• Video: Crime a big issue for Napier candidates, but they differ on how to tackle it

Video: Crime a big issue for Napier candidates, but they differ on how to tackle it

Crime in Hawke’s Bay needs attention, the candidates for Napier agree, but they differ on how to get on top of the problem.

Six candidates vying for votes in the Napier electorate participated in Hawke’s Bay Apps debate, which was held at The Urban Winery in Napier and produced and broadcast by Engage Video.

The candidates attending the debate were Mark Hutchinson of Labour, Democracy NZ’s Martin Langford, Julienne Dickey of the Green Party, Laurie Turnbull of New Zealand First, the National Party’s Katie Nimon, and Pawel Milewski of the ACT Party.

Asked if the Labour Government had done enough on crime, Hutchinson said there were many things tied to that question.

“What we will do is, we'll follow evidence-based approaches. So when I was a clinical psychologist in the '90s in the Hutt, youth crime was actually worse than it is now and boot camps were discredited because 82% of kids that went on National's boot camps, re-offended within six months.”

“So we're investing in programmes where 80% of the kids that go on them, don't re-offend.”

Questioned if there had been a 30% drop in crime to match the 30% of drop in prison numbers, Hutchinson said: “The correlation's not the same as causation, because the kinds of people that have got out of jail are not the kinds of people that are committing the crimes.”

“When National was in government, the numbers of police fell as a proportion of the population. We have raised the police by 1,800. We have given the police power to take assets from gangs. We have taken, just two weeks ago, we took $2.1 million off the local Mongrel Mob. We've laid 50,000 charges against gang members over the last year. So, it is not true that we're not going hard against gangs and against criminals.”

ACT’s Milewski said that this clearly was not working and asked why crime was increasing.

Langford said: “Mark Mitchell would've said that, that what you've done is, it's roading tickets, isn't it? And it's license tickets and it's not so much... That's what he said at the meeting when Stuart Nash was there. And Stuart said exactly the same as you. And Mark Mitchell stood up and said, ‘Would you admit that it is parking tickets, infringements, parking infringements’. That's where you getting it, that's where you're pushing them.”

Nimon said that real, actual change was needed and consequences because “we are cultivating a culture where brazen criminal activity is acceptable”.

“We are seeing people with lower sentences they should have, who end up on home detention, who should not be there.”

Hutchinson said that people who commit crimes are still being put in jail at just the same rate.

“A big part of the reduction in the muster in the prisons was people that were stuck in jail because they didn't have things like transitional housing to go to at the end of their paroles. And so what they did is they went through and they worked out what's the way to get this person rehabilitated into a job or into transitional housing.”

Dickey said that prisons work for some people, but not for others.

“Prisons notoriously can harden criminals, and make them more hardened and learn more in terms of what to do next. One of the things that I note is that when there's an election, crime gets pulled out of the hat because all you need to do is say we get tough on crime. And then everybody thinks, oh well they're a really good party.”

“It's much more complex than that. I mean I do agree partly with Mark that you need to be really looking at the drivers of crime and addressing those. And it's no surprise that crime's gone up when the cost of living's gone up, for example. But it's also the focus on things like gangs. And I agree, things need to be done about gangs. Of course they do, of course they commit harm. And completely ignoring the kind of white collar crime and the tax evasion and all of those things.”

Turnbull, a former corrections officer, said there was no doubt that prisons worked.

“I've had so much interaction with the guys in prison. The thing is it is a complex system. A lot of the guys I had worked with, it's obviously intergenerational. You've had three... You've had the grandfather, the son and the grandson, all Mongrel Mob members all imprison at the same time.”

“ So you really got to go back and look at what's starting the crime life in the first place. So, obviously there's a few things you need to address in the prison system. The punishment is not hard enough.”

Nimon said that youth need a strong path of an alternative, great education, high value jobs to show them that there was another path to crime.

“And we need to show that there are strong consequences for that because at the moment, the criminal's being treated like the victim. They are not getting strong consequences and we need to turn that around because it is brazen, it is not fair on our community and we've got to make a difference.”

Milewski said ACT believed there should be more focus of victims of crime.

“It's interesting that the discussion on the left is so concentrated on the criminals and there isn't single word about the victims. So if you're asking who does it help to put the murderer in the prison rather than on an ankle bracelet, surely it helps the victim. Doesn't take a psychologist to understand that.”

Nimon said her party would get rid of cultural reports.

“We're going to take money from the paid cultural reports and give it back to the victims. That is a good thing to catch.”

However Hutchinson disagreed, saying it might help to get to the bottom of the gang issue though.

Milewski said it needed to go back to basics.

“The thing is, everybody who leaves the prison needs to be able to read and write, and drive a car.”

“This is what allows you to join the society, not the crime society.”