's manageable.
Auckland CBD residents don't have to live like this, and if we could get some good governance – some tough leaders – on board to solve this, Auckland can go back to being the ultra-desirable, world-class city we were once so proud of.