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LINDSAY MITCHELL: Cracking down hard ... on people with hangovers

A sneaking suspicion is crawling up my spine.


In a reaction to ram-raiding (which has now morphed into aggravated angle-grinding); to cold-blooded murders by a home detainee; to brazen trolley-filled supermarket shoplifting; to defiant silence from witnesses of child abuse deaths; New Zealanders voted for a crackdown on law and order.  The issue was second only to inflation on the list of the voter concerns in the run-up to the 2023 election. New Police Minister Mitchell has sent a public message to old Police Commissioner Coster - Quit with the tolerance of crime.


Since the election police visibility on our roads has ramped up. For instance, on a bypass road running between a golf course and a military facility the speed limit recently reduced from 80kmph to 50kmph. Of a morning, frequent sirens blast as police catch unaware 'speeders' as if shooting fish in a barrel.


Now we learn forty-five people were arrested on New Year's Day leaving Rhythm and Vines for drinking and driving. Well actually drinking, sleeping it off and driving. The three check-point operation was run in the morning.


The age-old sensible slogan will have to be amended to 'Don't Drink, Sleep and Drive.'


OK. People with hangovers probably aren't the safest drivers behind the wheel. But then neither are people with fatigue, who chose not to sleep. 


"No driver has the right to put other people's lives at risk; every person in and around your vehicle relies on you being in full control of it" says the police area commander. Quite.


But all of this smacks of window-dressing:  Look at us. Look how tough we are. Look at all the resources we can summon up to catch people doing 55kmph in what was for years safely a 80kmph zone. Or to hobble the hungover.


In reality the police have much bigger, nastier fish to fry. But the temptation will always be, when pressed, to chase after low-hanging fruit.


Anyway. That's my suspicion. The demand for a 'tough on crime' approach will be executed but not in quite the way we anticipated.


And there will be no room to complain. Commissioner Coster need only reply, "You asked for it."


Let's hope I'm wrong.


In the year to November 2023 there were 347,068 crimes comprising assault, sexual assault, abduction, robbery, burglary and theft reported to police. Up 35,644 (or 10 percent) on the previous period.


Legal boundaries must always be drawn somewhere but sometimes crossing them is a minor breech. 


Policing and punishing minor misdemeanors does nothing to prevent innocent people from becoming victims of serious crime.




Lindsay Mitchell blogs here

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