Crime not just a big-city problem

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds images on the news each night of brazen crimes being committed on city streets appalling, and reports of increasing gang numbers alarming. These may appear to be big-city problems, but the sad reality is that crime is an issue all over the country, including here in our own backyard.

Last week, new information showed there has been a 50% increase in gang members across New Zealand since Labour came to power in 2017.

While numbers here in the South are thankfully not as high as in places like Bay of Plenty, the fact remains that in 2017 there were 135 people on the National Gang List in the Southern District. Fast-forward to August 2022 and that number has gone up 74%.

Of the 235 gang members in the South, 187 are patched and 48 are prospects.

When you look at other localised figures, there is also cause for concern. For the year to August 2022, the number of robberies, burglaries and thefts in the Waitaki District increased 16% on the previous year.

I’m not reeling off these figures to scaremonger. It’s the reality we find ourselves in and I believe as a country, we need to accept that crime is a serious problem.

The police do a tremendous job and I back them 100%. I admire their dedication and service to our communities. I believe they are being let down.

Earlier this year the Government voted down the Public Finance (Prohibition on providing public funds to gangs) Amendment Bill.

This Bill, put forward by National, would have made it an offence for anyone to pay money, directly or indirectly, to an entity, knowing it is a gang.

It would have prevented the Government from giving $2.75 million of taxpayer money to a ‘‘meth rehabilitation programme’’ run by lifetime Mongrel Mob member Harry Tam as they did last year.

It beggars belief that instead of using the Proceeds of Crime Fund to address the harm caused by gangs, the Government continues to fund gang-related programmes.

Gangs have been emboldened.

Labour just hasn’t got the balance right . . . the primary job of Government is to protect its citizens. We haven’t got the appropriate consequences in place for serious offending.

We need to use more targeted intervention. We need to work with schools where there are high levels of truancy, we need to power up community support organisations who have vast experience in this area, and we need to put the onus back on parents to step up and play their part too.

It’s a sad state of affairs when gangs are recruiting more quickly than police. More than 2000 new gang members have been added since 2017, compared to 1300 new police officers.

People should be able to feel safe in their home, their place of work, or on the street. We need greater accountability from offenders and greater accountability from a government that needs to accept its failings and do better.