Friday, September 30, 2022

Chris Trotter: Worse Crimes.

It really doesn't matter what the Police statisticians and the criminologists say about crime, all that matters is public perception. Crime statistics the world over may be declining. The young people of today may actually be more law-abiding than their parents and grandparents. But, when people see the consequences of a ram-raid; when they witness hooded figures helping themselves to other people’s property in broad daylight; well, then facts cease to matter. They’re alarmed. They’re angry. They want something done.
The problem, of course, is that those whose responsibility it is to do something, aren’t at all sure what can – or should – be done.

Our footpaths and retail precincts would become very unappealing places if every business was expected to erect sturdy bollards to protect its windows and doors from onrushing motor vehicles. The installation of CCTV cameras on every other lamp-post, a la the United Kingdom, would certainly allow the Police to identify law-abiding citizens easily and quickly. Against perpetrators clad in identical hoodies and wearing sunglasses, however, CCTV may not be quite so effective.

In the words of an old Police sergeant: “Locks are by far the most effective means of keeping honest people out of your house.”

Then there are the hardliners. The people who demand that every person participating in a ram-raid, or armed robbery – no matter how young they are – should be sent to jail.

Except, every person involved in this country’s penal system will object that simply throwing young offenders in jail will not work. Quite apart from the fact that New Zealand has signed up to all manner of international agreements forbidding the incarceration of minors alongside adult offenders, such a policy would simply produce a more sophisticated and highly-skilled criminal class. It would also result in deeply embittered youngsters being released into a society they despise.

Bowing to the hardliners’ demands might produce a short-term fix. It might also satisfy at least some of the public’s thirst for vengeance. But, the introduction of a policy that even its advocates realise is bound to make matters worse, is like sowing dragons’ teeth. One can only look forward to the most terrible harvest.

We will be taught, in the words of the British poet, W.H. Auden, “What all schoolchildren learn/Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.”

Cue the bleeding-hearts.

As they see the problem, the youngsters in the hoodies are the product of a society that is quite content to write-off an alarmingly large percentage of its members as hopeless cases. The money and resources needed to give the children of the poor a decent start in life is simply too much for the comfortable two-thirds of society to contemplate. Such solutions as are proposed are inevitably the cheapest ones. Under no circumstances should the nation’s wealth be redistributed to the point where the social forces generating ram-raids and robberies are no longer powerful enough to inflict serious damage.

All of which recalls the Monty Python sketch in which the accused declares: “It’s a fair cop, and society’s to blame.” Only to receive the reply: “That’s alright, we’ll book them too!”

But, how? How do we build the houses needed to ensure that kids have a secure base from which to venture out into the world – or at least to the nearest school? How do we instil in men and boys the fundamental responsibilities of fatherhood? How do we build the social solidarity necessary for criminal acts to be rejected as morally indefensible? How do we stop money continuing to be the measure of all things? How does one slap the cuffs on an entire economic system – a whole society?

Still, there will be those who say: “All very well and good, Mr Bleeding Heart, but how do you explain the absence of this sort of offending in the records of past decades? Back in the days of boys’ homes and borstals and mental hospitals?”

To those who seek to solve the problems of the present with the solutions of the past there is only one place to go, and that is to the Royal Commission of Inquiry Into Historical Abuse In Care. It is there they will discover what becomes of young people deemed worthy of discipline and punishment.

There are worse crimes than ram-raids and robberies.

Much worse crimes.

Chris Trotter is a political commentator who blogs at


Anonymous said...

No govt would allow such ghastly crimes with no consequences, unless there was an agenda behind it. Why would labour allow this? Because of power of course. They need te pati maori to form a govt at the next election. Te pati maori openly state that jails and western westminster laws do not work for "their" people. The message to the rest if us is live with crime. We're not going to do anything.

DeeM said...

Perhaps what we should be asking is why ram-raids have become far more common over the past year or so. Aftermath of Covid lockdowns? Cost of living crisis? Loss of respect for the Police? Generally incompetent government which has achieved none of its policy goals and encourages life on a benefit?

Not having a serious consequence for robbing/ram-raiding only encourages the offenders to keep doing it. That's NOT acceptable.
Giving them lengthy jail sentences likely turns them into more serious criminals.

What we need to consider are the victims of these violent and aggressive crimes, which way outnumber the crims. All the focus goes on the perpetrators and their difficult upbringings.
One thing's sure. The wraparound support method ain't working - like we all knew it wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Really Chris? Yes, there are worse crimes, but that doesn't make it acceptable, not by a long shot. "How do we build the houses..." you ask? - we start by building homes. For it all starts there. And a good start would be by signalling an end to indiscriminate breeding beyond personal replacement, and arguably that assists the environment at the same time. We incentivise parents to get their kids to school, the dentist, doctor etc. and disincentivise the opposite, along with single parent families, other than the obvious exceptions. We encourage and promote role models and appropriate social behaviour and this includes at school where life skills should be taught ahead of things like te reo. We incentivise gainful employment over welfare benefits and we commence active programmes to enhance societal unity, goodwill, and above all, personal responsibility. There are others, but these would be a good start, rather than the divisiveness that pervades our current society, and the incessant false narrative and excuse of colonisation and other related bs.

Robert Arthur said...

Crime statistics mean very little. Even Peter Davis in the Herald 29 Sept seems not to realise this. Everyone knows the Police and courts have been told to go soft on maori, which necessarily extends to all. Poverty is no excuse. During the Depression vast numbers were vastly worse off than any today but crime did not soar. Around the turn odf the 19th century many citizens lived in hovels but crime was not rampant.The christian ethic was a factor for many, churchgoers or not, but not now. It is absurd to compare NZ with homogeneous long civilised populations as west Europe. Comparisons with USA, South Africa, New Guinea more appropriate. Offences considered serious and earning punishment now go unreported and certainly not actively or even passively followed up. Peter Williams QC used to recount how the serious accusation of theft of an abandoned bicycle set him on his path as a lawyer. It would now be hard work to convince the Police to log it.
A large and visible necklace would be more effective than a discreet ankle bracelet.
Home detention is an absolute joke. Many retired effectively lead the life for years. And they do not have a myriad mates to visit, bring beer, smokes, girls etc. It had been discovered over thousands of years that punishment is a very effective deterrent but this is now ignored. Many tedious jobs could be assigned ie sorting demolition material for firewood etc.PD is just a day out lark in the sun with the boys.

Anonymous said...

No man
No problem

ross meurant said...


Once upon a time as a Regional Crime squad detective under the fabled John Hughes and later as a detective under the infamous Bruce Hutton and later as second in command of the infamous Red Squad, it is alleged that I applied the rule of police vis rule of law.

I was I concede, a believer in "We run this town Pal". And in all the wars I identify above "we" won the battles.

By the time I was an inspector ultimately in charge of Auckland criminal intelligence it began to occur to me that wining the battles was not winning the war.

Your paragraph 6 captures the sentiment.

I have a blog en route via Muriel "Gang's: Unbridled Power" penned before I read your blog.

We arrive at a similar obstacle.