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Zero Tolerance Has Worked In New York

Tuesday 9 Jul 2002
Stephen Franks
Speeches -- Crime & Justice

Speech to ACT's daily press conference, ACT Caucus Room, Bowen House, Wellington, July 9, 2002

This morning I want to show you that New Zealand does not have to accept its current level of crime. Our crime level is a politically inflicted wound. It is within our capacity to solve it, as experience in New York has proven.

In the US and Britain crime is dealt with as a politically solvable problem. In the US they are well on the way to cure. In Britain at least they have taken the alcoholics-first step of acknowledging their problem.

In New Zealand the media are abetting a Government in denial, and the suppression of the truth.

The truth is that we have chosen a criminal justice system which is at odds with everyone's desire of reducing crime in our society.

It seems to me that other politicians, the Government and to some extent the media are talking about crime as if it is just a red-neck issue being manufactured for political gain. It is not. Our rising violent crime is a very serious problem for us. It is a daily proven misery far greater than GE or any of the other issues to which the Government is trying to confine this campaign. Every evening we see item after item on the television news relating the story of the latest horrific crimes. ACT is very serious about tackling crime. Zero tolerance is the way to do that.

In Britain, for a long time, they avoided talking about their rising crime. But now its become a huge issue and its set to become bigger. New more accurate methods of counting crime being used since the beginning of April will show the true extent of that country's crime wave. The Minister in Charge, Home Secretary David Blunkett is said to be shocked by the early results. The suggestion is that up to 6000 more crimes are being committed every day in Britain than official figures have shown up to now.

As they've found in Britain, one of the difficulties we have here is in finding reliable figures. Simply using the statistics of reported crime we know, doesn't tell us the truth.

That is why victimization surveys are used internationally. The Government has one, but it won't let us know what it says.

The NZ National Survey of Crime Victims was conducted in September and October last year at a cost of $800,000. It was due for release in April. It has not been released. Phil Goff's excuse is that the figures need work. He is suppressing information which we believe will show that crime rates in New Zealand are far worse than earlier thought.

Phil Goff's refusing to accept that we have a problem. He decries the figures we produce, but is not allowing the public access to meaningful information which shows how our crime rates compare with overseas. Answers to my Parliamentary questions show that for an extra $80,000 we could have taken part in the authoritative 17-country international survey of crime victims which would have shown us exactly where we stood. It is run for all those countries by the Dutch Government. But Mr Goff said no.

Today I am releasing official statistics from the New York Police Department which shows clearly the results of adopting Zero Tolerance and Broken Windows as a policy framework.

Total crime is down 62% over the last eight years. This covers not just crimes against property.

The figures are astonishing.

Murder is down 66%.


Rape is down 40%.

Robbery is down 67%

Assault is down 44%

So what about New Zealand?

Well, it is true that over the same period our total reported crime has gone down - albeit by just 8 percent. But get into the figures and the picture isn't good at all.

What we have seen in New Zealand is an explosion in violent crime.

In 1993, there were 32,494 recorded violent offences. By 2001 that figure had blown out to 44,024 - an increase of 35%. That is 12,000 a year extra bashed and brutalised victims. And that is just recorded crime.

ACT has been promoting a Zero Tolerance approach to crime. It is not a red neck policy. It is a policy that will save lives, save families, save communities and make us all safer in our homes and on our streets.

The message that Zero Tolerance sends to criminals is that crime does not pay. It sends that message to young men as they contemplate starting out on a life of crime.

In New York Broken Windows reduced graffiti, jay-walking and shoplifting - all offences that are not taken particularly seriously by our police force as they grapple with high profile serious cases.

What was truly surprising in New York was the magnitude of the fall in more serious offending. These are crimes that were already treated seriously. The difference was that the Zero Tolerance message clearly sent ripples right through the whole criminal community.

We could do it here. Why don't we?

Because the criminal justice system is wrongly focused on the criminal, not the victims. It makes prison all about rehabilitation when we know from experience that this does not work. Prison does not rehabilitate. Parole does not work. This is now incontrovertible. We must reject our failing criminal justice system.

Prison is to prevent, deter and to make sure that victims know that the offender will pay some price for what they have suffered.

Why have we chosen a criminal justice system which sees violent crime increasing inexorably when we have a model which is proven to work in another jurisdiction?

This is not an academic discussion. Our crime statistics hide incalculable human misery.

What does work is clear - Zero Tolerance, Broken Windows and Truth in Sentencing.


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