72 sex offenders among 10,000 on run from law

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2012

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Around 10,000 people are today on the run from the law, according to figures released to the Sunday Star-Times.

Among those wanted are two murder suspects, 72 sexual offenders, and more than 100 facing charges of abduction or threatening behaviour.

About 40,000 arrest warrants are issued each year, and of the warrants active today, more than 100 are two years old, more than 200 are three to five years old, and almost 200 are six to nine years old.

Police place a high priority on bringing people to justice and say "anyone on an active warrant is a concern", but Victim Support chief executive Tony Paine says the number is a "concern for all of New Zealand", particularly for victims.

He did not want to appear critical of the system, "but when someone is at large who should be being held to account, it's a concern".

"We would be concerned if people were slipping through the cracks. And we would encourage the system to be as efficient as possible, so the person alleged to have committed a crime is being dealt with."

Police criminal investigations national manager Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said some offenders would go to significant lengths to evade police.

According to the figures – released to the Sunday Star-Times by the Ministry of Justice – on January 31 this year there were 14,151 people with active warrants. On February 29, the number had fallen to 12,185 and by March 31 to 10,242.

A warrant to arrest can be issued by a judicial officer, registrar or deputy registrar, usually when an accused fails to appear in court or breaches bail. They can also be issued to arrest a person suspected of a crime but still at large.

The warrant figures represent people who have failed to appear, breached bail, or who have been charged but whom the police have been unable to find.

The majority were wanted for breaching bail, or violence or community service orders, but 1105 for theft type offences and 2148 for traffic offences.

But more serious offences are well-represented.

About 50 are on the run from robbery and extortion offences, one for manslaughter, 863 for assault, more than 360 for drug offences and more than 800 for fraud offences.

Latest Statistics New Zealand figures show more than 106,000 people appeared in court last year. Ministry of Justice district courts manager Tony Fisher said this was a snapshot of the volume of people going through the courts. "In the vast majority of cases the warrants are active for only a short period, until police are able to apprehend the accused and bring them before the courts."

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He said the number of active warrants changed daily, while Drew said police invested significant energy to "ensure outstanding warrants are cleared, and would like that number to be zero".

"We deal with victims of crime on a daily basis and understand the trauma that these crimes create."

He said police used "methods to proactively track down those on outstanding warrants, including tracing known associates, friends, family and information sharing with other agencies.

"Members of the public, friends and family can play an important role in helping police track down offenders."

Anyone with relevant information about a wanted offender should contact police, or report it anonymously through Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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