Why Canterbury isn't included in Government's new crime prevention programme despite businesses living in 'constant state of fear'

The Government has announced a new fund to help prevent crime in the North Island, but the move has Cantabrians, who say their region is also plagued by crime, feeling left out.

However, despite businesses in the region saying they are living in a "constant state of fear", the Government said there is not enough crime in the region.

On Monday, the Government announced a multimillion-dollar package to help tackle retail crime and reoffending. 

It comes after 34-year-old dairy worker Janak Patel was fatally stabbed outside the Rose Cottage Superette in Sandringham following an aggravated robbery on November 23. 

The Government described the package as the "most significant crime prevention financial package in recent memory". It includes a new fog cannon subsidy scheme and expands the existing $6 million Retail Crime Prevention fund eligibility to include aggravated robberies, including those committed in the past 12 months.   

With the package, the Government also announced a new $4 million fund to support local councils in Auckland, Hamilton and Bay of Plenty with crime prevention programmes.

But that has other regions wondering why they have been left out of the fund.

Eighty businesses from throughout the Canterbury region have signed a joint letter, coordinated by the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, requesting an urgent response from the Government.

They said they are growing increasingly concerned about the incidences of crime and antisocial behaviour impacting businesses and residents and can no longer sit back while people are in a "constant state of fear".

Cantabrians working in Christchurch's CBD have expressed they don't feel safe in parts of the central city where brawls, assaults and theft have become more frequent.

There have recently been numerous assaults across Christchurch. In October, a 61-year-old man died after he was allegedly assaulted by an 18-year-old on Cashel Street in the city's CBD and earlier this month, six youths were arrested following an assault on a man on the same street.

Police on Cashel Street after an assault.
Police on Cashel Street after an assault. Photo credit: Newshub.

A man was fatally stabbed while walking his dog on November 14 and disturbing photos showing children being attacked around the city have been emerging on social media.

Christchurch has also been hit by several ram-raids and smash-and-grabs style robberies, and vehicle thefts were up 35 percent in the year to the end of June. 

"The Government's response to this very serious and complex situation has been insufficient,"  Chief Executive of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, Leeann Watson said in a statement.

"While there has been a recent announcement to provide some support for businesses in Auckland, Hamilton, and Bay of Plenty, it does not address the core issue here in Canterbury, and there seems to be a lack of concern for noncriminal but antisocial behaviour that may ultimately lead to criminal activity down the track."

In a statement to Newshub, Police Minister Chris Hipkins said the funding for the partnership programme announced this week was carefully assessed against the current prevalence of retail crime, meaning it was focused on geographic areas where retailers are most commonly targeted.

Latest figures show that in the Auckland, Hamilton and Bay of Plenty council areas identified, there have been 399 ram raids so far this year.  All other areas combined (including Canterbury) have totalled 118.

 "I certainly recognise the impact retail crime can have on businesses right around New Zealand, including Christchurch."
"I certainly recognise the impact retail crime can have on businesses right around New Zealand, including Christchurch." Photo credit: RNZ

 "I certainly recognise the impact retail crime can have on businesses right around New Zealand, including Christchurch," Hipkins said.

"I expect Police and the councils involved to carefully monitor and evaluate the new programme for any future consideration around potential expansion. The Government, and Police, will always take crime seriously,  wherever it occurs."

But Watson and Canterbury businesses want action, calling for a review of the thresholds applied to what is considered "non-criminal activity" and "carries little if any consequences".

"The focus on being kind and continually expressing that the issue is complex is no longer enough. We need to see action," Watson said.

"Government must ensure there are sufficient resources and changes to ensure those in roles of authority can act and that there are immediate consequences for those who commit these hideous crimes."