By KELLY BLANCHARD in Rotorua
New figures released by Police Minister George Hawkins show Rotorua's crime rate is the third worst in New Zealand.
The figures, released in Parliament following questions by Bay of Plenty MP Tony Ryall, show that the only areas worse than Rotorua are central Auckland and Hagley/Ferrymead in Christchurch.
Mr Ryall, who is National's police spokesman, said the figures showed the only other areas that had more crime than Rotorua were the red light districts of downtown Auckland and Christchurch. The figures show that although central Auckland has the most reported crime according to its population size, the area has seen reductions since 2001.
In Rotorua, the number of reported crimes has increased during the past three years, with more than 1800 crimes reported for every 10,000 people in the year to the end of June.
The rate has gone up from 1522 per 10,000 people in 2001/2002 and 1661 in 2002/2003.
The fourth worst crime areas in New Zealand on a population basis are Taupo and Papakura, which both recorded just over 1400 crimes per 10,000 people in the year ending June.
It has been revealed that although Rotorua will not be getting any more frontline police, it is likely to get an inspector and senior sergeant by the end of the year.
Police Commissioner Rob Robinson told The Daily Post last week the Government decided the overall police numbers. If the Government were to invest more money in police, the Bay of Plenty would be a potential beneficiary.
Rotorua police area commander Inspector Bruce Horne agreed Rotorua could do with more police, but he also said Rotorua police could do better with the staff it had.
Mr Horne has cited the central police district - including New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Taranaki, Wanganui and Ruapehu - as an example of a district that has had made massive crime reductions over the past six years with no more extra staff.
He said examples of how Rotorua had reduced crime without more police included the pseudoephedrine ban at pharmacies and the liquor ban in the central city.
He said there had since been fewer robberies at pharmacies and fewer incidents of drunk and disorderly behaviour in the central city at night.
"Obviously more staff would help but there are some people who have a view that more staff is the total answer - it's actually not. But as soon as you start saying that, they think you are trying to make excuses or are trying to fob them off."
Rotorua's crime rate is a big issue for residents with a Rotorua District Council report showing a quarter of residents feel the city is not a safe place to live.
The Social Monitor Update Report revealed more people now feared for their safety than they did in 2002 when only 13 percent of people surveyed said Rotorua was not a safe place to live.
Candidates in the mayoralty race have also picked up on the community's concern about crime.
Cr Charles Sturt said if elected mayor he would lead a delegation to the Prime Minister's office in Wellington to demand more police.
"We have tried Steve Chadwick, we have tried Bruce Horne, we have tried Gary Smith, we have tried the commissioner, we have tried the minister [of police] - everyone seems to be ducking for cover."
By KELLY BLANCHARD in Rotorua