Emergency housing: Police actively collect data on crime related to temporary housing despite failing to do so
By Jane Patterson of RNZ
Police have actively collected and analyzed detailed information on rising rates of crime and violence in emergency accommodation, although they have insisted for months not to “specifically” collect such data.
There has been a “campaign of denial,” National said, accusing the government of taking a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to a growing crisis in New Zealand.
Two Cabinet ministers also support the public comments they made and, in one case, the responses to parliamentary questions – now seriously questioned by a number of inter-agency reports and communications in the public domain. There has been unprecedented demand for what is supposed to be a short-term housing option, made worse by COVID, dating back to last year’s lockdown, with the result that many vulnerable people, including whānau with children , are in motels as a last resort – some for up to a year.
RNZ reported stories of people terrified of conditions in some homes amid common cases of violence, criminal activity and gang intimidation – both residents and those who live and run businesses nearby. As of September of this year, approximately 4,500 children were living in emergency accommodation.
Despite a number of requests for information, police have always refused to comment to RNZ, but it has now emerged that they have reports covering offenses related to emergency housing, the impact on the community at broad sense and police requirements, dating back to July 2020 They stick to their original statement.
RNZ first contacted police in April, asking if they kept “records of reported incidents in emergency accommodation” and if there had been “a noticeable or recorded increase in complaints or incidents in emergency accommodation “. We also asked if the police “are taking specific measures in response to criminal activity, gang presence or anything else causing trouble or potentially harming others” and if they have “concerns about the surroundings. created by some emergency housing, in terms of public safety “.
In response, a police spokesperson told RNZ in a phone call that it does not routinely collect data that would specifically link violations or police calls to emergency accommodation locations, and no. ‘was therefore able to make no comments.
Over the next week, it became very apparent, speaking to Department of Social Development (MSD) clients, nearby residents, businesses and social services, that police were called in regularly to deal with incidents. – some extremely serious.
RNZ returned to the police on this basis, acknowledging what we had been told about the availability of data, but asking to “speak to someone about what the police see on the ground and what is being done where people feel particularly at risk “.
Police responded with a statement saying police recognized “community concerns about a perceived increase in crime related to emergency housing.”
“We take these concerns seriously and are committed to investigating all reports of crime, regardless of where they occur – the police do not collect data specifically related to emergency housing.”
Fast forward to December, when RNZ received a number of police reports and a series of interagency communications, with detailed information on infractions and police calls, as part of the Official’s requests. Information Act issued to the National Party, clearly showing a real increase in crime.
RNZ returned to the police, asking how the statement of non-data collection could be compared to the existence of these documents.
“This remains correct, because we do not systematically compile the figures for emergency housing,” the police replied on Friday.
“The OIA you have received includes reports compiled for specific areas and for operational purposes. We do not have equivalent data for every location classified by MSD as ’emergency accommodation’.”
“The facts are clear,” said National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis, who has also struggled to get information from the police this year.
“Reports were gathered that showed increasing levels of crime and emergency housing.
“The police had these reports and yet they blocked attempts by the media and the opposition to obtain this information – this is of great concern.”