A hospitality operator is pushing to get extra security across Wellington city by summer, but the council isn't so sure.
Matt McLaughlin is the owner-operator of Hoff Hospitality Group, and knows first-hand how chaotic Courtenay Place and Cuba St can be.
Violent crime in Wellington city has steadily risen over the past five years with police data showing sexual assaults increased by almost 50 per cent. In the same time period, the number of acts intended to cause injury rose by 35 per cent, and the number of patched and prospective gang members has almost doubled.
McLaughlin says throughout winter and Wellington's most recent lockdown, the disorder dissipated – but now he's noticed it creeping back to where it was in the summer of 2020 and he wants to bring more security on to the streets.
He's proposing a solution - a team of security liaison officers, akin to roaming bouncers, who could intervene in escalating situations on the streets to defuse them before police are necessary.
"We've asked the council to look at it straight away – I'd like to think it could help out to have a roaming patrol of not security guards, because they'd have no real power, but people who could monitor situations, liaise between bar staff, customers and police and diffuse situations before it becomes an issue."
McLaughlin believes having a set of people who were not fully uniformed could help engage those causing trouble.
"We're working really hard to make the streets safer because the problem isn't on the licensed premises – it's on the streets."
Ideally, he wants these security officers in place by December 1 as the party season begins to heat up.
"We've pushed it through and we've asked council and said we need this in place by level 1 – whatever that may look like."
McLaughlin's call for extra security comes just days after dozens of police flocked to Manners St in the city centre following reports of disorder.
A spokesperson told the Herald the incident on Friday arose when a group of around 20 people tried to stop officers arresting two others.
"Their behaviour was unacceptable and the deployment of additional police resource quickly mitigated any risk to police and the community."
But Wellington City councillor Iona Pannett isn't so sure extra guards and police are the solution - at least not in the long term.
"We don't create safety by just having more police or more cameras around - we create safety by encouraging a respectful relationship between people and making it clear discrimination is not acceptable."
She says there needs to be "a very big culture change" and some of the things that could contribute to that is better funding for consent programmes like Don't Guess the Yes, and designing public spaces to be inclusive of everyone.
"For example, [Courtenay Place] not being a space that's just for drinking heavily - it needs to be a place that's active and inclusive all day and night."
However, Pannett says in the short-term extra security could be helpful if it's done right.
"Some of those practical initiatives may help in the short term, but we really need to address our booze culture – and really that's the city and country's failure."
At the end of the day, she says there are "no easy answers".
"It's difficult and we have a booze culture and an intolerant attitude towards certain groups of people – these are deeply ingrained issues that need long term solutions."
Detective Senior Sergeant Warwick McKee told the Herald police want everyone to feel safe across the city, no matter what time of day.
To try to achieve this, police will deploy extra officers to patrol high-risk areas of the CBD.
"We also continue to prioritise the monitoring of the city's Alcohol-free Zones and educate people about where they can and can't drink in the city."
Police would not comment directly on McLaughlin's proposal but said they are working alongside the Wellington City Council to develop initiatives "with a focus on safety".