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The path to law and order

The past month has seen some important developments in the law and order space as the government enhances community safety. It is vital our justice system has victims of crime at its centre.

At the start of April, this paper’s front page carried the headline Boosting the blue line and reported on the increasing police resources locally. This included more police, including in rural areas, a dedicated organised crime unit, as well as better access to a dog-handling team based in the Wairarapa.

The boost to policing is part of the government’s pledge for a net increase in police of 1,800, above attrition. We are almost there with 1,708 additional police since 2017; that’s a 19 per cent increase in constabulary. This shifts the ratio of police to the community from 1 to 548 under the Key/English government to around 1 to 500 now.

Substantially increasing the number of police is not our only tool for enhancing community safety. Last year’s Budget provided $562 million over four years for more policing resources and the roll-out of the Tactical Response Model described in this newspaper is an example of where that investment is making a difference.

The government has more than doubled support for victims of retail crime. Last year saw a spike in ram raids and other retail crime that was having a real impact on our communities. Police Minister Ginny Andersen announced a top up of a further $9m for the retail crime prevention fund, bringing the total up to $15m.

This fund helped finance 342 fog cannons, 181 security sirens, 193 alarms, 195 CCTV systems or system upgrades, 82 bollards or similar security measures, 101 roller doors and 47 other interventions. And 892 applications for help with funding fog cannons have also been approved. Any local retailer interested in this support is welcome to contact my Masterton office.

The further limb of our approach in retail crime prevention is to intervene strongly with repeat offenders and target assistance to young offenders. In the six months following the commencement of the roll out of the government’s Better Pathways package, most children are not reoffending and ram raids have dropped significantly. The number and frequency of ram raids is still unacceptably high and there is more work to do but the trend downwards is positive.

As the Youth Justice Indicators Summary report released on 6 April shows, the number of children who offended each year over the past decade has decreased from 4,292 to 1,791. There was an uptick in offending last year, and I acknowledge the difficulty and stress this has caused local retailers. It is encouraging that the decade-long trend is clearly in a downward direction, and Better Pathways will continue that trend.

Towards the end of March, two important pieces of legislation were passed into law to crack down on gang profits and criminal assets, and to keep communities safe from gang offending.

Amendments to the proceeds of crime legislation enable police to go after gang leaders and facilitators of organised crime and hit them where it hurts in their pockets by taking their properties, cars, bikes and bling. The regime is extended to gang associates.

The Criminal Activity Intervention legislation created new police powers to find and seize weapons from gang members during a gang conflict and created a new offence of discharging a firearm with intent to intimidate. It also expanded the range of offences where police can seize and impound cars and bikes and seize cash over $10,000 when found in suspicious circumstances. The new laws also target dangerous and intimidating driving by gang members.

The government is very active in the law and order space. I am proud of the work the government is doing to keep the community safe. We will continue to strike the right balance between dealing with those who commit crimes and preventing crime in the first place. We will do this by backing our police with the resources and tools they need and following an evidence-based approach.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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