Blue line stretched too thin

The Police Association is disturbed by large increases in public violence and attacks on police in the Southern district.

There has been a 30% increase in assaults on police, a 22% increase in public assaults and a 15% lift in serious assaults resulting in injury during the year ended June 30, 2016.

The increase in serious crime coincides with a 17% drop in police foot patrols in the South.

The numbers, which were released to the Labour Party under the Official Information Act and provided to the Otago Daily Times, showed the ``quite disturbing'' reality of a stretched police force and its effects on communities in New Zealand, Police Association president Chris Cahill said.

``This is more evidence on a local basis of what we are seeing on a national basis,'' he said.

``We are stretched and we can't do any more.

``It's the constant message our members are giving us across New Zealand.''

While attending a local government forum on law and prevention last week, he heard the same message from local body mayors and councillors.

``They don't believe they are seeing the same presence of police on the street,'' he said.

``The key is we need more resources.''

For police to ``hold the line'', at least 500 more officers were required and ``1000 would make a real difference to communities'', he said.

The Government had introduced initiatives and policies, but had not provided further staff to support them.

``Crime stats clearly show crime has gone up in the last 12 months and it's gone up across the board, both volume and violent crime, and it's gone up across New Zealand,'' Mr Cahill said.

``It's fair to say everyone is stretched and a lot of that is because we are doing more.

``If we can get the support for what we are doing, which is some really good stuff, then we will reap the benefits for everyone.''

Acting Southern district commander Superintendent Lane Todd said the reduced number of foot patrols equated to three per day across the district.

Patrols were now ``more targeted'' and he was confident police maintained a high visibility throughout the district.

He did not believe officers were being asked to do more work with less resources.

``What we are doing now is more focused,'' Supt Todd said.

``If you go back five years ago, we worked on a response model, now we are prevention first.

``There are different priorities to what we had five years ago, but that's the nature of the climate.''

The number of authorised constabulary staff in the district was 551, which had not changed in recent years, Supt Todd said.

When asked if more officers were needed in the district, he said: ``We are managing.''

``Any conversations around our policing numbers or resourcing is for the Government or minister,'' he said.

Dunedin North MP Dr David Clark echoed Mr Cahill's call for 1000 more officers throughout the country.

``I have had concerns raised with me about police responsiveness and a lack of community presence from police,'' he said.

``There is concern in the community about the lack of visibility from police compared to how it used to be.

``It's important not only because police in the community can prevent crime but they inspire public confidence.''

The focus on prevention-first policing had left ``areas that have traditionally been safer ... exposed'', he said.

He pointed to the Southern district as an example.

Police Minister Judith Collins acknowledged a ``significantly increased'' demand for police services in recent years.

``Police must always prioritise its resources and deploy them to where they are needed most.''

``Deployment is an operational matter made by individual districts. However, it is clear that there is significantly increased demand for police services and the Prime Minister has confirmed that the Government is likely to increase the number of police,'' she said.

She was concerned about violence against police.

``Police takes the safety of its staff seriously and works very hard to ensure they are well trained, equipped and supported to carry out their jobs,'' she said.

``While the reality of all policing situations is that they can escalate very quickly and unpredictably, such assaults are totally unacceptable, which is why I passed a law to make assaults on police officers an aggravating factor at sentencing.

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

Comments

Was the law re aggravated assault on police officers passed before or after the offender Delegat was sentenced?

Maybe, just maybe, if the Powers that be stopped being so blooming light on all crime there could well be a change on the number of offenders appearing before the Courts. In my mind it's waay past time to toughen up.