The inclusion of a vague proposal to address ram raids in the unveiling of Labour’s law and order Budget package has shown just how sensitive the Government is starting to get about the issue of crime.

In the announcement, more prominence was given to the great plan to help businesses thwart ram raids than to the item which had the most funding allocated to it – a $208m firearms unit to tend to the firearms registration scheme.

The trouble was it transpired the ram raids plan did not yet have any funding attached to it, not was there a plan yet – it was simply an intention.

Ministers had had a meeting and would be having another one. They would also consult with businesses about it. It could be similar to fog cannons rolled out to retail stores, but Police Minister Poto Williams said fog cannons would not be used. Other measures could be, but we do not know what yet.

Williams explained that was because the proposal had come up after the Budget bid cycle ended.

Translated: news headlines on ram raids in Auckland had come up after the Budget bid cycle had ended but the Government needed to be seen to be doing something.

That is not wrong and the indication it is planning to help will be welcome news to retailers wary of ram raids – although judgement will need to wait until they know how broad the package is and how effective it might be. But it might have been better to wait until it was more than half-baked.

The ram raids measure also diverted some attention away from the rest of the package and that is a shame because it was fairly solid.

That saw the Justice, Police, Corrections and the Courts budget measures all announced together: a canny move because lumping them all together makes it look like a much bigger number.

The aim of that was to try to blunt National police spokesman Mark Mitchell’s claims that Labour is “soft on crime” and was not doing enough to keep people safe.

In that regard, the wider announcement was at least a medium on crime and maximised the area in which Labour can claim credit (thanks to NZ First): for increasing police numbers.

The number of police on the beat has always been an important measure – it’s hard to be hard on crime if there is nobody to be hard, and the visibility of police also serves to reassure the public.

The announcement included funding to ensure police numbers did not drop off again after the current move to increase police numbers by 1800 in total was completed.

It also included money to boost training for police who now face more firearms violence, and for the double-manning of dog squads.

There was also money for more Corrections officers and for more rehabilitation to try to stop re-offending.

But the biggest spend was $208m for a new firearms unit – a unit which will take care of the new gun registration system, in which guns will be registered as well as firearms licence holders.

Williams emphasised the need for that, given without it the police had no idea how many guns there were or where.

What there wasn’t in the package was anything to increase the police powers to deal with gangs – the area the Opposition parties say action is needed.

Mitchell noted that throwing money at the problem wouldn’t make it go away without there being tougher consequences for those who broke the law.

Act’s Chris Baillie noted gangs were recruiting members faster than the police could recruit police and called for Gang Control Orders, which would allow police to restrict gang members from associating with particular people or visiting certain locations.

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