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Dr Muriel Newman

The Politics of Crime

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21 January 07

The Politics of Crime

It started on the balcony. Numerous blows from the barrel of a sawn-off shotgun rained down on the teenager’s head, shoulders, legs and arms, leaving bruising and deep cuts on her body. Not satisfied, Fenton dragged her into the house by her hair. Inside, he continued the beating, in front of three terrified female flatmates and their young children – aged 10 months to 3 years. As the blows continued he told them, “You are going to watch her blood splatter”, and warned them what would happen if they tried to escape. (NZ Herald, 19 Jan 07, view )

This is how seventeen-year-old Mairina Dunn died. Her 31-year-old gang member ‘boyfriend’, high on P, took one and a half hours to beat her to death in front of her friends.

Seventy-seven year old pensioner, Doreen Reed, on the other hand, died alone. She was brutally stabbed to death by a fifteen year-old boy.

A large group of his family and supporters turned out to the boy’s court appearance. They disrupted the court calling out Kia kaha, we love you bro! as he was taken back into custody. The boy had been out on bail with strict curfew conditions, when he committed the murder.

Already this year, seven people have been murdered. That is one every three days.

Most of us can remember a time, when the number of murders in a whole year did not reach double figures and violent crime was virtually unknown. Yet nowadays it is not unusual if upwards of a hundred people are murdered in a year, and we can expect over 50,000 violent crimes. While the Police statistics show that there were 426,000 crimes recorded last year, Treasury has estimated that the actual number of crimes committed was around 1,800,000.

Crime takes an enormous toll on our country. The cost alone is enormous. Treasury estimates that to be around $9 billion annually. One criminal family – where 62 of the 67 family members have been arrested – racked up over $20 million in judicial fees alone; and one professional burglar interviewed by the Herald admitted 1800 offences. (click here to read the story “It’s easier than working for it”).

But the biggest concern is not the huge cost, but the debilitation caused by the fear of crime. The fear of crime is palpable. Walking home on a dark night, you can sense the mugger hiding in the shadows. When your children beg you to allow them to walk to school like the other kids, you can almost see the paedophile beckoning them into his car. Lying in bed late at night, with every creak of the house, the intruder comes closer.

Crime escalated in the seventies, and while many factors have contributed to this increase, the research clearly shows that the key factor was the decline in marriage and the rise in illegitimacy: “a lack of married parents, rather than race or poverty, is the principal factor in the increase in crime” (Rising Illegitimacy: America’s Social Catastrophe, by Patrick F Fagan, Heritage Foundation 1994).

For well over a decade, policy makers have known that paying women to have children outside of marriage by replacing husbands with a welfare cheque, leads to an increase in crime. Yet rather than change the system, most MPs and political parties have continued to support the status quo.

The reason is, of course, that they are afraid of a backlash if they suggest that the Domestic Purposes Benefit should be changed. Even though its use has changed dramatically over the years (it was introduced to support women to move out of violent relationships but is now largely being used to fund girls and women who have never been married to raise children) the DPB has always been the sacred cow of welfare.

State sponsored illegitimacy through the DPB is the root cause of crime, and the public should start demanding reform. Given politicians are unwilling to change the failed system that they have created, it is up to the public to force the issue.

Sensible Sentencing is a voluntary organisation that is committed to making New Zealand a safer country. They are doing this by building community support for their cause (see their webpage at http://www.safe-nz.org.nz/goals.htm). Their founder, Garth McVicar is the NZCPD Guest Commentator this week. In his opinion piece he laments an appalling lack of leadership by the Prime Minister: “There have been seven murders in the first two weeks of 2007. Have you seen our Prime Minister on TV condemning this lawlessness, encouraging the police, rallying the community, guiding us…giving us hope for a better future?” (Click to read Garth’s article ).

It is long past time that the Prime Minister and government acknowledged that New Zealand’s thirty-year social experiment of trying to replace fathers with a welfare cheque has not only failed, but has created disastrous unintended consequences.

But welfare reform is only part of the solution. More needs to be done by the government to fight crime. That means putting more Police on the beat, implementing a zero tolerance approach to crime by getting tough on “minor” crime, cracking down on criminal gang activities and the drugs trade, abolishing parole, and requiring all prisoners to engage in forty hours a week of work, rehabilitation or job training.

While the government has a crucial role to play in keeping citizens safe from crime, the public are increasingly taking responsibility for their own safety. More and more families are installing better locks, security lights, alarms, electronic gates, surveillance cameras, and many are now using the new microdot technology which was described in a recent Herald article as “the best investigative tool we’ve ever had” (see “Stalling Tactics” by Geoff Cummings which reports on the stolen car trade – 23,000 cars were stolen last year, a third of them by gangs… click here to view ).

Living in a crime-free society should not be a pipe dream. It is a goal that is within our reach with sensible welfare reform, good policing, and a commitment to making sure that prison is a punishment not a holiday.

The poll this week asks: Do you support Sensible Sentencing’s call to abolish parole? Take part in poll

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

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