Jenny Salesa –
The growing violence against small business owners in Auckland is of enormous concern. Last month, I co-hosted a meeting of small business owners in South Auckland convened by Labour MP and spokesperson for Ethnic Communities Phil Goff, and Manukau Indian Association (MIA) President Veer Khar.
Substantial numbers of Indian business people attended and some shared their frontline experiences with stories of physical abuse from some members of the community, of theft – particularly of cigarettes, alcohol and cash – and of violence, sometimes very serious.
A common thread was the perception that police are not always working for the people in these situations. They do not attend quickly, sometimes not at all; and they do not always pursue offenders.
I have attended follow-up meetings with senior officers at Counties Manukau District Police and will continue to carry concerns to police and to advocate on safety in our business community.
It is true that owners of small businesses such as dairies, liquor stores and service stations can take steps towards arranging their environment and connecting with their neighbourhoods for greater safety.
Nonetheless, I heard our community clearly say that, as taxpayers in increasingly dangerous situations, small business owners have a right to expect that police will protect them, will attend at scenes of crime, will respond quickly, will pursue evidence and will charge offenders.
Minister vs common man
Last Month, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett attended a housing meeting in Auckland and the venue was crawling with police.
Auckland resident Tim Mason’s house was ransacked late last year. Police sent only a fingerprinting officer and no sworn officers to investigate. They also told Mr Mason that he should go to a Manukau petrol station to get CCTV footage of the burglar, as it was the victim’s job to obtain that evidence.
A loss of 100 police officers on our roads – due to funding cuts – coincided with a tragic spike in the death toll on our roads over the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend.
So, we have fewer police on the road, fewer to deal with everyday crime, and fewer on the beat (unless you’re a Minister of the Crown presumably).
Some local boards and local councils have become so frustrated at the dwindling numbers on the ground they are paying for community policing initiatives themselves, such as security patrols and CCTV monitoring, particularly in our smaller town centres.
At the same time police are having to deal with an increase in unresolved burglaries. Close to 90% of burglaries – 164 a day – go unsolved in New Zealand.
Another factor affecting police funding has been the massive delay in a new police IT system that was supposed to be up and running in April but now isn’t expected to be ready until September. The delay is costing a whopping $2 million a month.
Police Minister Judith Collins has assured the public that PwC – the company responsible for the system – will deliver. She has been less forthcoming as to how the millions of dollars that the cost of the delay is funded.
While it is important that our police have a modern IT system, delays and budget over runs are an unnecessary cost for an underfunded force.
Police received $250 million in new funding over four years in Budget 2016, a huge portion of which ($230 million), will cover salaries and wages, leaving just $20 million for anything else.
What we really need is enough funding to ensure that more police officers are out there on the frontlines, in the community, doing the job they are there to do.
The more crime that is stopped, the less the cost of crime will be, in dollars, of course, but in human costs too of injury, pain, stress and emotional distress.
The less the cost of crime, the more that can be saved.
Jenny Salesa is elected Member of Parliament from Manukau East and Labour Party Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training.