Chris Hipkins defends Government's response to retail crime as new data shows 39 pct increase in offending

Chris Hipkins is defending the Government's response to retail crime and says the police have been proactively targeting this type of offending.

The Prime Minister said while retail crime has escalated over the past year, peaking around August, there has been a "very significant reduction" in the number of ram-raids on a month-by-month basis over the past six months. 

It comes as the National Party's police spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, released data showing retail crime has increased by 39 percent in the past year. The figures showed there were 292 retail crime incidents every day in 2022, up from 140 per day in 2018. 

In light of the new data, National Party leader Christopher Luxon said the Government needed to "harden up" and take retail offending seriously.

"We're seeing a huge spike in crime and it's not just a spike, it's actually been in this country now for over a year or so that we're seeing these elevated levels of crime," Luxon said on Sunday. 

"The question is, we don't have to accept that this is the status quo and our answer is very simply that we want the Government to consider and implement our plan, which is about backing up police, tackling gangs and also dealing with serious youth offenders as well."

If elected, National has promised the worst of New Zealand's reoffending youth aged between 15 and 17 would end up in military-style camps. The party pitched the plan as a "tough love" response to the country's ram-raid epidemic.

National would also create a new criminal category for those aged 10 to 17 who committed serious crimes like ram-raids and armed burglary more than once. These people would face sentences including electronic monitoring like ankle bracelets and community service, or, for those aged 15-17, being sent to new military academies.

But Hipkins defended the Government's record on dealing with crime and said it's been a focus of theirs over the past six months.

"You'll see that in the work the police have been doing to proactively identify the young people at the heart of the ram-raiding epidemic, if you want to call it that," he said on Sunday.

"They've had real success in getting those kids out of circulation and engaged in education, training, employment, and so on."

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty Images

While Hipkins said the number of ram-raids is down, he admitted there is still work to do with reducing aggravated robberies. One way the Government can combat this type of crime is by putting stronger deterrents in place, he added.

"We've got quite a lot of investment rolling out in fog cannons and those other preventative measures that we know will make a difference. They'll make the businesses feel safer, but they also provide an immediate deterrent as well."

Hipkins said the Government has put an extra 1700 police on the streets so far and by the middle of this year, that number will be 1800 extra.

"I know the police have been really proactively targeting this area of crime, because no one wants to see businesses experience the level of victimisation that they have in recent times because of the increase in retail crime," he said.

The National Party said they want ram raids and retail crime to decrease, but Mitchell noted criminals will adjust their tactics. He stressed the biggest issue is the Government not dealing with the rise in retail crime. 

"Ram-raids, carjackings, we cannot afford for this to become something that's normal in this country and we have to reverse it," Mitchell said. 

"That is not going to happen under a soft-on-crime Government that has been hell-bent in five years on repealing three strikes legislation, emptying the prisons by 25 percent and creating a permissive environment where gangs can go and take over our roads and intimidate and threaten members of the public."