Winston Peters says ram-raiders are 'feral dropkick losers', but Kiri Allan pushes back against 'dog-whistle politics'

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has labelled the perpetrators of ram raids overnight as "feral dropkick losers" and accused the Government of not doing anything as New Zealand's streets become "more violent".

But Justice Minister Kiri Allan says Peters' description of offenders reflects "dog-whistle politics" and believes "name-calling" isn't helpful when ram raids are causing harm in the community. 

Police responded to two ram raids in Auckland early on Thursday morning. In both cases, the offenders used a vehicle to smash into the store and then, after rummaging around inside, used the same vehicle to flee.

In a tweet mid-morning, Peters called the ram-raiders "feral dropkick losers" in a "never-ending nightmare for innocent Kiwi business owners". 

"Our streets are becoming more violent and less safe and nothing is being done by either the Minister of Justice or Minister of Police," Peters wrote.

He also went on to say "soft sentencing" needed to be addressed.

"If governments are serious about keeping our communities safe we need to ensure laws are passed that hold these offenders to account and keep them off our streets."

Justice Minister Kiri Allan said she didn't agree with Peters' choice of language but understood the impact that ram raids have on the affected communities. 

"That's something that we can expect of dog-whistle politics. I do think, though, that it is really important to acknowledge the harm caused by ram raids on many people in our communities. To that extent, I think it is important to acknowledge the harm, but personally I don't think name-calling is that helpful at all."

She said New Zealand First will be trying to "get some runs on the board".

"That is ultimately something for them to do and for them to play with. But on our side of the ledger, we are cracking on, taking an evidence-based approach to the way in which we shape our law and order policy."

Allan pointed out that police have been given tools to "crack down on those that flout the law", including new abilities to target the proceeds of crime.

The latest police data from mid-April shows there were 51 ram raids in March, up from 41 in February. 

The number of ram raids in March was down on the number being recorded monthly for most of 2022, but well above that being recorded pre-pandemic. According to the data, ram raids peaked in August last year with 116. 

Over the past year, the Government's taken a number of steps to try and get on top of ram raids, including with the retail crime prevention programme. This was the scheme to subsidise stores to install bollards, fog cannons and other security measures.

While the scheme initially had a slow rollout, the Government said last month that more than 1000 interventions had been installed. It pumped an additional $9 million into the programme, taking it to a total of $15 million.

The Government also last year extended Kotahi te Whakaaro, a youth programme that engages with children under the age of 14 years old who have been apprehended in fleeing driver or ram raid offences.

Police Minister Ginny Andersen said in the House last week that the programme had seen "good success so far". She said around 82 percent of young people referred to the programme were not reoffending. 

Another 'circuit breaker' scheme which intends to have a plan in place within 24 hours to stop the young person reoffending has dealt with 84 children so far, 67 of whom have not reoffended, Andersen said. 

The Government's said "the vast majority of offenders have a family history of violence and harm". 

"Wrapping support around the entire whānau is the only way to break the cycle of crime," Children's Minister Kelvin Davis said last month.

"Locking up children under the age of 15 does not work in the overwhelming number of cases, it just creates more hardened criminals who will reoffend once they are released from custody. We need intensive interventions that address the causes of offending and what we are doing is working."

At a Justice Select Committeee briefing last week, Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said retail crime remained a "massive issue", the NZ Herald reported.

Peters' tweet is not the first time recently that a New Zealand First politician has torn into "feral" offenders. Northland candidate Shane Jones last month told AM there was a "feral culture" driving crime in Whangārei.