National this week sought to paint itself as the party of law and order, claiming the issue as "part of National's DNA".
Leader Simon Bridges set the scene by portraying the nation as overrun by violent gangsters while the Government was wringing its soft hands. "Patched gang members have increased 26 per cent under Labour – that's 1400 men," Bridges said.
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National's Justice spokesman Mark Mitchell then tabled the proposal, ranging from setting up a specialist unit within police with similar powers and approach to Strike Force Raptor in New South Wales to banning patches in public places and getting harder on parole and sentencing for gangs.
The "tough on gangs" line has been much focused on. Indeed, it got the attention of one of New Zealand's largest such groups. Waikato Mongrel Mob president Sonny Fatupaito said: "If any decent political party was serious about tackling gang issues, they would first tackle and eliminate poverty.
"How can any decent-minded citizen of Aotearoa New Zealand take Simon Bridges' rhetoric seriously? Poverty is a social construct stemming from legislative policies that continue to undermine minority cultures who are disenfranchised."
This response holds no more water than those who complain that money spent on public art would be better spent on affordable housing. National's policy on crime does not seek to address poverty, it simply seeks to address crime.
However, the 40-page National Party discussion document does touch on several areas well outside what can be described as being "tough", such as:
• Automatically signing victims and their families up to the Victim Notification Register or by giving them the right to read their victim impact statements in court, uninterrupted and uncensored.
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• Greater use of non-sworn or authorised officers and mental health professionals for crimes such as burglaries and thefts. "We will let authorised officers get on with resolving these so that police stay focused on first response in areas such as family violence and gangs."
• In certain circumstances, wiping the convictions of young people so their lives aren't defined by one incident; and put the estimated one-third of prisoners who could be working in prisons into work or training to set them up for success on the outside.
Several commentators, including former National MP Chester Borrows, have pointed out the policy document is more about attracting votes than actually introducing much more than is already in place.
But, ultimately, do we need to be tougher on crime?
Statistics NZ reports the number of adults convicted of crimes dropped from 62,256 in 2017/18 to 58,991 last year. Overall, convictions have been falling since a peak in 2009/10 with 98,544.
Police said there were 268,074 total "victimisations" (presumably another word for reported crimes) for the 12 months ending August 31, 2019 - an increase of 2.9 per cent (+7553) from the previous 12 months.
However, data from the Parliamentary Library released in July showed the crime rate - the number of recorded offences per 10,000 people - had plummeted since 1990. It had reduced by 9.1 per cent in the decade to 2000, 11.5 per cent in the decade to 2010, and by 20.7 per cent from 2010 to 2014.
That said, at least National is attempting to set itself apart, which will be welcomed by those fearing it was straying too close in hue to its main party rival, particularly after the cross-party support for the Zero Carbon Bill.
It's to be hoped there will be more clear points of difference before the next general election.