Police Minister Poto Williams calls on community leaders to help quash spike in ram-raids

Police Minister Poto Williams is calling on community leaders, NGOs and local councillors to help quash a spike in ram-raids.

Williams, speaking to Newshub Live at 8pm, said police cannot solve the recent spike in ram-raids alone and need the support of community leaders. 

"It's terrible what's happening, but police are not the only agency that can be and should be involved in this," Williams told presenter Rebecca Wright. 

"Police are a big part of the solution, but so are our community leaders, our NGOs [non-government organisations] and other government agencies and also locally-elected officials."

Her comments came after a surge in ram-raids across New Zealand, with 15 to 20 being reported each week by members of the Dairy and Business Owners Group. On average there are 40 ram-raids every month. 

Police were shocked to discover four children - aged 7, 10, 11 and 12 - in the early hours of Thursday morning holding stolen toys and other goods after breaking into a mall in Hamilton overnight.   

The rise in crime comes as inflation, or the cost of living, rises to a 30-year high

National MP and police spokesperson Mark Mitchell blames the spike on the Government's "soft on crime approach" and escalating gang numbers. 

"This has created a violent crime wave in New Zealand which puts our police and the community they protect in more danger."

Williams pointed to the Government's record of increasing police numbers. The Government last month graduated its 3000th police officer since 2017 and is on track to reach a net gain of 1800 officers on the beat by around June 2023.

"It's a really serious situation. It's distressing for all concerned; not just the retailers and shopkeepers who have got their livelihoods and their security that they're worried about, but it's also a real concern for our community - that our young people are prepared to put their lives and the lives of others at risk," Williams told Newshub.

"The police are really concerned that they're facing these issues, but that's why we have to resource the police in a way that they can actually deal with it, so that's why we've invested so heavily in ensuring the police have got the tools, the numbers and the resources to deal with these situations."

On average there are 40 ram-raids every month in New Zealand.
On average there are 40 ram-raids every month in New Zealand. Photo credit: Newshub

Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins, who has Labour's support in the Auckland mayoralty race, agrees with Williams that communities need to take some of the responsibility.

"This is the manifestation of young men, in particular, they feel unloved and unwanted. When this behaviour happens it's because they're looking for friendship, food, comradery somewhere else." 

Counties Manukau police detective inspector Karen Bright shared a similar perspective speaking to AM.   

"There is a part that other people can play including social media, parents, the wider community, keeping these kids in school and people who are receiving these stolen goods. There's a lot of things that can be done and it's not just a police issue to solve."

ACT MP Chris Baillie pointed blame at the Government for cutting the Police Youth Services budget by $10 million over the past year. 

"With many years experience as a Youth Aid Police Officer, I know well the positive impact intervention can have on troubled youth. There needs to be greater involvement in these kids' lives by Youth Aid, before they commit more serious crimes," Baillie said. 

"Sadly, Labour's soft on crime approach that has seen gang violence erupt is now filtering down to youth offenders. Officers have told me that these offenders have no fear of consequence, and officers are hamstrung by their inability to give chase."

Police Minister Poto Williams.
Police Minister Poto Williams. Photo credit: Newshub

Williams argued that youth specialists in police are well-funded. 

"Police are resourced well. From the extra 1800 police our funding has provided to them, an extra 109 youth specialists," she told Newshub. "They do have a youth focus that will be really useful in addressing this issue going forward."

Rebecca Wright responded: "Well, it doesn't seem to be having much of an impact right now."

Williams said there are specialist police operations underway targeting crime. 

Operation Tauwhiro, a long-term and nationally coordinated police operation, has resulted in 1531 firearms and 53.74kg of meth seized, as well as 1255 arrests. The operation was extended until June. 

The Government's new Firearms Prohibition Orders are expected to help crack down on gun crime by banning high-risk convicted people from owning firearms and enabling the seizure of assets obtained through illicit means.

"We are resourcing police in a way that hasn't happened in the past," Williams said. "There is more to come and we do back the work of the police."