Friday, April 06, 2007

Sorta criminal...

Been a couple of topics this past week that have been deserving of comment.

The first is the release of Dame Margaret Bazley's report into the Police. That report has taken some three years longer than intended to prepare, primarily because there is a Government "rule" that prevents the release of Commissions of Enquiry and similar reports whilst there are associated Court hearings still in process. I wrote at the time of the Louise Nicholson case; a rape charge some 25 years after the fact against three police officers, two of whom had been found guilty of rape on other women, the third a high ranked (about 4 or 5 in the country) serving officer who was (eventually) found Not Guilty. There have been in the past three years at least another three cases of a similar nature, one of which involved the same three officers as in the Nicholson case.

At the same time there were at least three actions taken to the High Court by groups representing the Police (Police Officers Association for example) on matters pertaining to the procedure of the Enquiry by Dame Bazley.

The police hierarchy waged a ferocious behind-the-scenes battle against Dame Margaret Bazley's inquiry into police conduct.

Though her damning report extracted an unprecedented public apology from the country's top police officer, background material to the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct reveals that lawyers acting for the police challenged Dame Margaret on several counts during the three-year inquiry.

Among the incidents, police:

* Successfully opposed Dame Margaret's intention to survey people involved in supporting sexual assault victims.

* Raised concerns about the procedures adopted by the commission and asked it to undertake a "fundamental overhaul".

* Questioned the commission's reliance on disputed or unproven allegations when criticising police.

* Expressed concern that the commission was describing problems of a general nature in areas where the problem was confined to isolated cases.

In the behind-closed-doors legal battle, the Police Complaints Authority also questioned whether the commission had the jurisdiction to inquire into the authority and make recommendations relating to it.

Now that the report is released, it is as expected quite damning of the culture within the Police during the 1970's to 1990's, then makes some 60 recommendations intended to improve the relationship between Police and Public.

Now, I want to make one thing very clear here. Essentially this whole raruraru centres on a small number - perhaps no more than 50 out of some 9000 officers - who represent what I can only describe as a nasty little nest of vipers. Above that there are a few small groups of "managers" who were incompetent, or totally ignorant of what was happening on their watch, or at the worst gave tacit approval (boys will be boys) to the goings on. Whichever, the light is now shining where it was never thought it would (pune).

The second is the release of the crime statistics for 2006. Several things here...

First, you can not compare these statistics with prior years because the questions have been changed (again!).

Second, there seems to have been an increase in most crime other than homicide.

Those are the minors.

First major - some 30% of crime is unreported.

The second major -

Most concerning is the fact that some 50% of all crime is committed on only some 6% of the total population. Worse, that 6% is the poor, the hard up, the "vulnerable" members of society. People such as beneficiaries, students, youth, unemployed, sick and infirm are the most likely to be victims of crime, most likely more than once. In an attempt to ameliorate this piece of "bad news" the government insists that this is common to most western societies. It is also used to explain why 30% of crime goes unreported - because the victims see little point in reporting their second or third burglary in six months...

Recorded crimes in New Zealand last year increased by more than 4 per cent from 2005, police statistics released today show.

The total number of offences recorded in 2006 was 424,134, compared with 407,496 in 2005.

Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls said the largest jump in a crime category occurred in the area of sexual offences, with a 9.7 per cent increase.

Sexual offences made up 0.8 per cent of recorded crime.

However, New Zealand and international victim surveys consistently showed the majority of sexual offences were not reported to police, Mr Nicholls said.

"The increase in recorded sexual offences between the latest July-December periods may be due to the increased public awareness and reduced tolerance of such offending," he said.

Recorded violent offending has risen 1.8 per cent. The greatest increases were in Waikato (9 per cent) and Waitemata (8 per cent).

Northland and Auckland City showed the greatest decreases, 9 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

Mr Nicholls said the increase in recorded domestic violence was greater than for non-domestic violence.

Robberies showed the greatest increase within the violence category.

There were 1328 recorded robberies in the last half of 2006, up from 1098 during the same period in 2005 -- a 21 per cent increase, Mr Nicholls said.

Six of the 12 districts had a drop in recorded crime, including Bay of Plenty District with a 10.1 per cent drop and Northland with an 8 per cent drop.

In the Bay of Plenty decreases were recorded in all categories, except property damage.

The largest increases were recorded in Wellington with an increase of 7.7 per cent and Canterbury with an increase of 6.5 per cent.

The Waikato and Central Districts also increased with 4.9 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively.

Mr Nicholls said increases in crime could reflect more proactive police work, so simple comparisons of district performance were difficult.

"What I am sure of is that frontline police throughout the country are working hard to tackle crime.

"With increasing support from the community we hope to drive up both reporting and resolution rates."

The increase in crime was consistent with the effects of a change from the Law Enforcement System to the National Intelligence Application introduced by police in 2005.

Comparing the full calendar year of 2005 with 2006 would not give a valid representation of recorded crime over the two years, he said.

"However the last six months of each year can be compared in a meaningful way as statistics for both periods are recorded using the new system."


Dave said...

I have long believed that probably the single most damaging governmental failure in regards to poor people is the failure to provide adequate police protection to poorer neighborhoods. This creates a cycle of poverty that traps people.

The probligo said...

Fairly Post hoc ergo propter hoc kind of argument there, hmm?

There may be a probligo thunk on the matter in a new bit to come...

Dave said...

I don't think so.

Granted, I didn't outline all the ways that poor police protection makes it economically difficult to succeed, but it was a fairly short comment.

One example would be the direct effects of crime, where economic resources are taken from the poor who can least afford them. Even more damaging though is the effect on the business climate in a poor neighborhood. If crime is a problem there will be less businesses and what the businesses charge for their services would be higher then it would be otherwise (since the crime increases the cost of doing business.) This means that the residents of the area must pay more for needed goods and services, while at the same time lowering the availible employment opportunities in the neighborhood.

Of course when legitimate employment opportunities are not availible it makes criminal behavior reletively more attractive as well.