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Owen Jennings: The new normal

Two young guys, hoodie dressed, walked out of a South Auckland supermarket each pushing a trolley heaped with wine, chips and cake. They didn’t pay. No one stopped them, including the overweight security man who was studiously looking the other way. Apparently, the local cops know them but have “more important matters” to deal with including filling in numerous forms that are supposed to improve policing and safety.

How do I know? A close family member works in that supermarket and witnessed the brazen theft.

Theft in supermarkets is common. It has increased dramatically since someone decided that criminals would not be stopped if they had got passed the checkout and that police would not be notified. Staff are not allowed to interfere at all. Security can only intervene if culprits can be caught prior to checkout. We are not talking about women with large coats nicking a few items in their inside pockets – it is loaded trolleys pushed out the door in full view.

It is one reason for higher grocery prices – we are subsidising petty crooks. Retail theft amounted to $1.2 Billion last year. That’s the recorded stuff only. Double it at least. It's over $800 a household and maybe well over a $1,000 if unrecorded crime is added in.

If you buy weekly, your grocery bill could be $25 to $30 higher just to keep the crooks happy.

Statistics are being manipulated to make it look like crime is down. Listen to the Government and they will pull numbers showing theft crime is down, police numbers are up and there is nothing to worry about. Try telling that to a supermarket owner or the local corner dairy.

Gang numbers increased 50% between October 2017 and June 2021 to well over 8,000. The tough end of gang land operates in hard drugs monopolising the trade and pulling serious profits. The newbies run the car thefts, ram raids, shop thefts and nick stuff from supermarkets.

Police are now caught up in more and more welfare work, dealing with mental health issues, court time and endless paperwork. Labour is quick to point out extra police on the beat but the workload is up over 60% and the numbers barely 10%. More and more of the ‘low level’ crime is simply ignored because of a lack of resource.

Only about one third of recorded crime is solved and with a high level of crime not being recorded, criminals are playing the odds knowing they have a high chance of never facing any consequences. Further should they be in the small group of apprehended they know those consequences will be a minimal disruption and cost. The old adage that crime does not pay is turned on its head.

Figures show that the Auckland area has 1530 crimes per 10,000 people- 667 more than surrounding areas – and it shows a massive increase over previous years.

Australia has three times the coppers on the streets per head of population than Auckland. Maybe that is a factor in the major crime rate being only a third of ours per capita.

Those who say jail is not the answer and that more needs to be done to rehabilitate miscreants are losing both ways. No jail and no rehab. And so are we. The anti-jail lobby is working well with lots of help from the bench. Community service is a very sick joke with limited supervision, no penalties for “no shows” and guys just sleeping it off in the corner. Ankle bracelets and home detention means more porno movies and Maccas delivered by courier.

The answer? Education and heavy intervention taking control through mentoring and tough love. That is another story for another time and, sadly, avoided like a plague.

Owen Jennings is a former ACT MP. This article was originally pubished at Kiwiblog

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