Bill English: Govt targeting the drivers of social dysfunction
OPINION: Today I announced a new $503 million Safer Communities package to reduce crime and prevent reoffending. Over the next four years the package will fund an additional 1125 police staff, including 880 sworn police officers.
The extra investment will make police more visible and more responsive but, equally importantly, it will enable police to put more time and effort into working alongside other agencies to address the underlying drivers of dysfunction. That's because we are learning more about what makes a difference to people's lives.
As a politician and a member of the community I've seen lives turned around by quiet heroism in our families, schools and public services. I've also seen lives blighted by poor public services, bad decisions, neglect and bureaucratic inertia.
What this demonstrates is that good intentions do not, on their own, guarantee success. If all our social problems could be solved by throwing money at them, then we would have no more social problems because we've been throwing money at them for a long time.
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What makes a difference to people's lives is effective support. Until recently, identifying what genuinely helps people has been somewhat hit and miss, but today we're able to analyse data in ways that didn't exist a few years ago.
That analysis demonstrates the lifelong benefits of intervening early to help people in need and the lifelong costs of not doing so.
Some New Zealanders need ongoing support to help them lead a decent life. But there are many more who will benefit from smart, light-handed support. And then, they will move on.
Our goal is to help them do so.
Spending more public money is not, in itself, an achievement.
Real achievement is reducing welfare dependency, getting better results for our kids at school, preventing rheumatic fever, and reducing waiting times at hospital emergency departments.
We call our new approach social investment and it's showing promising results in several areas, but the recent rise in the prison population confirms we've got more work to do.
That is why we are investing more in police. According to the 2016 Global Peace Index, 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 time.
The extra investment will enable police to devote more resources to addressing the causes of social problems, not just respond to the symptoms.
In addition to increasing police numbers, the package provides:
- A new national 24/7 phone number for non-emergencies.
- More staff for up to 20 regional and rural police stations so that 95 per cent of the population lives within 25 kilometres of a 24/7 police presence.
- More specialist investigators for child protection, sexual assault, family violence and other serious crime.
- Additional resources to deal with burglaries, youth offending and other community crimes; and
- More officers to target organised crime.
All 12 police districts will receive extra sworn officers. Police will determine how many will go where, based on the police's operational requirements.
The package also comes with a range of challenging performance targets for police. Those include higher attendance at home burglaries, more assets seized from organised crime, fewer deaths from family violence and a reduction in reoffending by Maori.
The targets won't be easy to meet – but we don't shy away from hard issues.
We're here to make a difference. Investing more in police will make our communities safer. It will reduce crime and reoffending, and help steer some of our most disadvantaged young people on to a more productive path. That's an outcome worth investing in.
- The Dominion Post