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Dr Muriel Newman

Keep the Kids Inside

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Posted on

9 September 06

Keep the Kids Inside

With last week’s newspapers headlines warning: “Keep kids inside after dark, police tell parents”, the public could be excused for thinking the reports were about Soweto, not Auckland.

Police claim that between 200 and 300 youths involved in South Auckland’s street gangs, are roaming the streets, armed with anything they can get hold of – knives, hunks of wood, hammers, axes, firearms, baseball bats – looking for other groups to attack. Many of the marauders are blatantly breaching court-imposed curfews.

There have been six homicides in the area over the last three months, and Police are stretched to the hilt. With the situation bordering on being out of control, isn’t it time that the government was held to account?

A core responsibility of government is the protection of the lives and property of citizens. The current spate of lawlessness – the murders, the violence, the hooliganism and thuggery – are surely all symptoms that the government is losing its grip on this central duty. This is not to say that the Police aren’t doing their best to get on top of the problems – they are. But while they struggle to cope, the government continues to make their job more difficult by failing to prioritise policing, and by refusing to tackle the root causes of crime.

Effective policing involves ensuring that would-be criminals are clearly aware that crime does not pay. That involves acknowledging that criminals are cunning and calculating operators who weigh up the risks of being caught against the potential rewards of the crime. This, of course, is the antithesis of the politically correct liberal view that criminals are the victims of poverty who bash and rape and pillage just to put food on the table.

A recent study by the Christchurch Police shed some light on the sophistication of these criminal operators identifying that the ten most offensive criminal families in their area had cost the nation $53 million in judicial fees. One family had cost the justice sector $19.5 million alone.

A fascinating new report released by Treasury in July, undertook to identify the total cost of crime in New Zealand. The result was a staggering $9.1 billion! Of that, the cost to the private sector was estimated to be $7 billion, with the $2.1 billion cost to the public sector including crime detection, investigation, and prosecution, as well as health care for victims.

To put the $9.1 billion cost of crime into perspective, it totally eclipses government spending on health, which last year cost $8.8 billion, and on education, which cost $7.9 billion (in comparison, Police funding was $0.9 billion). Altogether, the cost of crime to New Zealand has been estimated at 6.5 percent of New Zealand’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This compares with Australia’s estimate, which puts the cost of crime in that country at 5 percent of GDP.

In their report, Estimating the Cost of Crime 2003/04, Treasury assessed the actual number of criminal offences to be 1.8 million, around four times greater than the 457,816 incidents recorded by the Police. In their assumptions they stated that: “Not all incidents of crime are reported to the Police. Moreover, the Police do not record all incidents that are reported to them”.

To arrive at an estimate of the ‘true’ level of crime, they noted that: “offences against private property are more likely to be reported than offences against the person. This may be because people are motivated to report property crimes to the Police for insurance purposes. People may also tend to consider some offences against their person as a private matter. Alternatively, reporting imposes costs that some victims may be unwilling to incur (such as the time taken to file a complaint, or to give evidence)”.

At last a state agency has acknowledged that the incidence of crime in our communities is four times higher than the Government claims. Further, while the $9.1 billion cost is enormous, if the web of suffering that crime creates and the paralysing fear of uncontrolled crime in our communities was factored in, the cost to society would be far greater still.

The father of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel, who laid down his nine principles in 1826, claimed that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it. He further stated that in the best historic tradition, “the police are the public and the public are the police”. In other words, the police are members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to the maintenance of law and order – a duty which is “incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence”.

Our NZCPD guest commentator this week, Dr Lech Beltowski, an Auckland based medical doctor and expert on the right of self defence, examines these policing principals in light of recent advice given by a high ranking policeman that “You don’t have to stand back and let a criminal rob you blind – if you think you can take him down, have a go” (click to read ).

One of the duties incumbent on every parent intent on playing their part in keeping our communities safe, is to raise their children well, teaching them right from wrong, and instilling in them the values that will make them good citizens. Unfortunately, it is the failure of some within society to fulfill their responsibilities in this regard that are fuelling the relentless rise in crime.

Criminals are not born, but if children are raised in broken and chaotic single parent homes where they are subjected to violence and neglect, instead of love and caring, they all too often grow into disaffected, anti-scocial young offenders.

According to an iconic publication by the US ThinkTank the Heritage Foundation, The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community by Patrick F. Fagan, “a 10 percent increase in the number of children living in single-parent homes (including divorces) accompanies a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime” (click here to read ).

That is why, until the government introduces real reform to discourage single parenting, the youth gang crime problem will continue to escalate particularly in poor communities where single parent welfare families are commonplace.

The poll this week asks whether you believe current policing methods are working? Go to poll

Reader’s comments will be posted on the NZCPD Forum page click to view .