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Clark: Release of Pledge 5 - More Community Police

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Release of Pledge Number 5 on
Labour's 2005 Pledge Card:
250 More Community Police

Glenfield Community Centre
90 Bentley Ave, Auckland

11.30am

Thursday 11 August 2005


Over the past two terms in government, Labour has taken a number of important steps to reduce crime and make our communities safer. We have invested heavily in police numbers and resources, and that is contributing to outstanding police efforts to get crime rates down.

Now the crime rate is falling, significantly.

Official Police crime statistics show that the crime rate for 2004 was 21.8 per cent lower than it was in 1996.

There were 406,363 offences recorded in 2004. That is 14.9 per cent less in absolute volume than the peak of 477,596 offences recorded in 1996 - and of course our population has grown since then.

As well, the crime resolution rate is rising.

The resolution rate for all recorded crime is now 44.6 per cent – the best resolution rate since 1987. The resolution rate in 1996 was just 36.8 per cent.

We have record police numbers.

There were 7,577 sworn police officers in New Zealand as at 31 May 2005, and 9926 police in all. That compares to 7,027 sworn officers and a total of 8767 police at the end of 1999. In total Labour has already added more than 1150 staff to the police.

The further 265 staff announced in Budget 2005 will take total police numbers above 10,000 for the first time ever - and the total added by Labour to over 1400.

We have a record police budget.

The Police operational budget is currently $1.03 billion. This is not only a record high, but also approximately $280 million more per year than in 1999.

In each of the last two elections, Labour has made signed pledges on law and order issues.

In 1999, we pledged to crack down on burglary. We have achieved that. Comparing 1999 with 2004, burglary rates have been cut by more than a quarter.

In 2002, we pledged tougher sentences for the most serious offenders. The Sentencing Act 2002 is now delivering longer sentences across the board, as well as the longest sentences ever for the most serious crimes.

The longest non-parole periods within a life sentence for murder have been handed down under the new Act: non-parole periods of up to thirty years have been set. And preventive detention – which is a life sentence – is now available for a wider range of sexual and violent offending. Under the new laws, use of preventive detention has doubled.

In both 1999 and 2002, we pledged to focus on youth crime. Police apprehension data, where the apprehended person was aged under 17 years, shows that this proportion was 20.7 per cent in 2004 – the lowest proportion in at least a decade and significantly lower than the 23 per cent recorded in 1999.

So, today, we are announcing the next step in fighting crime.

Today I am announcing a new policy which will be guaranteed on Labour’s pledge card: 250 extra community police over the next two financial years, effectively doubling their current numbers.

Community police are visible, accessible and responsive. By elevating their strategic importance and doubling their numbers, Labour will build a strong layer of police who will work directly with local communities to prevent crime, and help to build strong and confident communities.

Fear of crime can be just as damaging to a community as crime itself. The public want a visible police presence on the streets, to provide confidence and reassurance that their local community is a safe place for their family to live in. They also want more day-to-day engagement with local police who can take the time to listen to local concerns and ideas.

Community police will work actively in their local communities not just to tackle crime, but also to create safer communities where crime is less likely to occur.

Like all police, community police will be available to respond to emergency calls for assistance, and that is what the public would expect.

This pledge will mean that in each police district there will be a visible and tangible increase in community police presence over the next two financial years. Police commanders will determine which communities receive the new positions first.

This pledge to recruit 250 community police officers will be over and above the additional 265 new police positions announced in Budget 2005.

There is no question that we need to continue to increase frontline police as well, and police numbers will continue to rise across the board under Labour, as they have every year since 1999.

Some political parties are promising thousands of new police. Such promises are simply not credible.

As with Labour’s pledges on law and order in 1999 and 2002, we will deliver on our promise. We will continue to combat crime, and we will continue to increase the resources we give to our hard-working police.

ENDS

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