- Byron Clark, Workers Party candidate for Christchurch Central
Crime has become a hot issue in New Zealand this year. It’s an election issue largely because the major political parties are committed to maintaining the status quo on economic issues; instead they campaign on non-economic issues like “law and order” rather than wages, unemployment or social inequality.1
The government and the opposition’s “tough on crime” stance also results in increased state power and erosions of civil liberties. Politicians have been calling for the police to be armed and patrolling working-class parts of Auckland. We’ve also seen the passage of the Criminal Disclosure Act, which removes the need for a unanimous jury verdicts (replacing it with an 11:1 majority) and creates exemptions to double jeopardy (the legal defence that prevents a person from being tried twice for the same crime on the same set of facts).
These things are certainly something to be concerned about, but it doesn’t mean crime itself should be ignored. While on the whole crime is down, the statistics show that violent crime (with the exception of homicide) is up. A large part of this increase (35%) is in the “threats and intimidation” category, and is probably a result of increased reporting now that more people own cellphones. Increased reporting of domestic violence as a result of the “It’s not OK” campaign is also a possible factor in the increase.
However, it is undeniable that violent crime is occurring, and the reasons for - and possible solutions to - this should be examined.