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Directions In Crime Prevention - Goff Speech

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Speech Notes

Directions In Crime Prevention

Speech To Maori Focus Group
New Plymouth District Safer Community Council
Council Chambers
New Plymouth
3 November 2000

Thank you for welcoming me here today to talk about future directions in crime prevention.

This meeting today is my first formal engagement as the minister in charge of the Crime Prevention Unit.

As you may be aware, the Crime Prevention Unit officially became attached to the Ministry of Justice just two days ago, on the first of November.

The change in location for the Crime Prevention Unit is something that I am excited about, and I am excited about the fact that, as Minister of Justice, I will be working with people like you to help make sure we capitalise on the opportunities the change in location brings.

Crime prevention is at the heart of the Government’s justice strategy.

Stopping crime before it occurs is the best way to bring crime rates down. If we focus only on picking up the pieces after crime has occurred, and do not invest in effective crime prevention, we will never have enough jail cells to deal with the problem.

An independent review of the Crime Prevention Unit this year recommended that relocation within the Justice Ministry would achieve better coordination and development of crime prevention strategies.

Because crime prevention is at the heart of our justice strategy, it makes sense to have the agency that deals with crime prevention – the Crime Prevention Unit – at the heart of the justice sector.

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That is why we have moved it to the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice coordinates, leads and develops policy across the broad range of government agencies that are involved in delivering justice-related services and crime prevention.

The Ministry is currently involved with other agencies, in particular Police and the Ministry of Social Policy, in developing a comprehensive crime reduction strategy. This aims to promote the development of crime prevention initiatives across the sector as a whole. The location of the CPU within the Ministry of Justice will give added impetus to this process and ensure that existing and new crime prevention initiatives, both locally and nationally, are placed within a broader justice framework and integrated with the activities of other agencies.

Having the Crime Prevention Unit within the Ministry will give it a practical crime prevention focus and will enhance input from local and iwi authorities and community groups into justice sector policy development.

The move will give the Ministry of Justice a direct link to the front line of crime prevention, through the Safer Community Council network, so that the officials leading Government policy can see, first-hand, crime prevention in action on the ground.

As a result, policy and funding decisions should be more responsive to local concerns and solutions. For example, locating the CPU in the Ministry will help ensure that the perspectives of Maori and Pacific Island groups, who are actually engaged in crime prevention work on the ground, are fed into the Ministry’s work on ‘closing the gaps’ in the justice sector.

The Crime Prevention Unit’s identity and effectiveness will not be lost within the larger bureaucracy of the Ministry of Justice.

It will continue as a dedicated unit within the Ministry because that has been a successful formula.

The key to the success of the Crime Prevention Unit has been the partnership it has forged between central and local government and the community in crime prevention.

Crime prevention isn’t something that can simply be done from Wellington. Crime is a community problem and preventing it means drawing on the energy and skills of those members of the community who believe their neighbourhood can be a better and safer place to live.

The crime prevention partnership is about central government and local government supporting those local efforts, and supporting each other to achieve that vision.

Central government in particular can help through coordinating the efforts of justice sector agencies to support the community, provision of support in terms of resources, and provision of technical assistance such as advice, ideas and expertise that a local community may not have easy access to.

These are all roles in the crime prevention partnership where I see potential for an increased central government effort.

Some of you may be aware that the United Nations has designated 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers.

I mention this because crime prevention cannot work without volunteers. It relies on ordinary people making the commitment to the wellbeing of the communities in which they live.

Currently there are over a thousand volunteers involved directly with Safer Community Councils around the country, and many thousands more New Zealanders involved in crime prevention in their communities in other, sometimes less direct ways.

The International Year of Volunteers is about valuing the contribution of volunteers and strengthening community services through government working in partnership with the voluntary and community sectors.

Some of our best and most successful crime prevention initiatives have been generated from community level. While it is very early days, the Waitara Project that you are running is a prime example of what local communities can achieve. I look forward to hearing more about that project from you a little later on.

Last year’s referendum showed the strength of community concern about the level of criminal offending.

Key justice sector priorities for this Government, as we signalled before the election, include:
 Targeting burglary;
 Giving more weight to the rights of victims;
 Expanding restorative justice initiatives; and
 Preventing offending and re-offending by children and young people.

Safer Community Councils have a valuable contribution to make in all these areas. For example, I know that here in Taranaki you are exploring involvement in restorative justice. The Crime Prevention Unit has some valuable experience in this area through the successful community-managed restorative justice programmes it is already funding around New Zealand.

I encourage you to draw on that experience.

Over in Wanganui the community and Police have achieved great results in reducing the incidence of burglary. The Police have made burglary a priority, and the neighbourhood support scheme has been revitalised. Through a trust set up by the Safer Community Council and the Police, security assistance is provided to prevent repeat victims of burglary. The end result has been a sustained 40% reduction in the burglary rate since the partnership began.

The Crime Prevention Unit has been working with the Wanganui and other Safer Community Councils to develop the practical planning tools necessary for local anti-burglary initiatives.

Central Government demonstrated its commitment to these justice goals in the Budget, with significant new expenditure on anti-burglary, youth crime, victims rights and restorative justice packages.

The burglary package involved funding of $19m over four years, for a range of initiatives including target-hardening to reduce repeat burglary victimisation; expansion of Police intelligence ‘crime mapping’ capabilities; and increased numbers of specialist police anti-burglary teams.

In addition new legislation will make life tougher for burglars. The new Bail Act 2000 makes it more difficult for repeat burglars to get bail, and the upcoming new Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Bill will make it harder for burglars to sell stolen goods. Proposed amendments to DNA sampling laws will improve the ability of Police to tie burglars to their crimes.

The Victims’ Package provided funding of $7.7 million over four years for: extension of the Courts Services for Victims scheme; a programme to inform victims of their rights; and establishment of a travel fund to help victims of serious violent offences and families of murder and manslaughter victims to attend court trials and sentencing hearings.

The strengthened Victims’ Rights Bill will make recognition of victims’ rights mandatory and will provide for victims to be consulted over final name suppression of an offender.

The Restorative Justice package put $6.6 million aside over four years for five more community-managed Restorative Justice programmes in 2000/01 and one more in 2001/02. The CPU will continue to fund these programmes and are placing some emphasis on working with Maori and Pacific communities.

The funding will also establish three court-referred restorative justice pilots, which will be established in Auckland City/Waitakere City, Hamilton and Dunedin. These programmes will be targeted at relatively serious offenders.

The largest package, in fiscal terms, was the Youth Offending package. The Budget provided funding of $93 million over four years for a mix of new and existing services to prevent youth getting into trouble and dealing with those who have offended.

The package included funding for a large number of programmes delivered at community level, many via the Crime Prevention Unit and Safer Community Council network. For example, funding was provided for mentoring programmes for children and young people in Auckland and Christchurch, and a further neighbourhood-based safety programme in Munroe Street, Gisborne.

As part of our commitment to tackling offending by young people, we have also established a Ministerial Taskforce on Youth Crime, chaired by Principal Youth Court Judge David Carruthers. The Taskforce of Chief Executives is responsible for developing and driving through a coordinated package of initiatives to reduce youth crime and ensure effective use of resources in the youth justice sector. The initiatives will be focused on improving practice, processes and coordination between justice sector agencies.

The Director of the Crime Prevention Unit is on this taskforce, emphasising a community-based, practical approach.

It is particularly important that our crime prevention efforts address the problem of over-representation of Maori in our justice statistics.

Two days ago I released the Report on Combating and Preventing Maori Crime, Hei Whakarurutanga Mö Te Ao, produced by former Police Commissioner Peter Doone.

The Report highlights the fact that Maori are over-represented at every stage of the criminal justice process. They are over 3 times more likely to be apprehended for a criminal offence than non-Maori and make up 51 percent of the prison population while being only 14 percent of the general population.

However, the Report says that ethnicity itself is not a factor causing crime. The cause lies in Maori being over-represented in the social risk factors that contribute to criminal behaviour.

Programmes effective in changing the behaviour of offenders or potential offenders need to address the risk factors. They need to do this in a way that is relevant to how the offender sees himself.

Just a few days ago, Cabinet allocated new funding from the budget contingency fund to close social gaps which address key risk factors in offending highlighted by the Doone Report.

This new funding comprised of $16.4 million to Child, Youth and Family over four years to target family violence and its effect on child abuse and later propensity for criminal offending. The programmes promote better parenting. As a community, we must no longer accept excuses for child abuse, or allow children to grow up in families where they are denied a decent start in life.

The funding also supports social and employment initiatives for Maori youth at risk of offending.

$2.8 million over four years has been provided through Health to fund providers to develop family violence protocols, to train providers to recognise family violence and to fund public health campaigns to reduce family violence.

$4.2 million will be spent over four years to promote alternatives to suspension for Maori students with behavioural problems. This measure will assist principals to find ways to keep at risk Maori students at school and learning. Currently the suspension rate for Maori students is 3.6 times the rate for non-Maori. The Principal Youth Court Judge has identified as a major factor in youth offending absence from school, either through suspension or truancy.

These measures come on top of the packages announced in this year's budget.

The Doone Report also recommends a "best practice" model for programmes for Maori youth at risk of offending, proper programme evaluation and the need to implement such programmes in a systematic and comprehensive fashion.

“Best practice” elements include basing programmes on Maori cultural values, beliefs and principles, and designing programmes that work intensively with small groups. Programmes should also be community-based and address the whanau, not just the at-risk young person.

The Doone Report concludes that adherence to these principles will improve the effectiveness of the programmes.

Several policy initiatives are already underway to reduce youth offending, which will help address the risk factors affecting Maori youth.

Ensuring effectiveness means we also need to build the capacity of Maori communities to prevent and respond to offending by their youth. Programmes delivered from within a community have a far greater chance of making the crucial connection with the at-risk youth and successfully turning them around.

Maori are not only over-represented as offenders in the justice system – they are also over-represented as victims. Yet they are less likely than other ethnic groups to seek help from justice sector agencies, and are less aware of what community-based victim support services are available.

In recognition of this fact, we are working to improve the responsiveness of justice sector agencies to Maori and Pacific victims, and developing Maori and Pacific provided support services and more culturally effective justice processes.

Reducing victimisation, especially repeat victimisation, is an important part of the crime prevention equation.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank you all for the work that you have been doing on crime prevention in Taranaki.

The New Plymouth District Safer Community Council has been extremely active and effective in its work.

Programmes such as the Waitara Project, focussing on at-risk young Maori, and Choice Taranaki, also targeting young offenders, show great promise.

The initiative of the Safer Community Council in organising the major Beyond Violence Conference to tackle family violence is to be applauded, and I wish you well for that conference next week.

While we have a network of dedicated individuals, such as yourselves, not only committed to finding crime prevention solutions but actually delivering them – then we have cause for optimism.

Effective crime prevention is a partnership. I thank you for the part you are playing in bringing crime down, and give a commitment on behalf of the Government that we intend to play our part.

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