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Crime Stats Show Excellent Progress

Crime statistics for the 2000/01 financial year paint a positive picture, Police Minister George Hawkins said today.

"Overall, crime has dropped by 8068 offences to its lowest level since 1989/90 and the resolution rate has hit an all time high, of almost 43%," said Mr Hawkins.

"We are seeing promising returns from this government's investment in law and order, including an extra $165 million allocated to Vote Police over the next four years.

"What the statistics mean for New Zealanders is that in the 2000/01 year, 155 fewer crimes were committed every week, and an extra 145 offences were resolved every week, compared to the previous year.

"The crime rate in New Zealand has fallen considerably since it peaked under the National Government in 1996/97. In 2000/01 an incredible 58,545 fewer crimes were committed than in 1996/97, a drop of more than 1100 crimes per week! That is a fantastic achievement.

"I am particularly pleased that the number of burglaries is continuing to plummet. The latest statistics show a drop of 14.6%, which adds up to an impressive 22% drop in burglaries in the last two years.

"Reducing burglary is a priority for this government. Burglary is gateway to more serious offending, and by refusing to tolerate burglary, we are sending out the message, loud and clear, that it is not worth pursuing a criminal lifestyle.

"I am pleased National's Police spokesperson, Tony Ryall, agrees that burglary is a crime of major significance. In March he admitted that most serious criminals start their lives of crime as juveniles committing burglaries. Mr Ryall is right when he says that if we can catch these offenders, and turn them around early, we can prevent a lot of other crime further down the track.

"This government has put our money where our mouth is. We have invested millions of dollars in resourcing the police, and attracting top quality recruits from diverse backgrounds. In contrast, National planned to cut the police budget $24 million in their first year if they returned to office.

"The Highway Patrol is one of this government's defining policies. We have insisted that there is a need for a distinctive, dedicated Highway Patrol. New Zealanders are seeing the distinctive Highway Patrol on our roads and they are getting the message - slow down and drive safely. As a consequence our roads are safer - speed reductions of around 4km/ph have already been reported in the Central and Waikato Police districts."

Mr Hawkins said he is concerned that violent offending is still rising, although the trend is not new.

"It is difficult to pinpoint just one reason for the increase, but the Police and Ministry of Justice have identified a number of contributing factors:

- Proactive policing;

- Increased reporting;

- Lower public tolerance;

- Increase in youth gatherings and alcohol use;

- Greater police emphasis on street disorder;

- Increased public reporting of violence; and

- Police pro-arrest family violence policy."

"The violent crime statistics must be seen in the light of international trends towards more reporting of violent crime. If New Zealanders are reporting, and police are attending, more violence in the home and more low-level violence that may be an indication that the public have increasing confidence in Police," said Mr Hawkins.

Mr Hawkins said that it is important to look at how the increase in violence is comprised: "Over half of the increase in violent offending is accounted for by intimidation and threats (like threatening to hurt another person) and family violence.

"The previous National government allowed violent offending to increase by a whopping 77 percent over nine years.

"I am looking forward to seeing the effect of plummeting burglaries and preventative policies reflected in the violence statistics in the near future," said Mr Hawkins.

Mr Hawkins highlighted a number of government initiatives are designed to help the police and the community combat serious crime:

- Government support for strategic crime fighting initiatives, like the Memorandum of Understanding to be signed between the Auckland University of Technology and the Auckland City Police (with the first report-back due at the end of this year);

- Implementation of the "About Time" report, designed to combat crime through early intervention (led by Corrections Minister Matt Robson);

- The Crime Prevention Strategy led by Justice Minister Phil Goff; and

- New steps to tackle Family Violence due to be announced by Social Services Minister Steve Maharey later this week.

Mr Hawkins said that overall the statistics are great news for New Zealanders, who are increasingly working with police to bring crime down and make criminal offending an unattractive option. "I urge the police to keep up the great work, and work with their communities to make New Zealand an even safer place," said Mr Hawkins.

Ends

Full copies of the Police Statistics are available on the NZ Police website: www.police.govt.nz/resources/

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