Police numbers falling behind population growth resulting in extra pressure on staff

Police Association president Greg O'Connor.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Police Association president Greg O'Connor.

Emergency calls to police are going through the roof but the number of frontline officers hasn't increased which has put additional pressure on staff, the organisation's president says.

In 2008/09 there was one police officer per 488 Kiwis but that had dropped to one per 503 in 2014/15 and the widening gap was being reflected in the country's crime rate.

The latest crime statistics show an overall increase of 3.1 per cent across all categories nationally, for the year ended June 30, 2016, including a 13 per cent hike in burglaries, a 12 per cent rise in robberies and 6.5 per cent more assaults.

Police Minister Judith Collins.
HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES

Police Minister Judith Collins.

In Taranaki, assaults were up 183 cases or 18 per cent, sexual assaults increased by 36 cases or 26 per cent, robbery and extortion rose by 12 cases or 29 per cent, there were 162 more burglaries reported or a 17 per cent rise and thefts were up by 132 cases or 6 per cent.

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Police Association president Greg O'Connor said emergency calls to police were rising but the number of staff wasn't.

"That's the key to it, the emergency calls where police are called by the public, they are going up 10 per cent a year, they are going through the roof and yet the numbers of police aren't," O'Connor said.

"Police have become as efficient and as effective as I think it is possible to do and it's hard to think we are going to get away without anything other than an increase in the ratio of police to population."

Police Minister Judith Collins said police had taken advantage of technology to free up frontline staff.

"The increased foot patrols combined with an increased investment in technology for police's frontline staff have allowed police to be more visible as well as delivering over half a million frontline hours each year or the equivalent of 354 extra officers," Collins said.

O'Connor said the failure to keep pace with the growing population was now starting to show in the reported crime rate and was putting additional pressure on staff.

"Police have done a very good job of keeping the lid on the crime rate but it's starting to climb now.

"Particularly our response police, the police who are required to be out there to respond to crime as it happens, they are the ones who are really feeling it tough."

O'Connor said the government knew increasing staff numbers helped reduce crime after adding 300 extra staff in Counties Manukau in 2008.

"That made a major difference to crime in Counties Manukau, they got the city back.

"If every other region in New Zealand were to get the same percentage increase in staff as Counties Manukau got per population it would make a big difference to the safety of New Zealanders."

He said the government's recent shift in focus to targeting burglaries was because the high numbers and low resolution rates were causing political damage but it wouldn't halt the overall rise in crime.

"These staff have got to come from somewhere and there will be another area of policing that will start suffering.

"It's a classic case of moving the deck chairs around on on the Titanic."

Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash said the growing gap in the ratio was making policing harder and National had only funded half of the additional police needed to keep up with population growth.

"Since 2008, the number of police officers has increased by just 274 while New Zealand's population has increased by 274,000," Nash said.

"That's just one extra police officer for every thousand additional Kiwis. John Key and Judith Collins promised to fund better than one officer for every 500 New Zealanders but, once again, they've failed to deliver."

Collins said in her view the police had continued to deliver excellent results against a backdrop of a significant demand for services.

"There has been a 34 per cent increase in calls for services since 2009, a 100 per cent increase in family harm reporting since 2009 and a 51 per cent increase in combined mental health incidents since 2009."

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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