Teamwork and deft targeting slash crime

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 03/01/2014

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A new approach to cutting crime appears to making a difference in the Hutt Valley.

Crime is down, with the number sentenced to prison and the number of Maori prosecuted also dropping.

Under the Hutt Valley Justice Sector Innovation Project, started in September 2012, 13 agencies are now working together, rather than in their own silos.

Hutt Valley area commander Inspector Mike Hill said that, on the street, the new approach led to a series of short sharp blitzes on known causes of crime. Targets so far had included alcohol, at-risk youth and family violence.

To prevent youth getting in trouble, police and social workers set up camp in the Riverbank Carpark.

"At-risk youth were spoken to, and not necessarily by police. It might not be that a police officer is the best person to intervene with a particular youth. We spread out the options, so that someone will connect with them."

Families suffering from domestic violence were visited when the house was calm rather than just in response to a crisis.

"And that's so we can actually have a conversation about how things are going and how we can further eliminate the violence. Because, when the blood's boiling, that's not the best time."

Some families of prisoners at Rimutaka Prison were also visited, in an attempt to short-circuit the cycle of violence, especially among children.

"We know young kids who witness family violence, it becomes imprinted on their brains, even if they're not victims of it. The blueprint of how to operate is passed on to the next generation."

A mobile community office has also popped up around the Hutt Valley.

Shared among 13 agencies - including Hutt Valley District Health Board, ACC, Corrections, Victim Support, and Child Youth and Family - and equipped with a barbecue in the back, the van turns up at community functions and festivals.

"We've also gone to some vulnerable suburbs and saying, look, come and clear up your warrant to arrest before[hand] because, if you don't, you'll have to go to court or get arrested.

"We can do it all at the van. It's not hanging over your head, you've cleared it, which is better than clearing it at midnight when we stop you in your car."

Work is under way on a video link between the Hutt Valley District Court and Rimutaka Prison.

This will mean inmates can make routine court appearances without leaving prison, freeing up police resources.

"Picture [convicted double murderer] Graeme Burton [and] the number of movements and appearances with him. And while everyone is deployed, we're not looking after vulnerable victims. If it's just inside prison with a link-up, police can have nothing to do with it. We can be dealing with crime, not escorting prisoners," Mr Hill said.

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Justice Minister Judith Collins said the project was a "fantastic example of justice-sector collaboration".

 

RESULTS IN THE HUTT VALLEY

Since the baseline measure of June 2011:

Total crime is down 23 per cent

Violent crime is down 21 per cent

Youth crime is down 36 per cent

The number of people charged in the Hutt Valley District Court has dropped by 13 per cent

The number of Maori prosecuted in the Hutt Valley District Court has also dropped by 13 per cent 

- The Dominion Post

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