Establishing a youth military academy to get the worst young offenders off the streets is a priority for the Government, says the Minister of Police.
Mark Mitchell told RNZ’s Checkpoint that a series of violent smash and grabs at a jewellery store chain – including one in his own electorate – and a stabbing at an Auckland supermarket over the weekend highlighted the “big job” the Government faced in tackling crime.
“We’re committed to making sure that we start to get us back on track and returning to be the safest country in the world, instead of being one where we’re seeing lawlessness get out of control over the last six years,” Mitchell said.
And on Saturday afternoon a security guard at a supermarket in Mt Roskill was stabbed after stopping a suspected shoplifter.
Mitchell said setting up a military academy for youth offenders was a priority, but he could not give any timeframe as to when it might happen.
“As soon as it’s clear when we can open that then I’ll come back on the show and I’ll talk to you more about it, but right now we’re working flat out to get that established.”
Meanwhile, residents in the Auckland suburb of Pt Chevalier have been told not to expect more officers on the beat despite problems with public drinking, intimidating behaviour and theft in the shopping centre.
The coalition Government has promised an extra 500 frontline police officers within two years.
Mitchell said the number of police on the beat was an operational matter, but he had made it clear to the police commissioner he wanted an increased presence on the streets.
While he could not direct police staff on operational matters, Mitchell said, the Government’s expectation was that the delivery of new officers would lead to “an increased presence on the streets with our beat staff”.
He said the police response to the Silverdale theft – which was in his electorate of Rodney – was immediate.
“It was decisive, and they had the alleged offender in custody within 20 minutes.”
Some “very tough legislation” being introduced into Parliament in the Government’s first 100 days would also start to give police “additional tools to clamp down and get on top of the gangs”, he said.
Offenders had been “operating in a very permissive environment with impunity”, Mitchell said, but “there’s going to be consequences for this offending now; we’ll take them out of the community and put them into a military academy”.
Overall, Ministry of Justice data shows youth crime rates have been dropping year-on-year. The trend is not always consistent, and there has been a significant post-Covid uptick, but the number of children and youths aged 16 or under coming before the courts has halved over the past decade.