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Mixed reactions over government’s 100-day plan on law and order

6:43 pm on 24 December 2023
Mark Mitchell

Police Minister Mark Mitchell stands by the National Party's tough stance on crime. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The government's 100-day plan on what it calls "restoring law and order" has drawn mixed reaction from the Indian community.

Indian households feature prominently among small business owners who have been calling on the government to tackle crime on the back of rising aggravated assaults and ram raids on their stores.

ACT candidate Himanshu Parmar, who failed to make it into Parliament after ranking 13th on the party list, stood in the Hamilton East electorate under a single pledge to reduce crime.

Parmar said he was pleased to see the coalition government making law and order a "big part" of its agenda in the first 100 days.

However, the pledges failed to address a growing need for victim support in the community, he said.

"It's not necessarily a funding issue but there is definitely a disconnect between police response and victim support kicking in," Parmar said.

Dhansukh Lal, president of the Auckland Indian Association, agrees.

"The 2002 Sentencing Act needs to give priority to the needs of the victims and communities," Lal said. "We have been raising this issue with the (previous) government as well."

"But we welcome the announcement of point 28 (in the 100-day plan), which mandates the stopping of taxpayer funding for Section 27 cultural reports," he said. "A lot of money and time is spent on these cultural reports and judges end up being sympathetic towards the criminals. We believe more focus should be given to the victims. The long-term effects that victims go through after a ram raid or (incident involving) personal harm should be factors (that are considered) for the punishment of the crime."

Sunny Kaushal

Sunny Kaushal, chair of the Dairy and Business Owners Group, wants the justice system to hold offenders to account. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Sunny Kaushal, chair of the Dairy and Business Owners Group, said the community's expectations from the new government was high and his organisation would look at crime data over the next few months to see if there had been any change.

"For small business owners, the jury is still out," Kaushal said. "We need the new government to get the police do policing without fear, and the justice system to hold offenders to account."

Parmar was disappointed to see work on youth offending pushed back in terms of priority, with the new government promising to "begin work" on cracking down on serious youth offenses.

"This is bit of a disappointment," Parmar said. "The comments are vague and nothing concrete has been committed to. Youth crime was a big part of election campaigning from all parties after an intense rise in offending by youth.

"I personally expected a lot more in this space - something along the lines of longer detention of repeat offenders to begin with. We also need more serious policy work in this area."

Lal said the community has been particularly affected by young offending, especially with the rise of ram raids in recent years.

"So many crimes are committed by youths because they know they can get away with it, as police won't be able to prosecute them," Lal said. "We must find ways of bringing these kids back to school and monitor their progress. We want them to become contributing members of society."

Opposition parties have already been lining up to see whether the coalition government can deliver on its promises to reduce crime.

Himanshu Parmar, ACT Party candidate for Hamilton East, standing outside his liquor store.

Himanshu Parmar stood for ACT in the Hamilton East electorate in the 2023 election under a single pledge to reduce crime. He was unsuccessful in his bid to get into Parliament. Photo: Supplied

Ginny Andersen, Labour spokesperson for police, said the coalition government was continuing to ignore evidence on boot camps and the crackdown on gang patches.

"Everyone deserves to be safe in their homes, businesses and in our communities," Andersen said. "That's why Labour increased the number of police in our communities, gave them more tools to tackle gang offending, and cracked down on ram raids and retail offending.

"We want to know from the government what are they doing to support businesses dealing with ram raids, which the previous government was really focussed on. And whether they will continue successful programmes like the fast-track intervention programme and 'circuit breaker', which are reducing reoffending from young people."

Melissa Lee, minister for ethnic communities, said she was "acutely aware of how crime continues to impact ethnic communities in their homes, in their business, in their workplaces and in their communities".

"Small retailers, many of whom are from ethnic communities, have been clear about how violence has affected them," Lee said. "My role is to ensure that the needs of ethnic communities are highly visible and are being acted on with urgency, which is why the government is wanting to see a stronger focus on public safety and victims."

Police Minister Mark Mitchell stood by his party's tough stance on crime.

"I am committed to backing the police, so they have the tools they need to restore law and order in our communities and to keep them safe," Mitchell said.

"In our first 100 days we've committed to introducing legislation to ban gang patches, stop gang members gathering in public and stop known gang offenders from communicating with each other.

"We are committed to giving police greater powers to search gang members for firearms and make gang membership an aggravating factor at sentencing.

"We are also committed to beginning work to crack down on serious youth offending, as well as beginning to repeal and replace Part 6 of the Arms Act 1983 relating to clubs and ranges."

Mitchell acknowledged the rise in youth crime, most visibly in ram raids and aggravated robberies.

"Police will have a strong focus on targeting youth crime," he said. "Violent youth offenders must be held accountable for their actions. We are also going to consider a youth justice demerit point system, and we will be implementing our military youth academies next year."

Mitchell hoped an increase in visible police numbers on the street would be a deterrent to offenders.

"One of my expectations is increased visibility of police officers on the street, bringing back officers on the beat," Mitchell said. "Beat officers are able to form relationships with retailers and shopkeepers and be highly visible in their communities.

"I will also be working with my colleagues to amend the Sentencing Act to provide real consequences for offenders."

Parmar called on the government to clarify its stance on the coalition deal promise to amend the 2002 Sentencing Act, giving priority to the needs of victims and communities over offenders and ensuring there were real consequences for lower-level crimes such as shoplifting.

"After aggravated robberies and ram raids, retailers of all scale are facing unprecedented levels of shoplifting incidents," Parmar said. "We need urgent clarity from the government on what will happen in this space, because currently the police don't even respond properly to shoplifting complaints."

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