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Streets Must Be Safe Before Children Can Play

Streets Must Be Safe Before Children Can Play

As well as urging schoolchildren to become more physically active, the Government must get to the heart of why more children spend time indoors, ACT New Zealand Police Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"Education Minister Trevor Mallard, the Education Ministry and Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) have joined forces to encourage children to swap the PlayStation for fresh air, but they have failed to recognise the underlying reason why children are spending more time inside," Dr Newman said.

"Lack of exercise has come about through fear - parents' fear that their children are no longer safe on the way to and from school, or at the local park.

"In its reasons for this initiative, the Government has omitted the most serious constraint on children's' exercise: safety. Parents no longer feel their children are safe outside. During the 1999 referendum, 94 per cent of New Zealanders called on the Government to get tough on crime. They wanted to feel safe in their homes and on the streets. But, after three years of Labour being in power, their major contribution has been to pass laws that go soft on crime.

Crime is worse, with police shortages - especially in Auckland - unlikely to make the situation any better. While video games are not ideal, at least parents know that the bad guys their children encounter are make-believe.

"If the Government wants children to be more physically active, then it must adopt a zero tolerance approach to crime - the same approach that turned New York from one of the world's most dangerous cities, into one of its safest. Then parents may be more willing to allow their children outside to play, knowing the streets are safer, and the bad guys confined to the boundaries of a TV screen," said Dr Newman.

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