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Drop in Family Violence a testament to long-range strategy

Drop in Family Violence a testament to long-range crime reduction strategies

“The drop in family violence and assaults on females, is a testament to the government’s long-range strategic thinking”, says Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. He was commenting on the 3.1 percent drop in family violence related offences which included a 2.1 percent reduction in family violence assaults - reversing trends of previous years.

“The results of the campaign against family violence and women, show what can happen when government and community agencies work together to reduce a serious social harm. “

“In 2008, Rethinking was criticised for suggesting that the 28 percent increase in family violence reporting was a good thing, and that we could expect increases at a reduced level for the next 3 - 4 years followed by a “plateauing out”. In 2009 there was 13.5 percent increase, followed by an 11.8 percent increase in 2010. Those increases occurred on the back of improved police reporting procedures, societal unwillingness to tolerate family violence, and the “It’s Not OK” campaign - arguably the most successful social marketing campaign in New Zealand history. In a public survey, 98% per cent of Maori 94% of Pacific peoples and 90% of Pakeha could recall the campaigns advertising and its messages.”

“This year we have seen the first recorded reduction in family violence. What is also significant is that in 2009, 35 of the 65 murders were in the area of family violence. The reduction of murders to 46 last year, and 34 this year, suggest that the campaign may have had some impact. “

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“It is a case of excellent combined efforts by the Police, Ministry of Social Development, Families Commission, Women’s Refuge and a whole lot of community organisations to address a serious social ill.”

Government also needs to take credit. It is unusual for political parties to commit to crime reduction strategies that are successful for three reasons.

Successful crime reduction strategies require long range thinking - at least five to ten years and certainly well beyond the three year term of office. In the absence of a bipartisan political agreement to a crime reduction strategy, most governments will aim for ‘quick fix’ tactics that produce promising early results, but are unsustainable in the long term.

Successful crime reduction strategies often produce pain before gain. They require long term investment in promoting public awareness, investment in training and education, and developing protective strategies. In the early stages of such a campaign, it is likely to lead to increased public reporting of offences, and higher rates of detection by the Police. Unless the government has the courage to stick it out, and can secure public understanding and support for the strategy, they are unlikely to succeed. There is often considerable pressure to get a positive short term result, at the expense of long term success.

Successful crime reduction strategies are inevitably complex and multi-faceted - silver bullet solutions simply don’t cut it. That in turn, requires a high level of investment, both in resources, and capacity to work collaboratively across a range of social agencies, with a range of initiatives.

In this case, our political leaders stuck with it, and the result has been an outstanding success.


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