Sixty-six more police, three stations to open 24 hours. That was the announcement from Police Commissioner Mike Bush last week, with Minister Paula Bennett beaming in the background.
The PR machine kicked into overdrive, and headlines proclaimed 'More cops for Northland,' but let's look at this news more closely.
First, there is no detail as to where these extra 66 officers are to be based. Are they going to our small towns, or will a large percentage of them be based in Whangarei? Last year the NZ Police workplace survey found morale was lowest among officers in rural areas because there were not enough of them to cope with the amount of crime.
It's obvious that these extra police are just part of National's election year panic. They only acted after being pressured by New Zealand First ...
SHARE THIS QUOTE:
It's small town crime that is a major problem at the moment. Second, we've been told the new officers will be phased in over the next four years. Does that mean we can expect 40 officers out on the beat by June 2018, or four? We don't know.
Commissioner Bush said Kaitaia would receive the first 24/7 cover, beginning in 2017/18, while either Kerikeri or Kaikohe would follow in 2018/19. That means Kaikohe will miss out.
Locals have a right to feel deeply aggrieved after their youth crime problems were so graphically displayed on our TV screens in March. Kaikohe's Community Watch founder Tony Taylor said the town needed a 24-hour station now.
At least Kaikohe's hopes are still alive, but other small communities miss out entirely - Waipu, Hikurangi, Maungaturoto, Ruakaka, Onerahi, Rawene, Kohukohu, Mangonui, Kawakawa and Russell.
Last year's survey revealed our region ranked lowest in New Zealand for having an "engaged" police workforce. Hopefully the increased numbers will improve that situation, but the overall impression is that the police are trying to play catch-up, forced on them by a miserly National government, particularly in Northland.
There is still a long way to go. Here are some pertinent facts to bear in mind: The police budget has been frozen since 2009; New Zealand has at least 208 'ghost' police stations without a single officer on duty; in 2009 there were 3161 general duty constables - in 2016 this had dropped to 2593; New Zealand has one police officer for every 526 people (one for every 600 when those on traffic duties are taken out) while Australia has one for every 432 people.
In the year to June 30, 2016, serious assaults resulting in injury rose 7.3 per cent and public place assaults rose 13.1 per cent; Northland's clearance rate for burglary is only three per cent.
It's obvious that these extra police are just part of National's election year panic. They only acted after being pressured by New Zealand First, when we announced boosting police numbers by 1800 was a bottom line policy for us. However, it may much too little too late but at least it's a start.