Hobson Article - November 2016
Housing affordability and transport have dominated the local feedback I’ve received for some time now, both from returned surveys or directly while waiting in the check-out line at the supermarket or walking down the street. A third topic has been rising recently, concern around crime and safety in our communities.
As one survey respondent put it to me, ‘Public security is very important for us – we need to have more security for our family’.
There’s no doubt there has been a recent upturn in burglaries. Anyone who has been burgled knows what an invasive and disturbing experience this can be.
I would like to reassure you that the entire National caucus and Government remains as focused as ever on preventing crime and helping to keep our communities safer. It is a primary responsibility of government, and one we take incredibly seriously.
We’ve been pleased to see overall crime steadily decreasing for some time now - 16 per cent on five years ago. That’s more than 53,000 fewer crimes. Violent crime is down 8 per cent and youth crime is down 38 per cent. Even so, we know that crime rates are still too high and there still too many lives blighted by violence and theft. We are determined to ensure that crime rates continue to fall.
So it has been particularly concerning to see the recent upturn in burglary. I’m pleased to see Police increasing their focus on preventing and reducing burglaries; capturing those responsible and holding them to account. From 1 September Police have raised the priority level of house burglaries to a priority offence so all break-ins are attended by Police staff within a reasonable time frame. More broadly, the Prime Minister recently indicated we are looking at likely to increase Police numbers further. Since we came into Government, we’ve increased the number of Police on the beat by 600.
We’ve also increased frontline policing half a million hours a year by investing in new technology – that’s equivalent to around 350 more Police out and about protecting New Zealand’s communities. This year we also gave a $300 million funding boost to support Police and the good work they do preventing crime in our communities. We’re cracking down on the perpetrators of crime by introducing the three-strikes policy that ensures the worst repeat criminals receive the maximum allowable sentence with no parole and have toughened sentences for a range of other crimes.
At the same time, we recognise the need to tackle the drivers of crime. Many burglars are drug addicts, desperate to fund their addiction. For years they have been repeatedly recycled through the prison system. We have made significant progress, for example, in improving prisoner access to timely and high-quality alcohol and drug interventions. More than 4500 prisoners accessed treatment in 2014/15 compared to just 500 in 2008/09. In the past few years, the number of residential Drug Treatment Units has increased from six to eleven and the number of prisoners placed in residential Drug Treatment Units has doubled from 500 in 2008/09 to 1000 in 2014/15. Similar efforts are underway to improve the literacy skills and employment prospects of prisoners.
The safety of our community is an essential element of our quality of life. As a country we have much to be grateful for, but no cause for complacency. We will continue to invest what is required to steadily reduce crime.