Police Minister Ginny Andersen does “not accept” the Government’s record on crime is a “social and moral failure”.
It comes after a pair of hammer-wielding offenders stormed a dairy in Mt Roskill on Wednesday afternoon, injuring two people.
According to Ministry of Justice figures, retail crime shot up 39 percent between 2018 and 2022.
“What else can you do? … I have personally given feedback to the Government and we’ve told them retail crime is on the up,” Sandringham Business Association chair Jithin Chittibomma said after Wednesday’s robbery.
“This has been going on since mid-late 2021 so what else can we do? We’re obviously very frustrated.”
The Opposition has repeatedly blamed it on the Government being “soft on crime”.
“I think one of the drivers is the Government has sent very mixed messages around all this. The one target that they’ve had is to reduce the prison population irrespective of what’s happening in the community and they’ve created a culture of excuses for crime and that, I think, has led to this sense of impunity,” National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith told AM on Friday.
“The real sense that everybody has – all the shopkeepers have and all the people on the street say – is that there are no real consequences for these crimes. That’s why we’ve got to restore consequences for crime.”
ACT leader David Seymour, meanwhile, said New Zealand “must get back to a culture of crime being unacceptable, where victims are put first and where anyone thinking of committing a crime is deterred by the knowledge that if they do, they’ll face consequences”.
Asked by AM host Ryan Bridge if the Government’s rhetoric had led to the public thinking Labour was “soft on crime”, Andersen disagreed.
“I absolutely refute that,” she said. “We’ve resourced our frontline [police], we’ve put money into it – far more than National. Police numbers declined under National [and] resourcing to our frontline declined under National.
“By having cops out there in cars, catching people and holding them to account is the best way to get on top of crime.”
What’s causing rising crime?
The crime increases have prompted a wave of criticism about the Government’s record on addressing the issue.
But rising crime post-pandemic wasn’t unique to New Zealand.
Retail theft in Australia, for example, was the highest it’s ever been. Like in New Zealand, the rise has largely been attributed to skyrocketing living costs.
“Right now… there are kids with no food, they’re in cold homes. Their parents are contemplating going out and stealing or robbing just to feed their kids,” prominent Kiwi community leader Dave Letele told The Project last year.
Nevertheless, Andersen said there were “a whole range of reasons” why crime had worsened under Labour.
According to the Police Minister, the rising crime wasn’t a “social and moral failure” by the Government.
“I do not accept that because we continue to make sure we put those resources on the frontline to make sure we have the police there, and that’s the best way,” Andersen said. “I don’t see it as a social and moral failure because we continue to work with a tough problem, there’s no doubt about it – it’s a really hard issue to get on top of.”
Andersen said any level of violent crime, such as that committed at the Mt Roskill dairy on Wednesday, was “disgusting and absolutely unacceptable”.
“It makes me really angry to see people have this level of violence in their community,” she added. “It’s for that reason that we resource police to be able to catch these offenders and hold them to account.”
Figures revealed by Andersen during a Justice Select Committee in June showed the National Retail Investigation Support Unit, established just over a year ago, had brought about 1241 charges against 195 offenders.