Christchurch hosted a public meeting on crime within the city last week. But the thing that caught my eye, despite the very laudable aim, was how National MP, Nicky Wagner, managed to present two contrasting opinions on the state of crime in the Garden City, in close succession:
I do think the statistics are sometimes skewed because there are less people living in the central city… My gut feeling is the Christchurch is not as violent as we are led to believe…
But just a few days later the language was ramped up:
Garth [McVicar from the Sensible Sentencing Trust] is saying stop the escalating violence and I agree with him, as I see it we have two options, we roll over and wave a white flag and let the criminals rule or we stand-up and reclaim our streets.
At the event itself Police pointed to the ease of access to alcohol and the large amount of licensed premises in the city as causes of crime. Central city area commander Inspector Gary Knowles said about 25 per cent of all crimes involved alcohol, a figure which rose to about 80% on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Police also warned that if they adopt a “get tough” approach to petty crime that people would have to be prepared for the consequences of the move.
Canterbury police district commander Superintendent Dave Cliff: “If one of your children is breaching the liquor ban we are going to have to take consistent action.”
I think that comment highlights that the “crime story” is more interlinked and complicated than is often portrayed. It will take society-wide action to fix and we (especially parents) can’t point the finger and then expect leniency over our own “special circumstances”.
I was also interested in the comments from Penal reform campaigner Nigel Hampton QC, who said the media over-reported violent and sexual crime and distorted the perception of how violent New Zealand was. Hampton said Christchurch was a safe place to live and he accused the media of letting interest groups use them. Which to be fair is the point Nicky Wagner was trying to make before the hype set in!