New Justice, Police ministers won't be pressured into 'kneejerk reactions' over crime wave

The new Justice and Police ministers say they will not be pressured into making policy changes that are "kneejerk reactions" to political pressure.

In their first week in the job Kiri Allan and Chris Hipkins are under pressure to reassure the public they're safe amid a surge of gang-related violence.

The brazen theft of a Takapuna jewellery store, gang shootings in suburbia - both part of a crime spike piling the pressure onto the newly minted Minister of Police.

"The public should expect the police will be working hard to bring this tension under control," said Hipkins on Tuesday. 

Reassurances the only option currently for the minister who can't tell the cops what to do - New Zealand isn't North Korea after all.

Hipkins and Justice Minister Allan say the underlying drivers of crime must be addressed, like why people turn to gangs in the first place.

"If we're going to make amendments we don't want to be just doing kneejerk reactions because it's politically palatable," said Allan.

But the recent headline-grabbing criminal acts - albeit perpetrated by a minority - has the public feeling uneasy and that's the immediate concern politically.

National's jumped on the opportunity

"In 2016, where anti-consorting and gang patches were banned, [there's] very good evidence that gang membership fell down about 18 percent," said leader Christopher Luxon.

He's talking about Queensland where patched members dropped from 789 to 650 between 2015 and 2019 due to the ban. But there's no evidence crime has gone down as a result of the policy.

"There's been no impact on crime rates whatsoever. What the issue is, if there is one, is it's simply driven the bikers underground," said sociologist and gang expert Jarrod Gilbert.

The Government's committed to prohibiting high-risk people from accessing guns and Hipkins has signalled asset seizures for gang members with illegal firearms could be on the way.

"Make no bones about it, this is politics, not a genuine effort at tackling really complex issues," said Gilbert.

Pre-election year political point-scoring on law and order is in full swing with the Government and Opposition jostling to show they're serious about keeping the public safe from crime. 

But experts are urging politicians not rush into "tough on crime" policies to quell moral panic because history shows they don't work.