First big election year promise - 880 new cops
Hundreds of new cops will be on the beat from November after Prime Minister Bill English kicked off the election year with big promise on law and order.
English used his first State of the Nation speech as prime minister to announce 880 more sworn police, plus extra non-sworn staff - a package that will cost $503 million over four years and target both provincial and rural New Zealand, and vulnerable children.
Key measures in the package include 1125 police staff over four years, including 880 sworn police, to reduce crime and prevent reoffending. That will take the number of sworn cops to 9800 and total police staffing to 13,000. There will be a big focus on regional and rural areas and also child protection.
English said New Zealand is the fourth safest country in the world but demand for traditional police services is growing and complex and "serious crime is absorbing more police".
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English said there are three components to the package - targeting and catching offenders, preventing crime and victimisation and delivering a more responsive service. It includes more funding for the wider justice sector.
The first new recruits will begin training in July and hit the beat in November.
"Evidence tells us that if we want to reduce reoffending we need to address the underlying drivers of dysfunction rather than just respond to the symptoms," English said.
Pressure has been building on the government to match Labour and NZ First promises to boost police numbers in response to rising concern about youth crime in particular.
Labour leader Andrew Little said after the announcement that the police package "proves Bill English is a follower, not a leader", given he's known about the need for extra police for more than a year.
English said all police districts would receive extra police officers from the additional resources which are in response to a rise in recorded crime over the last two years, particularly burglaries, robberies and assaults.
The Government will also roll out a new national 24/7 phone number for non-emergencies to take pressure off the 111 system.
Police Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett said the number would cater for calls that weren't appropriate for 111 including reporting low level or historic crime and giving information about suspicious activities.
Bennett said the extra sworn cops would include 140 more police officers for up to 20 regional and rural police stations, so that 95 per cent of the population lives within a 25 km radius of a 24/7 police presence.
There will also be 140 additional specialist investigators for child protection, sexual assault, family violence and other serious crime (66 of these have already been announced).
The Government will also fund 12 mobile policing units to provide policing services in smaller towns, rural areas and community events.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the announcement represents a very significant and welcome investment in New Zealand Police.
"This investment increases our workforce by almost 10 percent over four years," Bush said.
"I look forward to welcoming the 1,125 new police staff who will help us achieve our mission of being the safest country. They will join a very committed team who are working hard to keep our communities safe.
"The Prime Minister's announcement includes putting an extra 880 new police officers into frontline roles including response, organised crime, gangs and methamphetamine, child protection, family violence and in rural and ethnically diverse communities.
"While crime is lower than it was five years ago, we have seen an increase in demand for police services in these areas.
"The addition of these new staff means we can deliver more to support victims, prevent crime and hold offenders to account. The investment will see an increase in resourcing for every police district."