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Early Intervention to reduce crime

Hon Jim Anderton Progressive Party leader
Hon Matt Robson Progressive Party president

16 October 2008 Media Statement

Early Intervention to reduce crime

Intervening early to reduce re-offending and turn young people away from a life of crime will reduce criminal behaviour, the Progressive party says.

Releasing a detailed plan to intervene for early intervention today, Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton said young people at risk of becoming serious adult offenders were recognisable early.

"We can spot them with increasing certainty as newborns, as school entrants, as young offenders and as early adult offenders. If we want to make New Zealand safer, we need to intervene early.

"The focus on the criminal justice system is a focus on offending after it has already happened. You also need to prevent crime before it happens by targeting the people most likely to go out and offend."

As Corrections Minister, Progressive President Matt Robson pioneered research into early intervention. He said research showed the earliest possible intervention works best and costs less.

"For example, there is a cost-benefit ratio of fifty to one from teaching young women about the advantages of delaying child bearing until they are settled, mature and suitable support is available.

"Backing that up with support for high-risk new mothers costs about $3000 and has returns a benefit 25 times as much in reduced criminal behaviour alone.

"Teachers have long been able to identify many of the school entrants that they believe will end up as adult offenders. An intervention for a five year-old who is aggressive and defiant is estimated to cost about $5000-$10,000 per case with a success rate of 70%. The same behaviour at the age of 25 years costs $30,000-40,000 and has a success rate of only 20%.

"Children at risk of progressing to serious adult offending get easier to identify between the ages of ten and fifteen. The ones at risk are the kids who are abusing solvents at school, keeping deviant friends and going home to poor supervision, criminal parents and child abuse. The most effective remedies are: Re-entry to school, with some incentive for doing well; better parenting; a complete ban on alcohol and drug use; and new social activities and friends.

"Working with these kids to prevent them moving on to serious adult offending would mean intervention with about two thousand kids a year, at a cost of about $7000-$15,000 each. If one in four of them would move on to a lifetime of offending without the intervention, and one in three interventions actually works, then the benefit-cost ratio is about 36-1."

More than half the teenagers who enter the adult justice system are re-convicted within one year of ending their sentence. About 80 or 90% are re-convicted within five years. Progressives want to increase use of Day Reporting Centres to help give kids job skills and life skills and help to place them in jobs.

Matt Robson said Corrections Department research indicated the measures in the early intervention package could eventually reduce imprisonable offending by around 17% a year.

Jim Anderton says a lot of politicians are telling New Zealanders that they will end crime by throwing people in prison.

"There are lots of good reasons to send people to jail, and in some cases there are people who will never come out. But one thing prison doesn't do is change the crime rate.

"If we want to reduce crime, so that we have fewer victims, then we have to do more to keep people safe rather than just say we'll lock offenders up after they've already gone out bashing and robbing."

The early intervention policy is part of a detailed five point plan to support vulnerable teenagers that the Progressive Party is releasing this week and next. The package also covers drug and alcohol abuse, employment, reducing suicide and ending poverty.


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