Police Association says it shares frustration of Christchurch tradies told to let thief go following citizen's arrest

The president of the Police Association says he shares the frustration of a group of Christchurch men who performed a citizen's arrest on an alleged robber, only to be told to let the offender go.

Christchurch man Mike Creedy performed the citizen's arrest on Monday with a group of tradies after the person allegedly stole motorbike parts before running away, the NZ Herald reported.

However, after calling the police, Creedy was told to let the man go.

Canterbury Metro Area Commander Supt Lane Todd told the Herald officers were "called to several high-priority family harm events while this theft was occurring".

Police Association president Chris Cahill said this highlighted the challenges officers faced meeting demand.

"I share the frustration that the members of the public who acted are expressing and… I can understand why wider members of the public are frustrated," he told Newshub on Wednesday.

Cahill said he'd also spoken to many police officers who expressed their frustration.

"It really reflects the challenges police have of meeting all the demands out there at the moment with the number of frontline staff available.

"This optimises some of those challenges and [you have] every right to be frustrated if you're a member of the public and reading a story like this."

Cahill said the public had a right to know how many sworn frontline officers were working in the Christchurch area on Monday.

"I think it requires more answers than we've got at the moment because the public has every right to expect, in these circumstances, that police should be able to attend."

He said the Government's claim of 1800 new frontline police officers, first promised in 2017, didn't fit today's demand. 

"I think the problem is, we can say we've had 1800 extra… and that was probably going to look really good in 2017, but that's six years ago - the demand has completely out swamped."

Unfortunately, he said, key police demand had increased by 60 percent against a 20 percent spike in staffing.

"That's the reality - we've got to be able to address some of the demand."

He said officer numbers had to keep lifting. 

"We need to continue to increase police numbers and get a ratio of police-to-population that is much more relevant than the amount of demand that's out there for police resources." 

In a statement, Superintendent Lane Todd, Christchurch Metro Area Commander, said police respond to calls for service according to priority and the availability of units in the wider area.

"While we appreciate that the theft at the Cashel Street commercial address would have been frustrating for those involved, however in all cases we need to prioritise risk to life or extreme risk to safety," Supt Todd said.

"In this instance, Police staff were called to several high priority family harm events while this theft was occurring. 

"The advice from the Police emergency call-taker to let the offender go was to ensure the safety of the witnesses at the scene at the time.

"Fortunately, staff at the Cashel Street business were able to retrieve the stolen property and Police will continue to investigate the matter."

Chris Cahill.
Chris Cahill. Photo credit: Newshub.

National, ACT furious

The event in Christchurch is being described by ACT leader David Seymour as proof "the increase in crime has far outstripped any increase in police personnel".

Seymour said in a statement officers were "stretched well beyond their means".

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: AM

"Any business owner who hears about this is going to have less faith in the police's ability to keep them safe and will be less likely to contact them, and any aspiring thief is going to think they have free reign to shoplift with no consequences."

Seymour pointed the blame squarely at the Government, saying it was its job to keep New Zealanders safe.

If elected, ACT would put "clear policies in place to fix the problem", he added.

National's Mark Mitchell had a similar reaction to the event, asking: "Where are the… new frontline police officers Ginny Andersen keeps telling us are making people feel safer?"

"I could not be more disappointed," added former National leader Judith Collins, an ex-Police Minister.

Acting Police Minister Kiri Allan said officers were doing a great job of responding to calls despite increased demand.

"It is not for ministers to make decisions or commentary on specific police deployment. There are a range of demands on Police resources - that’s why we've delivered 1800 additional Police and, in Budget 2023, have committed to a ratio of 1 officer to every 480 people," she said in a statement.

"Police numbers have increased by about 14 percent in Canterbury under this Government, in comparison to a decrease in police numbers in Canterbury under the last National Government. 

"We will continue to resource Police to make sure they are able to prevent and respond to crime and keep our communities safe."

Despite Ministry of Justice figures showing retail crime was up 39 percent between 2018-2022 and violent crime increased from 18 to 40 percent, the Police Module public perceptions survey, released on Wednesday, showed trust and confidence in the police was at 69 percent. 

The survey also showed 66 percent believed police were responsive to the needs of their communities.

"Preventing crime and harm in our communities and responding to emergencies will always be our priority," Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.