City leaders are demanding urgent action against violent crime in Auckland’s downtown after a group was caught on camera kicking, punching and stomping a person in a busy tourist and commuter area.
Heart of the City chief executive and former mayoral candidate Viv Beck also told the Herald it would be “concerning if longstanding requests” for crime prevention measures weren’t reflected in tomorrow’s Budget.
It comes as video footage, sent to the Herald, shows six people launching a vicious attack on a person lying on the ground outside the Ferry Building on Quay St, in front of tourists and Saturday night crowds.
Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Simon Bridges called the incident “barbaric and entirely beyond the pale” and hoped for more funding in the Budget for security in the city.
The victim is punched dozens of times by multiple people and one person steps back before making a run-up kick to the victim’s back.
About five people walking by intervene and try to stop the attackers, but one person lifts the victim and tosses his body into a different position.
One person punches his head again, another kicks and stomps on him, and then another attacker picks up a shop sign from the side of the road and throws it at the victim as he lies motionless.
Police received a report of disorder at the ferry terminal at about 5.30pm Saturday, but the group scarpered before officers arrived, a police spokeswoman said.
“We are interested in speaking to anyone who [witnessed] the incident,” the spokeswoman said.
Bridges said he was attending an event at the ferry terminal on Wednesday evening - and Saturday’s incident “gives me real pause for thought.”
“I was walking through the city last night with my wife and downtown does not feel safe,” he said.
“It needs to [feel safe] not just for the immediate locals but for all of Auckland and New Zealand given the CBD’s place in our commercial and cultural life.”
Beck said the level of crime and violence reported daily across our city and country is distressing for all concerned.
“This is totally unacceptable and it needs to be addressed.”
As identified in an earlier Herald series on CBD crime, police have said there has been an increase in assaults in Auckland’s city centre since Covid-19.
The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation 2023 report stated the number of victimisations for violent crime nationwide has increased by 33.4 per cent since 2017.
Meanwhile, retail crime, according to police statistics, has increased by 39 per cent in 2022 compared to 2021. There were 292 retail crime incidents every day in 2022, up from 140 per day in 2018.
Police have previously said some of the increase in reports of retail crime can be attributed to better reporting and recording methods.
Central Auckland has also been hit hard by the spike in ram raids during the past two years. Ram raids have increased nationwide by more than 500 per cent since 2018.
Recently released data from police showed 51 ram raids took place nationally in March, up 24 per cent from the 41 in February. This followed a lull after a high of 116 ram raids last August as police and the Government poured more resources into combating the issue.
Beck said Heart of the City had been working with police to create a plan to make people feel safe. She listed crime prevention measures she wanted to see.
“We have asked Government for more police and a stronger presence on the street, a downtown police station, better management of emergency housing, and effective mental health and addiction services for people who need help,” she said.
“It will be concerning if these longstanding requests are not reflected in the Budget tomorrow.”
Auckland City Police shut down its central city police station and moved its headquarters to Ponsonby in 2019.
Bridges said he’d also raised issues of violence and anti-social behaviour with authorities, including Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, Minister for Auckland Michael Wood, and Police Minister Ginny Andersen.
“So they are aware of the issues,” he said.
“I hope we see greater funding in the Budget around security in our city, but it’s more than a funding issue.
“Police need to be present in greater numbers in the CBD and need to show zero tolerance around violence and anti-social behaviour we sadly seem too ready to accept.”
Bridges said crime and safety were often the top issues businesses faced, according to surveys the chamber has done.
“This is a safety issue, but certainly a business issue as well. We need to see evidence our police treat it as such through increased presence and zero tolerance.”