If I asked you what was likely to be on the news tonight what would you say?
Something about the cost of living, could be. Or the war in the Ukraine, probably. A report of terrible weather on the way - yeah, that’s a good bet too. How about one on crime? The latest dairy robbery or ram raid? BINGO!
Seems every day there’s another one.
I could tell you that actually crime isn’t up that much, certainly nothing like the increase in media coverage would suggest. But this newsletter isn’t about that.
I could tell you that the rise in youth crime is consistent with what has being seen elsewhere post Covid. Not all families spent lockdown baking cookies and putting teddy bears in the window. But it’s not about that either.
I could tell you that I don’t think the rise is the result of any changes the government has made. Or that I have little confidence, based on history, or what’s being said, that things would be any different under National.
But the long and the short of it is that there is a lot of crime, every day. You might have been impacted personally by it. So I’m not here to tell you crime isn’t bad, or hasn’t gotten worse. It is, and it has.
This crime is happening and the question we should be asking is what the heck are we going to do about it? What we need, is a plan.
It sounds like Christopher Luxon has a plan. Although I’m guessing it must be top secret. Presumably so that the government doesn’t just copy it, fix crime, and claim all the glory. So how exactly are National planning to "restore law and order"?
That sounds a bit like tanks rolling through the streets. Seriously, what is the plan? Is it to build more prisons and lock more people up? Is it Boot Camps for our children? How about bringing back corporal punishment? I bet the supporters would love that one! Or will we solve this surge in youth crime by making the little buggers massage Crusher Collins' bunions?
When I saw the post above from Mr Luxon I thought - that’s an interesting phrase, saying we will restore law and order. It almost sounds like something someone else might have said.
Ah yes, that was it. In his first campaign for President, Donald J. Trump whipped the population into a state of fear, believing crime was rampant and the authorities were unable to maintain control. His commitment - “I will restore law and order”.
Mr Luxon does seem quite enamoured with the American way of things, as we saw when he offered “thoughts and prayers” to those affected by the awful fire last week. So are we going to take their lead? Are we going to arm shopkeepers?
Is that where we want to go? How about instead of guns, to stop ram rains, we use bollards? Surely they can’t cost very much. Plus the threat to innocent bystanders must be considerably lower. Dream big people. One day we could have as many bollards as we do road cones!
Or how about we get the ciggies out of the dairy and close down the bottle stores? Only sell cigarettes and alcohol from supermarkets or large retailers? Maybe some of these kids are doing ram raids to steal lollies and energy drinks, but there must be an awful lot of them driven by tobacco. A very expensive, high demand product.
Putting aside the mystery of Mr Luxon’s plans, how exactly are Labour “soft-on-crime”, as he states? I’ve heard that accusation a lot, but no explanation of it.
The best I can ascertain is that the prison population is down. Surely that’s a good thing? Something we should aim for? It’s expensive putting someone in jail and should be reserved for the worst criminals. We don’t want to start pumping our jails full of these kids.
Let’s be honest, these ram raids and other crimes we’re seeing have nothing to do with the size of the prison population. They’re being committed by teenagers, not convicts let loose to run amok by the loopy left, as seems to be the claim.
This sloganeering is just political campaigning, it’s not working towards a solution. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians were focused on working constructively together to solve the problem, not on seeking re-election? Maybe we’d see some progress then.
The truth is none of this is new. It was the same under Key, despite his claims that he would clean up Dodge if we made him Prime Minister. It’s much the same, albeit with these high profile ram raids, under Labour. And unless there really is a secret plan to address it, there’s no reason to think it’ll be any different under a Luxon government.
Throw an ACT coalition into the mix and I imagine the Law and Order approach would be be something like this:
Lock more people up, for longer, especially for blue collar crime.
Make lots of money doing it.
Sure they’ll roll out all the usual pre-election gimmicks. Taking patches off gang members, good grief they’ve been pushing that one for years. Then there’s our old friend Strike Force Raptor! How long before we see that one trotted out again?
Even their plan for Boot Camps, has been done. The Key government rolled those out as military-style "activity camps". I’m assuming they didn’t solve the problem.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure that locking up more kids is not the solution. We all know something is not right here. Kids that are well looked after, who feel loved and secure, with opportunities ahead of them, don’t do this.
If we start arming shop keepers, or even members of the public, I don’t think you’ll stop ram raids or robberies. But there will be a lot more photo ops for Luxon and Seymour to rock up to with a bunch of service stations flowers and a camera crew.
No one wants ram raids, no one wants these robberies - but this shouldn’t be a political dogfight. Give the police the resources they need and support them. By all means take a political stand on laws and sentencing, but not on the actual policing.
Labour have left the operational stuff up to the police. They fund the service and then let them get on with running it using their experience and skills. Are National planning something different? I have a mental image of Mark Michell dressed as General Patton, helmet and riding crop, directing operations from a safe distance.
If these kids are like this as teenagers, then what the hell are they going to be like in five years time? These are messed up kids who need help now, a few years down the line and rehabilitation is going to be a whole lot harder.
Locking more people up, writing them off, punishing them vindictively doesn’t work. Look at America. They’ve got sky high incarceration rates and a chunk of the population armed and ready to shoot each other.
Being a victim of these crimes is horrible, I’m not for a moment denying that. But there has to be a better way of dealing with these kids.
I remember some years back we were having real problems with a teenager in our street who had gone off the rails. He was aggressive, violent and abusive - but also just a kid, albeit a physically strong one. We received helpful advice, and action, at the time from our community police constable. He was quite visibly present in our streets, and in our shopping centre.
Unfortunately the last National government froze police funding for years. This resulted in the cost-saving closure of many community police stations, including our one. You’ll forgive me if I’m a bit cynical at the idea of National coming up with anything other than rhetoric.
These kids aren’t born bad, no one is. The way they are acting is a result of the society, and the family situations, they have experienced. That isn’t a free pass, the behaviour is abhorrent and there is no excuse. But if we want to actually fix the problem then treating these kids as human beings and helping them is the best course of action.
Or we could just lock them up and feel like we’re doing something about the problem. See where that gets us. It hasn’t worked so far, but maybe it will next time.
There are some good early intervention wrap around programmes focused on young offenders that are working. But they are expensive and require agencies to work together. The Royal Commission on historic abuse shows what happens when children are punished and neglected.
"Mr Luxon does seem quite enamoured with the American way of things" ..."Locking more people up, writing them off, punishing them vindictively doesn’t work. Look at America. They’ve got sky high incarceration rates and a chunk of the population armed and ready to shoot each other."