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CrimeGuard calls for the return of street crime stats

Cessation of Weekly Crime Map in Community Newspapers Leads to
‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ Mentality This Holiday Season
CrimeGuard calls for the return of street-by-street crime stats

AUCKLAND – Tuesday 13th December, 2011 – Earlier this year, the NZ Police stopped producing weekly stats that have been used by community newspapers to show crime types and rates in actual suburban neighbourhoods and streets. As of May 2011, specific stats on crimes – such as burglaries – and where they take place have been unavailable to media and residents alike.

The change in reporting is said to be corporate decision – possibly an attempt at reducing anxiety and discomfort for residents of highlighted areas. The detailed weekly reports have been replaced by monthly stats per policing district, rather than by streets per suburb, a similar decision to one made by police in Australia.

“The problem, however, is that local New Zealand neighbourhood support groups could be concerned this holiday season, that the lack of specific information about individual communities will lead to a sense of complacency on the part of residents, a lack of vigilance and a false sense of security, just as it happened in Australia,” says theft prevention expert Marc Green, Director of CrimeGuard. “With this decision, New Zealand loses an important and practical communication point between police, neighbourhood support groups and local community. At an Auckland Neighbourhood Support AGM I heard a concerned request from a resident for the re-introduction of the local crime stats which seemed to have widespread support at the meeting.”

Green continues: “We are seeing more casual attitudes, such as cars being left unlocked, and a real sense of surprise by victims of theft and other crimes. Without a spotlight on crime, it allows our neighbourhoods to let down their guards too easily and not participate as readily in neighbourhood support activities.”

Green says that in Australia, neighbourhood watch groups found it hard to recruit new members, volunteers and street group formations after the reporting ceased, due in part to a disturbing lack of awareness of actual theft problems in specific communities. “Reinstating the crime maps reminds people crime can happen anytime anywhere, even in their own neighbourhood and encourages personal responsibility for their own safety and security. It also reassures residents that police are focusing attention on local crime ‘hot spots’. For a country as DIY as New Zealand, giving people the information and means to help protect their own communities is a necessity.

“If people know there are thieves operating in their area they are more vigilant and apt to look out for suspicious activity; take down car rego numbers of suspicious vehicles; look out for their neighbours; start local street neighbourhood support groups and create a shared sense of what is happening in their community. Making specific crime detail by street and suburb available to local residents through community papers is valuable to the local community. It educates the people most affected on what is happening around them, and encourages simple crime fighting awareness and vigilance. The info – that we are no longer privy to – provides local awareness, discussion, alertness and involvement on community safety and security at the grass roots level.”

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