27 Sep 2023

Election 2023: National announces plan for 300 more frontline police to tackle inner-city crime

12:35 pm on 27 September 2023

Citing an escalation in crime in CBD areas, the National Party has announced it would bring in 300 more frontline police officers, over four years, to focus on inner-city crime prevention and enforcement, if elected.

About 20 days ago, Labour too had promised to add 300 frontline police, and expand the use of mental health officers to respond to callouts, if elected.

"Since Labour took office, violent crime is up 33 percent, serious assaults have more than doubled and gang membership is up 70 percent. This year there has been close to two ram raids a day, on average," National police spokesperson Mark Mitchell said today.

He said crime was high in downtown and CBD areas including Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton.

"Much of this increased crime is concentrated in what were once relatively safe inner-city areas, where shop owners and members of the public are expressing concern about a lack of visible police presence on the streets.

"That's why National will deliver an extra 300 frontline constables over the next four years, to increase the physical presence of beat officers in CBD areas in major cities dealing with a significant spike in criminal activity.

"The allocation of these 300 extra police officers, costing $124 million over four years, will be determined by district police commanders, but National will set out clear expectations that this added resource is directed to the frontlines in central city locations."

He said Labour's "soft-on-crime approach" had left the police force "increasingly stretched".

"Only National has the policies to get tough on gangs, to ensure there are consequences for youth offenders, including boot camps, and to ensure sentences better reflect offending and that prisoners have more rehabilitation."

Mitchell said National would also scrap Labour's "policing by consent philosophy which has been a failure and encourage a back-to-basics policing model" which focused on officers building relationships with the community and deterring anti-social behaviour and street violence.

"We have seen far too many scenes of youths ram-raiding businesses, violent aggravated robberies, assaults occurring in broad daylight, and gangs discharging firearms near innocent bystanders."

Addressing cost of living to reduce crime

Talking to reporters in Auckland, National leader Christopher Luxon said New Zealanders were not feeling safe in their homes, businesses and communities.

"This is not what we have to accept in New Zealand, and collectively we all get to decide that enough is enough. This is not acceptable to us."

Mitchell said talking to dairy owners, retailers, or members of communities around the country, "the message is that they have a strong desire to see more police out on the beat and present in the community".

When asked what National would do to address the causes of crime, like people stealing food, Mitchell said: "There's lots of petty theft ... shoplifting going on, and the sad thing about New Zealand is that retailers aren't reporting that crime because they don't have a high level of confidence that there will be a police response to it. Police are off trying to prioritise violent crime."

He said people were stealing food due to the cost of living crisis.

"This [Labour] government has totally failed in terms of allowing people the basic dignity of being able to buy their own food."

Luxon stepped in to answer it further, saying "first we've got to reduce the cost of living, that means us tackling the underlying causes of inflation".

Mitchell said the 300 more officers would take the ratio of officers from 480:1 to 470:1.

Luxon said the money for it - $124 million over four years - would come from "future operating allowances".

National will release its fiscal plan on Friday.

National finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said Labour had been known to overspend its allowances, but she said she would stick to the operating allowances budget.

"You'll see our fiscal plan on Friday and I can assure you that we have allowed fro considerable new funding in health to allow for the big cost pressures - we want frontline services, our hospitals and doctors, to have the funding they need to deliver."

'National has no new ideas' - Labour

Labour's Police spokesperson Ginny Andersen said National's policy was a "word for word" copy of the one Labour announced three weeks earlier.

"I think personally this announcement today demonstrates that National has no new ideas in this space ... the fact that they have copied our policy is embarrassing for them and I think that is an admission that their other policies do not work."

She said the boot camps policy had been proven by the previous National government's own science advisor not to work, and banning gang patches also had not worked. She talked up Labour's programme instead.

"We've seen with circuit breaker that we had peaked at 116 ram raids a year ago in August, that's at 35 now, so we know that having those programmes in place work far better than what they're proposing - boot camps."

Andersen was formerly a non-sworn officer at police headquarters, and said Mitchell's claim National would shift resources towards the frontline instead was "really concerning" because it would require sworn officers to do more administrative work.

"When non-sworn numbers decreased we actually had to have those non-sworn roles filled by police officers ... that meant that a sworn officer was doing emails or managing someone's diary, that's not a good use of police resources."

Mitchell's proposal to scrap what he called "Labour's policing by consent philosophy" was "bizarre", Andersen said.

"That's quite bizarre. Policing with the consent of communities has been part of New Zelanad's police services since it was first initiated - the alternative would be policing by force.

"It's really important our police service engage with communities and have their cooperation - that's how we report crime and resolve crime."

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