National says rise in ram raids due to Government's 'soft' crime approach

The National Party blames the recent rise in ram raids on the Government's "soft" crime approach.

National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell said police and retail shop owners are facing an escalation of youth offending as ram raids continue to damage businesses.

Mitchell said youth offenders are responsible for 88 percent of ram raid incidents and contribute to a 31 percent increase in retail crime, which is creating more financial and emotional stress for businesses trying to recover from COVID restrictions.

Mitchell said since the police changed their pursuit policy in 2020 to only chase fleeing cars if there is an overwhelming risk of harm, there has been a steep increase in failing to stop for police incidents. 

"Offenders have realised they can steal a car or flee the scene of a crime without the risk of being pursued or stopped by the police," Mitchell said.

"As a result of this Government's soft on crime approach, youth offenders, gang members and organised crime groups behave as if they can act with impunity. This has created a violent crime wave in New Zealand which puts our police and the community they protect in more danger."

He said the justice system seems unable to respond to the growing number of youth offenders, causing the police, shopkeepers and the wider public to deal with repeat violent youth offending.

This comes after three stolen vehicles were used to ram-raid the Ormiston Town Centre shopping centre in Auckland on Tuesday morning.

National Party MP for Pakuranga Simeon Brown tweeted his frustration at the group of thieves.

"This is despicable. Crime is out of control under Labour's soft on crime approach to law and order," Brown wrote.

However, Minister of Police Poto Williams said ram raids only make up 1 percent of all retail crime.

"I would challenge the National Party to come up with more than cheap slogans such as 'soft on crime'," Williams said.

Williams said the police are focused on tackling retail crime and created the national retail investigation support unit in November 2021, to focus on repeat retail offending.

Williams said the Government has also rolled out fog cannons to small businesses and since Labour came into power in 2017 there has been an increase of 382 police officers working in the Auckland districts, which will continue to rise as Labour moves towards their target of 1800 additional police officers nationwide by the end of June 2023. 

"Under our record investment there are now more police officers on the beat than ever before," Williams said.