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Crime Reduction Strategy

Hon G Hawkins

A new Crime Reduction Strategy has been established which sets out the government's priorities for preventing and reducing crime, and provides a framework and focus for the crime prevention and reduction policies and activities of the government and community.

The Strategy has seven priority areas or goals for reducing categories of crime. Under each of these goals there will also be interventions directed at particular groups: namely victims, Mäori, Pacific Peoples, families at risk, and persons exhibiting dependent behaviours. Particular consideration will be given to the needs of victims to prevent repeat victimisation.

The Ministry of Justice, in consultation with other agencies, will be reporting back later this year to confirm the goals and to provide advice on a staged implementation plan for the Crime Reduction Strategy, including a programme of evaluation.

The Ministry of Justice and the Crime Prevention Unit are currently holding a series of eleven workshops around New Zealand. They will be working with the 66 Safer Community Councils, their local community sponsor organisations and local representatives of the Police and other Government agencies delivering services to help to prevent or reduce crime.

BACKGROUND

The existing New Zealand Crime Prevention Strategy was published in October 1994. It set out seven key goals and a five-year plan of action for government co-ordination and community partnership. The seven key goals reflected concerns about particular crime problems and particular groups involved in or affected by crime. The goals were:

· To improve the effectiveness and support for at risk families;
· To reduce the incidence of family violence;
· To target preventive programmes for "youth at risk" of offending;
· To minimise the formal involvement of casual offenders within the criminal justice system;
· To develop a co-ordinated national strategic approach for the management of programmes that address the misuse and abuse of both alcohol and drugs;
· To develop a strategy to address the incidence of white-collar crime; and
· To address the concerns of victims and potential victims

A wide range of work has been undertaken by communities and agencies to achieve these goals; for example, local initiatives supported by Safer Community Councils (SCC's) and demonstration projects funded by the Crime Prevention Unit of the Ministry of Justice (CPU). There have been special Budget packages for family violence and youth at risk. New policy initiatives have also been given effect; for example, the National Drug Policy and Family Violence Statement. The Strengthening Families local case co-ordination initiative has been put in place with the potential for better co-ordination of early interventions for children, young people and their families.

A new strategy is needed for several reasons. Firstly, a strategy is needed to establish priorities for both preventing and responding to crime across the crime prevention and justice sectors as a whole. The 1994 strategy was focussed primarily on preventing crime. A wider strategy which aims at also reducing crime would help ensure inter-agency co-ordination and coherence of interventions along the continuum of preventing offending and re-offending. In particular, it would assist the activities of the youth justice and criminal justice sectors to be seen as part of an integrated whole. It would also help guide decisions about investment both to prevent crime from happening in the first place and to respond to it once it has occurred.

Secondly, a new strategy is needed to reflect changing priorities for reducing crime; for example, the increased public and political concern about burglary. It also provides the opportunity to learn from the experience of implementing the goals in the 1994 strategy. A new strategy can also take into account recent legislative and institutional changes; such as the impact of the Domestic Violence Act 1995, and the location of the Crime Prevention Unit in the Ministry of Justice.

Finally, the Crime Prevention Unit requires a new mandate to inform its work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and SCCs because the existing strategy is two years past its five-year revision date. In particular, updated goals are needed to guide the activities of SCCs. The SCCs and CPU could function more effectively, both individually and collectively, by focusing on agreed priority areas.

Accordingly on 11 October 2000 the Chair of the Cabinet Policy Committee directed the Ministry of Justice, in consultation with other departments, to lead the development of a Crime Reduction Strategy to replace the 1994 New Zealand Crime Prevention Strategy, and to establish priorities for preventing offending and for responding to offending. This direction was given in the context of the transfer of the CPU to the Ministry of Justice.

CRIME REDUCTION STRATEGY

By setting out the government's overall priorities for reducing crime, the proposed New Zealand Crime Reduction Strategy will provide:

· a framework and a focus for the policy, planning and activities of government and the community; · an opportunity for government agencies to co-ordinate crime prevention/reduction activities; and · a mandate for beneficial partnerships between government agencies and territorial local authorities and community organisations including SCCs.

It is proposed that the Crime Reduction Strategy include priority areas or goals. Under each priority area, there will be action plans and targets to achieve the identified goal, and a programme of evaluation. These plans will involve a mix of existing and new, short-term and long-term initiatives. The strategy will be revised regularly to increase flexibility in determining changing priority areas and to enable emerging issues to be included, such as electronic crime.

The action plans will combine social, situational and tertiary approaches to prevent and reduce crime. Social approaches involve preventing the development of criminality among children and young people, and addressing the factors underlying offending and victimisation and incorporates programmes such as Family Start, Family Service Centres, Cool Schools initiatives, mentoring programmes and Project Wraparound. Situational approaches involve designing and delivering programmes to reduce the opportunity for, or incidence of, specific crimes such as burglary. Tertiary approaches involve interventions after arrest: for example, Police diversion, restorative justice programmes and rehabilitative programmes.

Where appropriate, there will also be targets under each of the priority areas. These targets should be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic and time framed. A mix of social, situational and tertiary responses might be used to achieve this target: for example, an inter-agency preventive initiative to identify children presenting risk issues, and targeted youth at risk programmes (social); specific crime prevention advice and target hardening (situational); and community and prison based programmes to rehabilitate offenders (tertiary).

The strategy will include information about how it will be delivered and will identify an agency responsible for overseeing its implementation, including co-ordination of the various parts. Finally the strategy will include a programme of evaluation in order to assess the effectiveness of the specific initiatives and of the strategy overall as a mechanism for targeting action to address key priorities. This will include evaluation of the effectiveness of existing strategies which have been incorporated into this Crime Reduction Strategy, in terms of their contribution to preventing and reducing crime.

PRIORITY AREAS AND GOALS

Reduce the incidence of family violence and child abuse

Family violence and child abuse are recommended as a priority area for two reasons. First, they are high volume crimes. In the 1997 Report on the Women's Safety Survey, 15.3% of ever-partnered women reported that they had experienced one or more types of violence by their partners in the twelve months leading up to the survey. While family violence incidents attended by the police have stabilised since the introduction of the Domestic Violence Act 1995 (DVA), they remain high (over 21,000 in 1998). In the year to June 2000, 6,833 children were assessed by the Department of Child, Youth and Family as abused or neglected (ie 6.9 children for every 1,000 under 17 years of age). Maori children are more likely than non-Maori children to be assessed as abused and neglected. In 2000, the rate per 1,000 was 12.0 for Maori and 5.3 for non-Maori.

Secondly, such crimes often have a disproportionate impact on victims. In particular, children exposed to family violence are at greater risk of poor life outcomes, including later offending 1, and often perpetuate a cycle of violence and abuse.

Reduce other violence including sexual violence

Reducing other violence, including sexual violence, should also become a priority area because of the high and increasing volume of offences, and their disproportionate impact on victims and the general public (including increased fear of crime). Recorded violent crime in New Zealand has increased by 77% in the last decade. The number of violent offenders in the prison population is also increasing (60% of sentenced inmates, due to both high imprisonment rates and long sentences). The New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims (1996) showed a high degree of repeat victimisation in the twelve months leading up to the survey, 6.1% of the victims of violence having been victimised more than five times and accounting for 68.4% of total violent offences. Amongst such victims the average number of offences was 12.

Reduce burglary

Burglary should be a priority area for three reasons. First, it involves a large number of offences (74,490 reported in 1999 and 6.1% of total crime).

Secondly, burglary has a disproportionate impact on victims, particularly where homes and/or personal property are affected, and low resolution rates (while improved in the past 12 months) have contributed to an increased sense of vulnerability within the community. The 1996 National Survey of Crime Victims showed that over a third (37.8%) of New Zealanders had experienced a household offence such as burglary or theft from a motor vehicle over the preceding 12 months.

The third reason for making reductions in burglary a priority is the availability of cost-effective interventions. Well-defined situational crime prevention initiatives such as target hardening (making targets of crime less vulnerable) have worked in reducing burglary and repeat victimisation in the short term.

Reduce theft of cars and from cars

The incidence of car theft is high in NZ compared to overseas. New Zealand, along with England, Canada and Australia, records high levels of car thefts (6.9% of respondents to a community survey in 1991 having been victimised once or more over the preceding 12 months in New Zealand, 7.1% in England, 7.2% in Canada and 6.7% in Australia, while European countries average 5%)4. Taking and driving away offences constitute a large proportion of offences in New Zealand (23,708 in 1999) and recidivism rates are high.

Specific strategies to reduce theft of and from cars in Britain and Australia are considered to be effective and this suggests that we have scope to achieve improvement here. International experience indicates that there is potential to reduce such thefts particularly through situational crime prevention initiatives6, which have been tested here by Police and Safer Community Councils.

Reduce organised criminal activity

Organised crime occurs when 'a continuing association of persons have as its object, or as one of its objects, the acquisition of substantial income or assets by means of a continuing course of criminal conduct.'7 There are likely to be between 330 and 660 organised crime groups in New Zealand, including outlaw motorcycle gangs and gangs of New Zealand origin, local street gangs, career criminal groups and family crime groups, some organised on an ethnic basis; and secret societies, such as paedophiles. Through such groups, a significant proportion of serious offences involving theft and burglary, the importation, production and sale of drugs, the theft of motor vehicles and violent crime are committed by a relatively small number of offenders8. There is increased concern at the link between organised crime and the growth in illegal drugs trafficking, manufacture and distribution, and money laundering in New Zealand. There is scope to make a significant impact on overall levels of crime through co-ordinated efforts by Police and other enforcement agencies to effectively tackle organised crime. An Organised Crime Strategy has been developed by Police for this purpose and will feed into the action plans and targets under this Crime Reduction Strategy. Further research is needed to identify the best strategies to do so.

Reduce Serious Traffic Offending

Serious traffic offending includes dangerous driving causing death or injury, drunk driving, and driving while disqualified. This area should be included as a priority for three reasons. First, these offences are committed in large numbers and with disproportionate impacts on victims. In 1999 New Zealand had a rate of 13.4 deaths per 100,000 population; an improvement on the previous year but still much higher than the rate of 6.1 in the United Kingdom.

Secondly, the increase in such offences is imposing significant costs on society and the criminal justice system. In 1999, 1,829 traffic cases resulted in a custodial sentence (the highest number since 1992), most commonly as a result of driving causing death and driving while disqualified. Although only 15% of convictions for driving whilst disqualified result in imprisonment, this represents 1,124 cases in 1999 and 70% of the demand for prison space from traffic offences.

Thirdly, alternative interventions that are likely to be cost-effective are available to reduce serious traffic offending. The MODS programme developed by Corrections is based on research indicating that offences amongst participants can be reduced by 10%.

Strategies to address road safety are primarily being addressed in the transport sector, working with Police. However, cross sector coordination is also needed over issues such as penalties enforcement and programmes for offenders. Including this priority in the Crime Reduction Strategy will ensure that this dimension of road safety strategy is addressed within the justice sector, but will not duplicate other actions in the development of the 2010 road safety strategy.

Reduce youth offending and reoffending

Youth offending is recommended as a priority area because of the potential for cost-effective intervention. Because those who begin offending early are more likely to become persistent adult offenders9, it is likely to be cost-effective to target youth offenders at a formative stage when their behaviours are amenable to change. The fiscal and social costs of high risk persistent adult offending are extremely high. The average number of convictions for this group is 51, cost to taxpayers $3.1 million per offender, and the top 10% cost the taxpayer $6 million each.

The Ministerial Taskforce on Youth Crime led by Chief District Court Judge Carruthers is currently engaged in developing a specific strategy for youth offending which will become a subset of the Crime Reduction Strategy.

LINKS WITH OTHER STRATEGIES

It is intended that the Crime Reduction Strategy will act as an umbrella strategy for other work that is taking place in the crime prevention and justice sectors and co-ordinate crime prevention and reduction initiatives across the justice sector. It is not intended to duplicate other work, but links will be made to other strategies and activities in order to show what is happening sector wide.

The strategy will help to avoid future duplication of activities across sectors, inform best practice and provide guidance in future planning and funding bids, (for example the youth offending strategy being developed by the Ministerial Taskforce will be shown as a sub-set under youth offending within this strategy).

Links will be made to other developments such as the Department of Corrections' Report on Reducing the Use of Imprisonment, the Ministry of Health Guidelines for District Health Boards, the Housing Strategic Directions Document, and work to review the strategic direction of the New Zealand Police.

Ends

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