The number of police on the beat in Northland is set to swell by 25 per cent, the second biggest increase of any district in the country.
The country's top cop, Commissioner Mike Bush, announced yesterday the thin blue line was being boosted nationwide by 1800 frontline officers, thanks to an extra $299 million allocated to police in the 2018 Budget.
Northland is in line to get 87 of those new officers, a 25 per cent lift on the region's current 348 frontline cops.
Larger police districts are getting more new officers than Northland — Counties Manukau, for example, will get 137 — but only Eastern District, which covers East Cape and Hawke's Bay, will receive a bigger percentage increase.
The previous government promised last year to boost Northland police numbers by 66. Yesterday's announcement by the current government increases that.
The new staff will be on the beat by 2023, possibly sooner if recruitment goes well and next year's Budget offers another funding increase.
Northland's Acting District Commander, Inspector Justin Rogers, welcomed the boost, saying it would allow police to do more to prevent crime and victimisation, catch offenders, solve burglaries and other crimes, and improve the public's access to police.
It would also mean better child protection and help for victims of sexual assault, and more staff to target organised crime and continue the fight against methamphetamine.
Northland would also get a Precision Targeting Team focusing on the most prolific offenders, and a Serious and Organised Crime Taskforce to combat gang-related crime.
''We'll be deploying these new staff as they come on board to make sure Northland people and visitors to the area are safe and feel safe," Rogers said.
In coming weeks each district would decide exactly where those new officers would be deployed.
Last year's pledge to boost police numbers came after nine years of frozen police budgets. Smaller stations such as Paihia and Kawakawa were downgraded and the Police Association claimed Northland had the worst police shortage in the country and some officers were ''ready to fall over'' from stress and long hours.
A large number of homicides, gang crime and a youth rampage in Kaikohe put a national spotlight on Northland and threatened to turn police staffing levels into an election issue.
Kaikohe Community Patrol coordinator Joe Nol welcomed yesterday's boost.
''The more police you have, and the more they are around the clock, the more likely criminals will be caught,'' he said.
Northland National MP Matt King, a former policeman, also welcomed the increase but questioned whether it could be done by 2023 as promised.
''I have my doubts as to whether they will be able to deliver 1800 frontline police overall in the timeframe set without dropping the standards for recruitment.''
King also worried that many of the new positions were being filled by fresh recruits who were then placed in dangerous situations, such as the recent pursuit on Ninety Mile Beach in which shots were fired, without support from experienced frontline officers.
Bush said 1280 of the new staff would be deployed in the districts while the other 520 would be national roles targeting high-level organised crime, the drug trade and cybercrime.
"A big part of this package is the unprecedented investment to combat the harm caused by organised crime, gangs and the supply of methamphetamine in our communities," he said.
Decisions as to how the 1800 positions were shared out had taken into account feedback from frontline staff, projected population growth and changing crime patterns.
New cops by numbers
• 87 new cops for Northland (25 per cent increase)
• 455 new cops nationwide for frontline emergency response
• 325 new cops in prevention-focused positions
• 121 cops in new Precision Targeting Teams to stop serious repeat offenders
• 187 new investigators for complex cases including sexual assaults and child protection
• 500 investigators focusing on organised crime, financial and cyber-crime
• 146 investigators for new Serious and Organised Crime Taskforces
• 54 new crime and drug prevention officers
• 12 new training staff at Police College