OPINION – New Zealand Herald – 17 November 2022
With crime seemingly on the increase in the Auckland CBD, it’s time the Government began to count the cost to retailers. Tinkering around the edges with remediation is all very well, but retailers are still forking out.
In the last week of October, there were 14 ‘’emergency glass’’ boards in Parnell, a depressing amount for a small suburb. Of those, three had been burglaries, but the balance had been wilful damage to high-end decor and gallery premises, with seemingly no motive besides smashing a large pane of glass with a hammer.
We often hear about the costs of keeping someone in prison, but no matter where on the ideological spectrum you may sit, someone in government should be evaluating the cost to business and the community of not having offenders in some form of supervised care or rehabilitation. According to Corrections, the average annual cost of housing a prisoner is $90,977 or $249.25 per day. Obviously, that would be a lot higher in a managed care facility for mental health and addiction, but let’s start with this. First, we have a plethora of emergency housing in many of our cities and town centres.
The Ministry of Social Development is paying a fortune per night for often inappropriate and substandard accommodation. The average nightly rate for accommodation has been reported to be anywhere between $120 and around $350. Not too different to prison, including meals?
What are the direct costs of crime to business? Police estimate that retail crime costs New Zealand retailers $1 billion each year. Ram raids can cost businesses anything from $10,000 upwards to around $30,000-$40,000, depending on the amount of damage.
The recent spree of smashing glass in Parnell would have probably cost close to $100,000 to replace the tempered glass, and that’s excluding the costs of the emergency repairs and any additional security while stores have been left vulnerable. Not all of that is covered by insurance, and some businesses have given up after too many incidents because they just keep coming back. Then there is the mounting costs of security. In addition to contracting security firms for patrols, many of us have invested heavily in CCTV and staff resources to monitor and collate footage for police.
The International Art Centre in Parnell was hit by a ram-raid and two Lindauer paintings stolen in 2017. Photo / Jason Oxenham, File
What about police resources? How much are taxpayers forking out for repeat arrests of perpetrators, while being powerless to ensure meaningful consequences for offenders?
Monitoring bracelets seem useless. Perpetrators regularly cut them off, even publicly, in our stores.
And then there are the mindboggling costs of the justice system.
Police have said this is largely a complex social issue that they can’t solve alone. Some offenders have been as young as 11 years old. I think by now, if someone was able to do the math, we would be way past the annual cost of a prison sentence and heading towards the costs needed for a managed health facility, or mandatory youth training programme, which can guide and discipline young offenders.
There are also emotional costs. Staff feeling unsafe inside retail facilities that have been targeted, residents not being able to sell their property if they want to move away from an unruly supported accommodation facility, school children not feeling safe walking home, depression and anxiety?
And finally brand reputation. For the area, for the city, and for the country.
International students, who have previously provided a lucrative income to New Zealand are being deterred from travel due to concerns about safety, and recently we have been quoted as ‘’not an ideal place to visit’’, with one of the concerns being crime. With tourism being one of this country’s biggest sources of income is it really worth it?
Parnell Business Association general manager Cheryl Adamson. Photo / Supplied
There has to be another way, and we need a brave leader who is willing to really count the cost and invest in systems and facilities to curb crime and support mental health without the burden falling on small businesses and communities.
What makes this even more heartbreaking is that so much of this crime is senseless, done for kicks and thrills, not because offenders are going hungry. There’s needless damage to the prospects of offenders themselves, and a moral burden to carry as they will have to live with what they’ve done and the knowledge that it was basically for nothing.
We are lucky we have not yet seen vigilante action here, but people are getting desperate. We really need to ask if it is too late to remediate this trend.
Cheryl Adamson is the general manager of the Parnell Business Association.
Featured image: Police were called to a ram raid incident at the Glengarry Wines store on Jervois Rd, central Auckland, early on November 16. Photo / Hayden Woodward
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