The Herald's Crime in the City series has made confronting reading over the past week.
It has been deeply troubling indeed to stare into the face of what has become of Auckland's inner city. Similar situations are mirrored, to scale, in other centres around New Zealand.
The disappearance of international students and tourists due to Covid left a void that has been partly filled by emergency accommodation and an accelerated drift of the indolent, seeking intoxication and callous amusement. Empty shop doorways are now havens for the languid and ill-disposed.
So what are the solutions? Arming the police? A "broken windows" approach to all crime?
A NZ Herald-Kantar poll, based on a survey of 1001 people taken from July 29 to August 4 indicates about half the public think it's time for police to be armed. Hardly a ringing endorsement. Interestingly too, support for routinely armed officers is higher in Canterbury and around the North Island generally than in Auckland.
Police, too, are divided. After speaking with frontline officers, it appears some are uneasy with the responsibility of being routinely armed. A split-second decision can end a career - or a life. Some voice concerns about training. There's also the lingering worry of "suicide by cop" in deliberately provoking a shooting.
It's clear most officers support general arming, or at least support measures to ensure firearms are more accessible in many situations. Police Commissioner Andrew Coster still says the risks outweigh the positives and that's where the decision sits.
There is action underway on trying to reduce the amounts of firearms in criminal hands. The Government is committed to a register by June 2023 to better track firearms in the community and would be introducing a Firearms Prohibition Orders Bill to Parliament by the end of the year. Police Minister Poto Williams also says, "This Government has never been more active in targeting the gangs and criminal leaders, and getting them off the street."
National Party police spokesman Simeon Brown says a major concern is the number of police officers leaving the force continues to outrun those joining. This should also be picked up on.
Green Party justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman says better mental health and addiction services are needed, as well as addressing housing and - "the type of things that keep the community safe and crime low". She is also correct.
It is clear there is an urgent need to address the drivers of crime; to turn small-time offending back from escalating to more serious crime; to break the cycle in which victims of crime are repeatedly victims of further crimes; to dismantle syndicates who peddle illegal drugs.
Alcohol is a big contributor. It is time for this country to grow up and end the glorification of binge drinking as a humorous adjunct to our culture. Drinking to excess lowers the capacity for control, rendering the drinker more prone to violent acts and vulnerable to assault.
It is time to call time on drinking in public places and to stop serving drinks to people who have had enough.