29 Jun 2016

Police concerned at national crime spike

9:08 pm on 29 June 2016

The Police Commissioner is worried about a spike in crime in New Zealand.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush

Police Commissioner Mike Bush Photo: RNZ/Lauren Baker

The latest monthly police statistics show there's been a spike in crime - with the number of burglaries, assaults and robberies all on the rise.

The statistics compare recorded crime in May 2016 with May last year, and show eight of the 10 most commonly reported and detected offences had risen - many significantly.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush told MPs at today's Law and Order Select Committee the jump in crime had to be kept in perspective.

"Burglary rates are some of the lowest rates in over a decade, in recent times there has been an increase - now that concerns me," the commissioner said.

Police Minister Judith Collins tried to put a positive spin on the jump in crime when speaking to reporters later.

"Well there may have been a slight bump in crime and I think the commissioner said that was most likely so, but I think what we're seeing is if police go after drug offenders, that's always going to be counting as offences," she said.

Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash was most concerned about the increase in the number of assaults on police officers.

But Mr Nash said while police officers on the frontline were increasingly under attack, the Police Minister insisted staffing levels were appropriate.

"I would have thought the best way to deal with this is more resources, more officers on the ground preventing crime and putting the bad guys behind bars," Mr Nash told RNZ News.

Community police stations and kiosks all over the country have been closed in recent years.

And a review being carried out by police following attacks on civilian police staff could soon see more join them.

Mr Bush told MPs he could recall two recent attacks on unsworn staff at kiosks and he said that was two too many.

"I was lobbied recently by a number of volunteers that they're willing to put themselves there, and that's basically because they love serving their communities.

"But again, I have got to step back and say how can I make sure they're safe?"

Labour MP Phil Goff asked the Police Minister why the police were retreating from the public.

"I'm trying to figure out why a police station is different from an electoral office or a shop?" Mr Goff asked the minister.

Ms Collins responded: "This is a choice for the Commissioner of Police and I support him in making decisions he has to make to keep his staff and his volunteers safe, because if something happens to one of his people it's not you Mr Goff that's going to answer for it - it's the commissioner."

Mr Nash believed the real reason community police stations and kiosks were being closed was not for safety reasons - rather it was down to the government trying to pinch pennies.

"That's my suspicion, you can always find reasons to do things - the Police Minister has used health and safety, I think that's being a little bit disingenuous, what I would love to see is these kiosks open," Mr Nash said.

The committee also heard that the Auckland police districts have gained just five constables in the last four years, while the city's population has swelled.

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