Frustrated Aucklanders tell police minister of assaults and abuse in central city

By rnz.co.nz and is republished with permission

Police Minister Mark Mitchell admits there is a “big problem” in central Auckland, but he said improvements had already been seen.

Police Minister Mark Mitchell addressed frustrated residents and business owners in Auckland’s CBD. Photo: Melanie Earley/RNZ

More than 100 frustrated residents and business owners attended a public meeting with Mitchell at Ellen Melville Centre on Tuesday night, telling him they don’t feel safe and want to see more police officers on the street.

Mitchell told Morning Report there had been a 60 percent increase in the number of officers doing foot patrols in Auckland’s central business district since the new government indicated it wanted to see more cops on the beat. However, he said he didn’t know what the number of officers was.

“The reality is… we know that we have got a big problem in our Auckland CBD.”

Mitchell blamed that on the previous Labour government.

Statistics showed things had improved in the last six months, he said.

“I’m certainly not saying that we are on top of the problem but we’re making moves in the right direction.

“Crime is trending down in the CBD, we’ve got a lot more work to do and I acknowledge that.”

It wasn’t simply a matter for police, the council and local business association were also involved, Mitchell said.

“We’re going to get there; we’re definitely going to make our CBD much safer than what it is presently.”

Many at the meeting spoke of wanting to see a police station return to the central city, and raised concerns about the slow response from police as well as the rise in antisocial behaviour on Queen Street.

Mitchell told the crowd there had been a 58 percent increase in foot patrols around the city in the last six months. But one resident stood up and claimed that was “bollocks”.

“I can count on one hand the number of police I’ve seen on the beat in the last three years in the central city,” the man said and was met with a round of applause from the crowd.

He said last week he had to hold someone down who had stolen alcohol from an inner city supermarket until police arrived and that same day he said he dislocated his shoulder trying to chase a person who had stolen items from another store he was in.

“It’s not safe and I want to see cops rotating up and down the streets all day,” the man said.

Queens Arcade property manager Ian Wright told Mitchell he had dealt with “hundreds” of incidents in the CBD including attacks and intimidation.

“Today there was a teenager who came in and she attacked some shoppers who she didn’t even know. Last week we had a sex offender lock himself in one of the stores with some girls.

“I’ve been assaulted, abused and intimidated, it’s a daily occurrence here.”

crime meet web

The crowd at a public meeting with Police Minister Mark Mitchell on Tuesday night. Photo: Melanie Earley/RNZ

The central city needed to be a welcoming place for visitors, Westmere resident Gael Baldock said. She said as a woman she felt unsafe taking public transport.

“I don’t feel as safe as I used to – I had a friend who was attacked recently on Wellesley St by a man she didn’t know who hit her in the face.”

Baldock did note she had seen more police officers on the street in Point Chevalier and on Karangahape Rd recently, but less so on Queen St.

“I’ve seen the community patrol out there but not that many police, more would be good and I think taking away the central station was a major problem.”

Community Patrols NZ chair Chris Lawson said it was tough out there for officers and residents.

He lived and did regular patrols in the CBD and had spent 20 years working as a police officer.

“I’ve seen people peeing and pooing in the streets, fighting, stealing and I am concerned about crime. There’s a fair amount of it happening lately and people are concerned for their safety which is why so many people are here.”

Lawson said the Community Patrol was looking for more volunteers.

“It was a tough decision to start a patrol in the CBD because we’re a risk averse group, but we’re getting out there and doing what we can.

Patrol members were trained not to be involved in conflict, Lawson said.

Mitchell couldn’t tell residents if or when a new police station would be built in the city, but said until that time increased foot patrols would continue.

“I think a physical presence of officers on the beat is more important.”

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

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