Auckland, July 25, 2022
Do you sometimes wonder what country you are living in right now? Police being assaulted in the street. Daylight robbery at malls. Increase in homicides and gun violence.
Some of our news headlines look like they could be ripped straight from the United States.
And our crime rate statistics tell a similar story. Nationally, crime rates have risen by an average of 15%. In the first six months of the year, there were 254 ramraids—a 518% increase in five years. And gun violence in Auckland (where most of these headlines are from)? In May, it doubled.
We have reason to be concerned, but what can we do about that concern?
The latest announcements by the Police Minister are a step in the right direction. They give Police more power, but they also focus on systemic causes of crime too. Some people would simply lock almost every offender up, the “get tough on crime” response.
The proportionality of Justice
Yet, punishment for a crime is only part of the equation. It is a necessary part for sure; we need to see justice done, and an essential aspect of justice is proportionality. There is more to consider. A complex problem is not easily solved by one simple solution. As Maxim has pointed out in the past, justice includes considering reformation and recidivism, among other things.
An increased Police presence reduces offending like breaking (think ram raids and daylight smash-and-grabs), and proactive policing can also help. But violent offending is more systemic. We need to ask intelligent questions like, “What process leads to these poor crime outcomes? How can we interrupt that process and create good results?”
Such questions are not “either/or.” It is not about either recruiting new Police or investing in local communities. Let us do both.
There is another element. Recent studies show that we’re more isolated today than before the pandemic. We are also losing our local businesses, which are crucial for building community; for the first time since 2012, there were more closures than start-ups, and 70% of businesses expect to close due to Covid-19.
The basic question
We exist in communities. The way that individuals act affects the whole. Those communities, whether local suburbs, schools, community groups, or family groups, must ask a fundamental question: “What sort of citizens do we want?”
Start by being the sort of citizen that you want to see. Get to know your neighbours. Not only does it decrease loneliness, hopelessness, and worry, but it also increases feelings of usefulness, creates communal culture, and keeps the area safe.
In 1910, The Times ran a series of articles by various intellectuals answering the question, “What is wrong with the world?” G K Chesterton responded with two words: “I am.” Crime is not just about punishment; it is also about nourishment. Let us pursue both; together.
Jason Heale is Communications Manager at Maxim Institute based in Auckland.