Christopher Luxon doubts new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins can tackle skyrocketing retail crime

Retail crime is skyrocketing around the country and Christopher Luxon doubts new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins will be able to tackle the issue. 

New figures released on Tuesday show retail crime has been on the rise over the past four years. Reports of thefts dropped in 2020, but overall have been skyrocketing with thousands of cases recorded between 2020 and 2022.

Police data shows shoplifting crimes (robbery, burglary and theft) increased to a fresh high last year, with police receiving 241,638 reports.

That was up by almost 41,000 compared with the 2021 total of 208,445.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon told AM on Wednesday nothing is going to change under Hipkins' watch.

"I've been saying it, new leader same Labour, same outcomes and essentially no real progress and a Government that I think just haven't got the balance or the approach right," Luxon told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green. 

National announced its "Combatting Youth Offending Plan" in November, a major policy on how they would tackle crime and youth crime in New Zealand. 

The plan includes creating a new "Young Serious Offender" (YSO) justice category which National says is intended to target "the ringleaders of ram-raids". 

Young offenders aged between 15 and 17 could be sent to the military academy for up to 12 months under the plan. The academies would be delivered in partnership with the Defence Force and other providers.

Luxon told AM their plan is going to give police the tools they need to crack down on crime around New Zealand. 

"There's a number of things that we can do. Giving them [police] powers to stop gang members from consorting. Giving them powers to actually search for illegal guns. A whole bunch of things we need to do in that space," Luxon said. 

"We've talked a lot about actually using the consequences that we have available and the tools that we have and the penalties we have available that often aren't always being applied to the right seriousness of the offending."

National Party leader Christopher Luxon.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: AM

Luxon said even though every case of retail crime isn't gang-related, he believes they're all interrelated. 

"Simple things like when you have 60 percent of our kids not going to school regularly, you have 100,000 chronically absent and just talking to different community organisations, their assessment is 10,000-15,000 of our young people are disenrolled from school," Luxon said. 

"Then you find 90 percent of the ram riders are actually not attached to a school. You're seeing a 75 percent growth in gangs from 18 to 25. All of these issues are actually very linked together and you've actually got to be able to have policies that actually deal with each of those component parts."

Hipkins told AM later on Wednesday the spike in retail crime was one of the first things he confronted when he became Police Minister last year.

"We have put a significant emphasis on tackling that and the police are seeing some signs of success in the work they're doing in terms of investigating them, finding the offenders, arresting them, charging them, prosecuting them," Hipkins told AM.   

"We're seeing some positive signs that they're actually delivering some results."

Hipkins said the number of ram raids in January is "half the average number of ram raids we were seeing across the months of last year". 

"To put it into context, I've had the opportunity to speak to some others around the world and post-COVID-19 we are actually seeing an increase in this sort of criminal activity, it's a global phenomenon," Hipkins said. 

"In the New Zealand context, we need to take that really seriously, we can't solve the world's problems but we can make sure we are following up, investigating and making sure people who are engaged in that kind of activity see the consequences for their actions." 

Watch the full interview with Christopher Luxon above.