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Marc My Words - Who wants Deputy Dog?

September 30 2004

Who wants Deputy Dog?

Council elections are always interesting…not least because of the issues that arise as candidates jostle for coverage and column width! While most eyes are on the farcical shenanigans going on in the Auckland (where the hell is that?) mayoralty race, the contest in the South Island capital, Christchurch, is actually more challenging in terms of particular issues. Take community safety for example.

The National Front which has been accused of being an extreme right wing bunch of neo-fascist thugs (but they not surprisingly, would rather consider themselves N.Z. patriots) is offering its services to protect those in the ‘less well off’ areas from the ravages of crime. The timing of their community spirited proposal coincides not accidentally with their leader’s ambitions in the race for the mayoralty.

Not surprisingly Police Association president, Greg O’Connor is adamant that such an intrusion into police business is unwelcome. But while it’s easy to dismiss the idea of National Front involvement (on the grounds of who they are and what they represent), we should ask the larger question: why should private policing be dismissed out of hand?

While many may object to non-government involvement in policing on the grounds that it should be solely the state’s responsibility to maintain law and order, it would be remiss if we didn’t remind ourselves that the state only administers this function on our behalf. It is a responsibility ceded to government in the expectation of effective protection. We already have private security guards, store detectives, neighbourhood support, and a move to gated communities…so how is this any different?

Whether we like it or not (and I certainly do not!), we have become increasingly swamped by crime…particularly violent crime. Our police are under-funded, under-resourced, and oftentimes given a strange set of priorities from their political masters who have decided, for example, that they need to expend a disproportionate amount of time collecting traffic ___________ __ revenue while burglary victims wait three weeks to see a cop! It’s no wonder that private citizens feel the need to step in and do what they perceive the police do not.

Until the middle of the 1800’s most of the policing in England was supplied by law enforcement groups called the ‘Associations for the Prosecution of Felons’. These groups looked after their members and facilitated crime prevention and insurance services as well! Today, providers of security services under a different name are booming in tandem with rising crime and the seeming inability (and often unwillingness) of the Government to do much about it. Witness the utter disregard of the Norm Withers referendum despite its overwhelming backing (92%), while modestly supported social engineering policies manage to see the light of day! In Britain, U.S. and Canada there are now more private security guards than policemen.

As people become more affluent and also more fearful of the probabilities of victimisation, they are increasingly prepared to ‘buy’ additional security. When they purchase an alarm system, employ a bodyguard or join a local Neighbourhood Support group they demonstrate a loss of confidence in the state for the provision of adequate protection. Private ‘policing’ of one kind or another is therefore likely to increase. There could even be a financial windfall. In 1981, the town of Reminderville Ohio decided to contract out policing to Corporate Security Inc. for $90,000. The result was not only a halving of the costs of policing but patrol cars were increased and response times reduced from 45 minutes to six! The example is one of many.

If we allow greater public involvement in our own protection, we must be very careful to set limits, and also to vet those who are given the responsibility. The last thing we want is to allow ‘gangs’ to be given security jobs and end up legitimizing Mafia-like protection rackets.

As for the leader of the National Front and mayoral contender, Kyle Chapman, he has confessed to 12 unsolved charges relating to racially based arsons, and other crimes that included unlawful possession of explosives, receiving explosives, and intentional damage. He definitely seems well qualified to understand crime! Having the likes of him patrol our streets might seem to some a bit like asking the wolf to watch over the chickens. It’ll be hard to tell the bad guys from the worse guys! Marc Alexander.

ENDS


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