Crime in the City: CBD assault victims says Auckland more dangerous now

Jesse McNeill was walking home after spending the evening with his mother when a drunk stranger stumbled out of a downtown bar and hit him in the face.

“The guy punched me in my eye for no reason. It was just a random act.”

McNeill had just come off the ferry and was walking along Fort Lane at about 10pm on Mother’s Day,when the stranger staggered out of a bar with friends.

“He looked pretty intoxicated,” the 33-year-old told the Herald.

“I was going to skirt around them as he was kinda stumbling and he turned around and just punched me. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. It was so uncalled for.”

The man was dragged off by his apologetic friends and they left in a car that was parked at the nearby Wilson carpark.

McNeill was left with a badly bruised eye that took several weeks to heal and pain around his eye socket for nearly a month.

“It’s a bit of a shock really because New Zealand has always been so safe,” said McNeill, who returned home during Covid after living in Sydney and parts of Asia for the past few years.

He says he has noticed a big change in the CBD since he was last in New Zealand, including a lot more people living in social housing rather than international students and tourists.

“Auckland feels a lot more of a dangerous place [now]. I felt a lot safer walking around at night [overseas] than I do in Auckland city.”

He said something needs to be done to improve safety in the city before it gets such a bad reputation that people stop coming – both locals looking for a night out and later as tourists and international students start to travel again.

McNeill, who moved out of the city centre after the assault, also feels police need to be more visible on the streets – and more proactive when it comes to investigating these kinds of assaults.

He said he called police and was able to give them a good description of the man who hit him and the licence plate of the car the group left in. He said police also found CCTV footage that showed the man he had described.

However, more than three months on, the case has gone nowhere.

Senior Sergeant David Christoffersen, response manager for Auckland Central, said the investigation was ongoing and there were still some inquiries to be completed.

“Police canvassed for available CCTV in the surrounding area as part of our inquiries. While there was some footage available, it has unfortunately not been overly valuable to the investigation.

“There was a vehicle reportedly involved that was mentioned at the time. While the details did not exactly match, inquiries have been attempted at a registered address. However, these are still ongoing.”

Today: What’s behind the rise in violent crime
Tonight: On the beat in Auckland City
Saturday: The booze problem
Sunday: The impact on business
Monday: The cost to the health system
Tuesday: The scourge of robbery
Wednesday: The solutions

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