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Questions that need to arrest police attention

Phil Goff – 

Time and again I have heard the argument that cuts in police resourcing are not important because crime is coming down.

It was always a poor justification for cutting police funding and not growing police numbers in line with Auckland’s rapidly growing population.

However, even the police figures that the government once relied on to say crime was coming down, now show the opposite.

Police figures for year-on-year movement in crime released last month show crime figures up in almost all categories.

More burglaries

Take burglaries for example.  Across New Zealand, burglaries went up from 57,921 in the year to May 2015 to 65,760 in the year to May 2016, a rise of 5839 or 13.5%.

That is a big rise in just a year.

The worst figures were in Counties-Manukau where burglaries went up 18.8%, robberies rose 17% and assaults by more than 21%.

In the Auckland City Police District, serious assaults were up 22% and in Waitemata burglaries rose 8.55% and sexual assaults 7.1%.

Confronted with these figures, Police Commissioner Mike Bush disturbingly described the figures as a ‘small rise’ at the Law and Order Committee.

Police Minister Judith Collins, avoided answering questions around this, on the reductions in funding for Police and on the lower ratio of police officers to population.

I got the numbers from written questions that I submitted to the Police Minister.

Hard questions

I asked the Minister ‘what has been the increase in Police numbers in the three Auckland Police Districts over the last four years and is this increase proportionate to the rise in the city’s population?’  The answer: the growth in police constabulary numbers over the five years, 2012 to 2016 inclusive, was just five!  That’s one extra police officer a year across Auckland, the population of which, over the same period of time, had increased by more than 160,000 people.

The second question was, “In which of the last four years, if any, have budget increases for Vote Police exceeded increases in the real level of costs facing the Police including the cost of extra responsibilities imposed on them?’

The answer: “The only year in which the increase was more than the Consumer Price Index was 2014-2015.”

In other words, the Police budget has gone down in real terms in three of the last four years.

The Police budget has not just been frozen, it has been cut.

Other posers

That led me to raise other obvious questions.

Is it a lack of resources that means that across the three Auckland police districts, the crime resolution rate averages less than 8% and that 92% of criminals committing burglaries get away with it?

They tried to avoid answering it but the answer is obvious.

As police resources have been cut, each year, their ability to solve crimes has got worse.  Burglaries are the most common crime facing our community.

The biggest deterrent to people thinking of committing this crime is the fear of being caught. They do not have this fear.

The second follow-up question was with fewer resources and a bigger population; “Why, people robbed of their cell phones who then use an app to track down where the phones are, cannot get police help to recover them? Is that why when information identifying burglars and thieves are given to police which would enable them to be caught and convicted often are just not followed up?

I got no answer to this but I have now written again to the Police Commissioner giving actual examples of these things happening and asked for an explanation.

When I get a reply from him, I will be happy to share it with Indian Newslink readers.

We deserve a better response to our safety and security concerns than we are getting now.

Phil Goff is a Mayoral candidate for Auckland City.

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