28 Nov 2022

Jacinda Ardern announces business support package targeted at dealing with crime

4:05 pm on 28 November 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken about the "profound sadness and anger" at the loss of Auckland superette worker Janak Patel - and announced support for dairy owners at her regular post-Cabinet media conference.

It comes as dairy owners closed their shops for two hours this afternoon to protest following the death of 34-year-old Janak Patel while he worked at Rose Cottage Superette in Auckland's Sandringham last week.

Three men have been charged in relation to Patel's death.

"I've spoken already about the profound sadness and anger at the loss of Janak Patel. I want to thank the police for their speedy investigation and apprehension of three individuals - age 32, 46 and 36," Ardern said.

The matter was before the courts, so she could not say much more other than it was important for justice to be done, Ardern said.

The expansion of the aggravated robbery prevention initiatives in 2018, building on the previous measures brought in by the previous National government, saw more than 1000 fog cannons installed, Ardern said.

Ram raids had since increased, and the government rolled out its $6m Crime Prevention Fund in May, which had led to installations of security measures in more than 100 shops, she said.

"We also see a concerted effort by police to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and that is having an impact. This year there have been 517 ram raids, in response there have been 360 prosecutions and 145 youth referrals."

This had contributed to the reduction in ram raids from a high point in August, to 13 this month so far, Ardern said.

Cabinet has today signed off an additional package to support businesses. This included:

  • A new $4m fund to support local council crime prevention programmes to be matched dollar-for-dollar with councils
  • Expanding the Retail Crime Prevention Fund to include aggravated robberies committed in the past year
  • A $4000 subsidy for small shops and dairies to install a fog cannon if they choose, "not just those who have been the victim of a crime"

Further details over the $4000 subsidy would be made available over the coming week, but it would be done through an authorised supplier list, Ardern said.

"We are aware of supply chain issues, but despite that I'm advised that police have been successful in ordering an extra 455 fog cannons which are expected to arrive before Christmas. This adds to the 270 that are currently in the country and have been allocated to affected shops.

Ardern said that was despite global demand for fog cannons, and "it appears New Zealand is not alone in the current experience we are having".

The subsidy through an authorised supplier list removed a lot of a barriers to access, but "there is a global issue with access to these pieces of kit because this appears to be an issue that not just New Zealand is facing", she said.

Regarding the Sandringham dairy not having a fog cannon, Ardern said: "As far as we're able to ascertain, the dairy in question had an aggravated robbery or a robbery in 2016. At that time the previous government has put in place a fog cannon initiative that was very narrow. You had to have experienced repeat offences in order to qualify.

"When we came into government we expanded it significantly, in fact by the 2019 year if you had experienced one aggravated robbery in the last 12 months you were eligible for a fog cannon. Three years have passed though since that particular dairy had experienced that kind of event. So as far as I can ascertain they have fallen between two programmes ... what we are doing today removes that."

Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Minister of Police Chris Hipkins said one of the reasons fog cannons were effective was they are very safe for the person using it, they de-escalated the risk almost immediately, and reoffending in the same business was very low.

"So, they work, that's one of the reasons why we want to see their expansion," he said.

Ardern said the government had also been meeting with councils over the past month including meeting with mayors to hear what would help them prevent crime.

"We've been working alongside in particular mayor Paula Southgate, who put this idea to us - and $1m of the fund will go to these kinds of measures in Hamilton.

"$2m of the fund will match Auckland Council dollar for dollar, and $1m will do the same across councils in the Bay of Plenty region. We have targeted those areas that have experienced a particular spike in retail crime."

Ardern said the funding alongside local government was apportioned based on where the type of crime was being seen most.

"That initial funding we've put in, we know that Hamilton has welcomed it. Mayor [of Auckland, Wayne] Brown who I just spoke to has also welcomed it. We believe it'll be a catalyst for some important initiatives."

At the moment $10m has been put aside for the fog cannon subsidy, but Ardern noted it "will be demand-driven".

The government was also continuing its work with young offenders, Ardern said.

"Evidence shows that what we are doing is working with around half of the most serious and repeat young offenders that were identified and targeted with the better pathways programme now back in education or training. Reoffending amongst this cohort has also reduced.

"As ministers we've also gone over all the tools available to deal with young offenders in these areas - there are many including the use of the courts. We're concerned by reports not all of these tools are being accessed where the public might expect and continue to actively look at ways to resolve this issue."

Ardern said it was understandable that there was a huge amount of emotion around the topic, but it was not true that there had been an escalation across all types of criminal activity, or that there had been a general increase in youth crime.

"Ninety-two percent of retail offending is committed by adults, aggravated robberies across some of these different types is actually less than it was five years ago."

Ardern said there were tools available for combating youth crime, including through care and protection by Oranga Tamariki if a child is young or through the courts.

"These crimes do attract significant penalties, it's 10 years for a burglary, 14 for an aggravated robbery. So those tools are there, our concern is they are not being used as the public, or we, would expect.

"It seems to be a number of issues, in some cases the time it takes for instance to go through the family court if it's a young child, in other cases it's whether or not the repeat offence provisions are being used."

She said for 12- and 13-year-olds, "I think we can all agree if you see offending at that age, it is not just an issue with the young person, clearly there are issues at play with the family".

"It is an area where we're continuing to work with Police and Justice ... it is not fair to say that there are no tools to deal with young people or that they cannot go through our justice system. They can."

Work with councils and with young offenders was from decisions before today, and the government continued to look at the issue as it progressed, she said.

"We do see the issues and we know we need to respond... Yes, we have had a spike in particular retail crime, but it is not as claimed across the board ... regardless, one is one too many, and that is why we will continue to do all we can."

It had not been a blindspot for the government, Ardern said.

"We have increased, not decreased what we've done in all of these areas ... this is not about politics, it's about making sure we do what works, we support our community, and we ensure people feel safe."

The announcements today made up the most significant crime prevention package in recent memory, but continued support for the police was also important, Ardern said.

Auckland-based protesters gathered outside Ardern's electorate office in Mt Albert today, while Wellington protesters gathered outside Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson's office.

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