Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More

Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


Crime’s Jigsaw: The Missing Pieces

An exodus from Auckland CBD is underway. One NZ is closing its store due to safety concerns, while Stats NZ is relocating its office because of increasing levels of “intimidating behaviour.” Customers are staying away because they feel the area is “dangerous.”

It’s not just our city centres hit with crime. Foodstuffs reported 5,124 violent and aggressive offences in the North Island alone for the first quarter of 2024, up 56% from last year. The Retail Crime Report 2023 reveals a 115% increase in victimisations recorded by police at retail premises over the last six years.

So what’s the solution, and do any political parties have answers?

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

A singular focus on “getting tough on crime” or “rehabilitation” distracts from the underlying issue: Broken families and a lack of community have left our country in a dark place.

The cliché is that people on the “right” are obsessed with punitive measures and gangs. These conglomerates of anti-socials perpetuating the cycle of trauma that formed them are the root of all evil according to this caricature, which sees prison as the only solution.

Continuing with these definitionally unhelpful categories, the cartoon is that those on the “left” make endless excuses for gang members as victims. They forget gangs are major victimisers themselves, and imprisonment is often the only way to protect the public.

Our task is to find the middle way, and it remains unclear whether this government will. Tougher sentencing is one approach, limiting discretionary reductions and reinstituting a Three Strikes law.

The problem is that 56.5% of people released from prison are reconvicted (and 35.8% re-imprisoned) within two years. These figures are higher for young offenders who risk being sealed into the “prison pipeline,” barring early intervention.

While tougher sentences may deter some offenders, “rational actor” hardly describes them. Sentencing also becomes irrelevant when “low-level” offenders fall under the radar because prosecution is too difficult.

Releasing prisoners without proper rehabilitation and community structures is a recipe for disaster. So, too, is allowing menaces to offend with impunity. Hence, security guards calling for increased powers to detain shoplifters and recover stolen goods.

We need circuit breakers that include detention while recognising that for many offenders, prison is not the solution. However, until we repair the societal foundations needed to rehabilitate those wanting to change, it may be a necessary evil.

Consider the Release to Work programme, where minimum-security prisoners nearing release are granted the ability to work during the day. That’s the kind of pro-social initiative needed to support Kiwis out of destructive lifestyles. Please note, “stand-alone employment programmes are unlikely to be effective unless they are combined with [other]… support services,” as highlighted in a 2019 MSD report.

Pieces of the puzzle are still missing; the solution requires a more comprehensive approach than we currently have now.

Think about those children currently in broken families and criminal environments. What about them? And their children? Society is a partnership between the living, dead, and those yet born; we need a generational vision and commitment to rebuild what’s broken.

By Josiah Brown, Communications Coordinator, Maxim Institute

Maxim Institute is an independent think tank working to promote the dignity of every person in New Zealand by standing for freedom, justice, compassion, and hope.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.