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Police Need Effective Solution


Police Need Effective Solution

The New Zealand Police Association is correct in saying the Government's plan to use staff from around the country to solve Auckland's policing shortage is simply a band-aid solution to a long-term problem.

Having police from other regions serve short stints in Auckland is no solution. It will not prove effective; no sooner have `fill-in' officers learnt the ropes, than their six-week stint is over and they return home. Policing is different for every area; officers need time to find their feet - meanwhile, experienced staff cannot do their jobs while training out-of-towners.

Piecemeal solutions such as this, however, appear to be the Government's forte. The Police Association has already said Auckland's shortages may be a "chronic condition". Long-term problems are solved by long-term solutions - not plugging gaps and hoping for the best.

Auckland's crisis is a result of Labour's underfunding of core police activities. Having increased funding for traffic policing by eight percent on a per capita basis, Labour cut funding to fight crime by almost 1.5 percent. As a result, crime is rising, with Auckland's results being particularly shocking: homicide up 33 per cent, kidnapping and abduction 29 per cent, robbery 18 per cent, minor assault 21 per cent, sexual offences 17.5 per cent and hard drug offences 25 per cent. Even crime resolution rates, which have been steadily improving for years, have dropped by 2.6 per cent for all crime.

Yet the Government response is to pour money into traffic policing. While the road toll comes down, and fines collected go up - almost doubling from 48 million to 94 million since Labour has been the Government - overall crime continues to rise.

With such funding inequalities, it is little wonder there are police shortages. In the past two years police have lost more than 1,000 experienced staff - each departure meaning a loss of vital experience and institutional knowledge that is not easily replaceable. Auckland's low police numbers certainly help explain why the country's largest city's crime rate is so high.

Crime is in danger of spiralling out of control. Investment in police is the only option, and the Government must form a strategy to ensure that Auckland's crisis is resolved - without hurting other areas - such as the Southern Region, whose Police Association Director has voiced concerns the Government's current plan will further stretch already limited resources.

If the Government wants to lower the crime rate and fulfil its fundamental duty to protect its citizens and their property - and we must assume that it does - police must be given the mandate and the resources to crack down on crime. It is only when police are fully equipped to do their job - and not told to simply "make do" - will we begin to see real results. That cannot be achieved by merely plugging gaps. The Government must ensure gaps do not form in the first place. If they fail to protect citizens, the politicians in the Beehive have abdicated their first and most fundamental duty.


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