...but ram-raiders are still scoring headlines
Law and order was the focus of two of the latest ministerial statements. Both entail government spending of millions of dollars to support the victims of crime or buttress businesses against becoming victims.
One statement – from Justice Minister Kiri Allan – deals with the rights of victims of sexual assault in the justice system and with beefing up government financial support for them.
Another – from Police Minister Ginny Andersen – promises more money for retailers to secure their shops against ram raiders.
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The Government is delivering on its promise to improve victims’ experiences in the courts and wider justice system, Justice Minister Kiri Allan announced today.
The Government is making sure retailers can continue to get support for security and safety measures, by more than doubling the investment into the retail crime prevention programme.
Aotearoa New Zealand will boost and accelerate climate action across the Pacific, through a significant new partnership with the Pacific Community (SPC) supporting its Climate Change Flagship programme.
The ram-raiding initiative has been announced as National questions Labour politicking and its use of statistics to suggest the Government has significantly reduced these crimes.
The NZ Herald reports:
On April 7, Labour’s Facebook and Instagram pages featured the ad, which simply said “Ram raids are down 65%” in big block letters against a backdrop of police lights.
It was accompanied by a message which said the party’s “crackdown on retail crime” had led to a “big decline in ram-raids across the country”.
The ad appeared on Facebook and Instagram earlier this month.
Several people commenting on the social media posts doubted the claim, with some requesting to know how the 65 per cent drop was determined.
The Herald explains that the percentage decrease was calculated using police data on monthly ram-raids.
Labour compared the number from August last year (116) with February this year (41).
Voila! A 64.7 per cent decrease.
National Party police spokesman Mark Mitchell questions whether that fairly represents how often ram-raids were occurring.
“[Labour] cherry-pick the numbers,” he told the Herald.
“That’s not a way to record whether or not the trends [are] rising or dropping.
“They’re just out there gaslighting people.”
Mitchell said a better way to use the data would be to compare February last year with February this year, to show the trend over 12 months.
Police data show there were 53 ram-raid incidents in February, 2022.
This means the decrease over 12 months was 22.6 per cent.
The number for August (116) was the highest monthly total in 2022, 31 more than the second-highest in September.
The Herald notes:
Around that time, the Government funded several programmes and community initiatives designed to support offending youth away from crime and into education or work.
Since August, only one month had been higher than the previous, and that was only by one incident. In January this year, there were 57 ram-raid incidents.
The Herald has previously reported how ram-raid data could be politicised and could also be inaccurate depending on when data was published.
Regardless of the rate of reduction, ram raiders are still generating headlines.
In recent days, Michael Hill Jewellers in Takapuna has decided to permanently close its Takapuna store, which was the most ram-raided in its network.
Other headlines tell us:
But fear not, dear reader. The Government is on the case – and besides chipping in another $9 million to double the spending on the retail crime prevention programme, Police Minister Ginny Andersen is making much of statistics:
“Last year we saw a spike in ram raids and other retail crime that was having a real impact on our communities,” Ginny Andersen said.
“While those numbers are trending down, I want to make sure we are continuing to support Police on prevention and reassurance in our communities. So today I’m announcing a further $9 million to top up the retail crime prevention fund, bringing the total investment to $15 million.”
Andersen said 501 stores that had been victims of ram raids or aggravated robberies had quotes approved, and 2383 “interventions” have been approved for eligible stores.
A total of 1021 security interventions have been completed and invoiced by contractors.
Installations so far have included 222 fog cannons, 181 security sirens, 193 alarms, 195 CCTV systems or system upgrades, 82 bollards or similar security measures, 101 roller doors, and 47 other interventions that include improved lighting/strengthened windows.
“The Retail Crime Prevention Programme is delivering for dairies and small shops and the feedback we are getting from the community is great. They really appreciate the backing the Government has given them and it’s great they are getting on board with us.”
Is that what the ram-raid headlines are telling us?
The Government is also supporting the wider retail community through the fog cannon subsidy, which is being managed through MBIE. As at 18 April, 342 installations have been completed, with 892 applications approved.
But are the criminals – those who are caught – being banged up?
Andersen said alongside initiatives to better protect victims of retail crime,
… the Government is funding programmes aimed at holding the young people who are committing these crimes accountable, and if possible, getting them back on the right track.
For example last year the Government expanded Kotahi te Whakaaro, which has seen success so far with 82 percent of children referred to the programme not reoffending. The Government also initiated a circuit breaker to intervene within 24 hours if a young person was a recidivist offender and stop them from committing further crime. The programme has dealt with 84 children so far and of them 67 have not reoffended.
“The majority of these young offenders have a family history of violence, so we need to make sure we get in early and break the cycle of crime.”
Kiri Allan’s announcement highlighted these points:
- Giving sexual assault victims more control in court processes around their name suppression
- Greater legal protections for victims of sexual and serious violence
- Aligning the penalty for sexual connection with a child to a maximum sentence of 20 years’ in prison
- Three new pilots to improve victims’ safety, ensure they’re heard in bail decisions and strengthened support for child victims of sexual violence
- Additional funding for victims’ support organisations
“We’ve heard from victims and their advocates about where the gaps are in the system. Today we are addressing some of the clearest examples of what needs to change.
The Government will introduce a Bill before the election that will focus on changes in three areas: sexual violence against children, litigation abuse in family proceedings and giving greater choice to victims of sexual violence around name suppression decisions.
“Currently a child sexual assault victim can be questioned as to whether they consented to sexual activity. This is unacceptable and falls well below societal expectations of how the law should work. We’re fixing the law to minimise the risk of this happening.
“The Bill will also provide the courts with greater powers to stop litigation abuse, for example filing excessive or abusive applications in family-related proceedings; and clarify the process to lift name suppression in the criminal court, giving victims a clear opportunity at the time of trial to ask about having it lifted.
“These changes will make an immediate and meaningful difference to the lives of the victims of some of our most serious and violent crimes. Improving the system will help make complainants feel more comfortable in court and encourage them to come forward,” Allan said.
The Government will also launch three pilot programmes in mid-2023 to improve safety and help navigate the court system for victims of serious crime; strengthen support for child victims of sexual violence; and ensure victim’s views are provided in bail decisions.
And the Government is providing further funding to help Victim Support and the Victims Assistance Scheme.
Funding for the measures announced today will come from the $45.7 million Victims of Crime – Improving Outcomes initiative funding from Budget 2022 and baseline funding.
Today’s measures form the first tranche of the three-year work programme to develop a Victims Operating Model.
Victim Support will receive an additional $3 million in funding and $2.2 million in additional funding will be provided to the Victim’s Assistance Scheme.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton