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Christchurch Needs Public Safety Strategy

Christchurch Needs Public Safety Strategy Not Zero Tolerance Rethinking Crime and Punishment

If Superintendent Cliff of the Christchurch Police expects to reduce youth crime through reliance on a "zero tolerance" policy he is going to be disappointed. That's the view of Kim Workman, Project Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, and a former Police Youth Aid Officer. He was commenting on Superintendent Cliffs reported comments at a Christchurch meeting on violent crime within the city.

"Instead, he should be looking at how the New York Police have reduced gang activity over the last 20 years." ""New York's success with youth violence over the last 20 years had nothing to do with 'zero tolerance'. It was through the development of a public safety strategy that emphasised positive community and youth engagement."

"The Police should compare the experiences of Los Angeles and New York over the last twenty years. Los Angeles has place a heavy emphasis on gang elimination through law enforcement the heavy handed approach preferred by Christchurch Police. Spending on enforcement has far outweighed spending on prevention, or neighbourhood improvement. In 2006 they reported 11,402 gang-related crimes. "

"In contrast, New York used extensive social resources -- job training, mentoring, after-school activities, recreational programs and made significant dents in gang and youth violence. A variety of street work and intervention programs outside the realm of law enforcement were adopted and caused gang violence to decrease by the end of the 1980s. In 2006, they reported 502 gang related crimes. The results speak for themselves."

Kim Workman was critical of the Christchurch police performance in dealing with young offenders. "While there has been an overall decrease in crime over the last five years in Canterbury, violence, drug and anti-social behaviour offences have increased in the same period. The Police are reaping the rewards of their own "get tough" policy. If they continue to do more of the same, they will get the same result"

"Members of the Christchurch community who work with youth consider that the Police attitude to youth is appalling. It is characterized by:

A heavy handed "zero tolerance, one size fits all" approach;

Failure to take alternative approaches their approach is unimaginative and fails to fully utilise community support and resources;

An understaffed and under-resourced Police Youth Aid Section. It is the Police Youth Aid Officers who can explore alternatives to court appearances. They have 12 Youth Aid Officers. On a youth population basis, there should be nineteen. "

"The youth offending statistics bear this out. In August of 2007, it was reported that the Christchurch area, in comparison to the rest of the nation, had:

Had the most arrests of 14 16 year olds for nine successive years.

The highest number of youths sent to supervised homes

The second highest number of young people being referred to the youth justice system

"Those in the justice system have been concerned about police and judicial behaviour in the Christchurch area for more than a decade. It doesn't fit within the national framework. There is little effort in looking at alternatives to prosecution and incarceration. The preferred approach is guaranteed to increase violence and youth offending."

"Of special concern is the level of Maori arrest rates which are 52% above the national apprehension rate for Maori. I find it difficult to accept that Maori in Christchurch are 50% more likely to offend in Christchurch than elsewhere. This is an institutional issue that deserves close attention. "


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