I expected to write about the Budget this week but it was so meh that I don’t want to bore you senseless on a Sunday morning.
After hearing about the free public transport for under 13-year-olds announced in the Budget it got me thinking about safety and whether I would be comfortable having an under 13-year-old travel alone on a bus.
We are told continuously by Police Minister Ginny Andersen that we feel safer. I don’t and neither do my friends and colleagues. Retailers definitely don’t feel safer and for good reason.
Ram raids are up 500 per cent since 2018. Andersen said that ram raids are continuing to trend downwards, ignoring that there were 51 ram raids in March this year, up by 24 per cent on the month before.
I wonder if the victims of violent crime feel safer. According to the Salvation Army report, the number of victimisations for violent crime has jumped 33 per cent since 2017. There are a lot more of them now and we are more likely to be one of those victims than ever before. No Ginny, we don’t feel safer.
Every day we read about another ram raid, another burglary, another assault. The associations supporting retailers claim the crimes are getting more brazen, more likely to be violent or threaten violence, and it is becoming socially acceptable. Police statistics report that there were 292 retail crime incidents every day in 2022.
There is a 61 per cent increase in gang members, in real numbers that is 300 more on the National Gang List in the last two months. They are intimidating, bring drugs into our communities and are responsible for much of the violent crime in society. With 300 more now than two months ago we do not feel safer.
Apart from trying to gaslight us into believing that we feel safer, the only other defence the Minister has is to point to an increase in police numbers. Good on you, we need more police but with such an increase in demand on our police, they are being left high and dry and can’t keep up. How often do we hear that people either don’t bother to call the police or when they do police are unable to attend as they have to prioritise and don’t have enough staff?
In our towns and smaller communities, it is worse. Mark Mitchell, National’s spokesperson on law and order, released numbers recently that showed that 69 police stations had a drop in the number of police and 104 have had no increase at all. Those communities do not feel safer.
We have also seen text messages between Stuart Nash when he was Police Minister and the Police Commissioner five days after Cyclone Gabriel hit his region. He asked the Commissioner to deploy more police to the area urgently and to get a senior officer to go and sort out the local gangs. I never thought I would say it, but bring back Stuart, at least he knew that we need to feel safer.
Paula Bennett is a former Deputy Prime Minister and National Party politician who now works at Bayleys Real Estate as national director-customer engagement.