The need to address crime and the causes behind it

Despite National’s protestations to the contrary, violent crime seems to be increasing around New Zealand. A spate of armed hold ups of bars, service stations, takeaway joints and even a couple of banks has occurred in the last two years. In the last year Z Energy Stations, taverns and more recently an Egyptian kebab outlet just a few minutes walking distance from my place have all been hit. Sometimes the police are successful in finding the offenders, but often they are not.

What bothers me aside from the spike in these offences is the sheer brazen nature of some of the attacks, and the age of some of the offenders who may have to be dealt with in the youth court. It is pretty difficult to say that crime is dropping when there has been a surge in such violent offences, particularly in south Auckland. These have involved attempted assault of staff on the premises hit, the use of assorted weapons ranging from handguns to steel tyre rims.

So, why is there this surge in violent offences and what can be done about it?

One major problem is a societal break down of responsibility for ones own actions, a lack of role models for troubled youth. Successive Governments have talked about addressing youth crime, poverty in particular amongst Maori and Pacific Island people who tend to be disproportionately represented in the crime statistics. But the talk of those successive Governments has failed to materialize into a comprehensive approach across social welfare, justice and the education sectors.

This should be tied into the comprehensive approach that I have mentioned for tackling poverty. The latter often fuels crime as a result of disenchantment, but also a lack of values instilled through education and opportunities for work.

Another problem is the prevalence of drugs. Cannabis, heroin, methamphetamines are all contributing to a rise in violent offences. The scale of the recent busts in Northland where tens of millions of dollars in narcotics was recently found in a single haul points to a significant black market at work.

However, a bigger problem, that the Government must tackle is the under funding of the authorities and the causes of judges handing down weak sentences that fail to reflect the gravity of the crime or provide an effective deterrent against future offending. In the case of sexual offences, an estimated 29% of all offences get reported to the Police, which ensures that in probably 9/10 cases the offender will get away. In the case of the under funding, given a spike in gun crime – something we like to think is not a problem in New Zealand – it was disturbing to hear of a gun control and vetting manager telling the Police his section had been systemically under funded.

Unless and until these and other causes of violent crime in New Zealand get addressed, the situation will worsen.

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