Monday, 2 May 2011

National's Link Of Tough on Crime Policies With Drop In Reported Crime Shown To Be False

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges is appreciative of police work in the Bay of Plenty that has seen the region’s crime rate drop 2.2 per cent per head of population in 2010. “National is committed to taking action on violent crime and making our local communities safer,” says Simon.... “We’ve introduced tough new legislation and given police new tools to deal with crime. “It’s great to see National’s commitment and the hard work of our police making such a positive difference in the Bay of Plenty. ....
“I’d like to commend district commander Superintendent Glenn Dunbier and his staff for their dedication and hard work in keeping our community safe,” says Simon. ... “While we’re pleased to see a drop in recorded crime, our crime rate is still too high.
“National will continue to work with police to bring criminals to justice, address the drivers of crime, and send a clear signal that crime won’t be tolerated.
Posted at 8:38am Saturday 02nd Apr, 2011 "SunLive"

This is an example of National spin where they claim that their "tough on law and order campaign", has led to a lowering of the reported crimes stats. Police Minister Judith "Crusher" Collins advanced the same logic in her piece towards the end of the May edition of "Corrections" the monthly magazine published by the Department of the same name. I am sorry but this is just absolute rubbish.

What has been happening is that since around September 2010 there has been a change in charging policy directed to be followed by all Police Districts across New Zealand from Police National HQ. Also alongside this there has been a greater use of representative charges (i.e one charge representing a "batch" of similar offending). So the use of "alternative resolution" to charging for minor offences has accounted for a reduction in crime stats. The use of discretion is a good thing, but it should not be seen as a result of NACT crime policy. Interesting while reported crime may be down the prison population is up.

Under the pre-charge warning process offenders are still held to account for their actions through arrest, processing at a police station and police recording their warning for future reference.

When an arrest is made a senior officer will consider whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain a charge in court and whether it is in the public interest to take the charge through the court process.

When it is deemed not to be in the public interest to put the person through the court system they will be formally warned.

The process is available for minor offending only and more than 75 percent of offending will be victimless crime.

According to Police policy documents a pre-charge warning can only be considered when the following criteria are met:

The offender must be 17 years or over.

The offence must carry 6 months imprisonment or less.

Victim considerations must be taken into account but the issuing of a formal warning is not contingent on the victim being agreeable.

Reparation considerations must be taken into account but the issuing of a formal warning is not contingent on reparation being made.

Criminal history or previous formal warnings must be taken into consideration but do not exclude a prisoner from receiving a second or subsequent formal warning.

Family violence offending is excluded.

Possession of methamphetamine offence is excluded.

So the reality is very different from the spin. Reported crime is down because fewer people are being charged because Police are quite properly doing something they have had the power to do for decades yet have often failed to do in the past - exercise their prosecutorial discretion. Also there has been a greater use of representative charges. This is a good thing, but it is patently dishonest to claim that a harsher sentencing regime is leading to the drop in the crime statistics.

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