Opinion: Janak Patel's death represents a much wider story

Janak Patel

The death of Janak Patel has come to represent a much wider story. It's about people feeling safe in their communities, it's about crime and it's political.

The tragic death has many layers.

He was a migrant worker in an industry calling out for support; there are questions about whether one of the accused is a 501 recently returned from Australia; and it comes in the midst of a crime wave for retail workers in the form of ram-raids. It also happened in the prime minister's own neighbourhood. Add to that the fact we're on the cusp of an election year.

Throughout the day we've heard the prime minister shut down questions about being "soft on crime". She was the most passionate on this topic in the post-Cabinet press conference. That's because if people feel unsafe or feel like the Government isn't doing enough, that's a game changer come election year.

Ardern was quick to list what the Government is already doing – more police, fog cannons and talking with communities et cetera – but she also needed to show the public she was doing something and that came in the form of extra funding for shop owners and councils.

It seems the prime minister is feeling very frustrated with that "soft on crime" label at the moment, partly because she'll know how important it is to shake it off.

Another thing to think about is the upcoming Hamilton West by-election. Voting opens today and it may be a litmus test for how Kiwis are feeling about the Government.

Patel's death has struck a nerve and it's one that will stay in the public's mind.


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