Editorial: Spike in drug crimes needs to be explored

WARWICK RASMUSSEN DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 02/10/2012

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OPINION: What are we to make of the recorded crime statistics when they come out each year?

If the numbers go up, the handy response for police is that people feel more comfortable in reporting crimes but, if the numbers drop, they can claim they are doing their job better.

Any organisation trying to project its positives would do exactly the same thing.

What the police statistics give us is a starting point, and not much more.

They can be used to determine trends that may be happening nationally or on a region or district level.

An overall crime-percentage rise or decrease really doesn't tell us much.

There could be twice the amount of murders, but they'd barely register a blip on the radar.

The most interest lies in the sub-categories.

New Zealand's homicide rate isn't high by worldwide standards and there don't appear to be any alarming trends. Sadly, there is no quick solution for such cases and they will always happen; be it based on greed or other traits of human nature.

What has the most impact on people are issues relating to burglaries, thefts and personal safety. That would be where the bulk of recorded crimes are.

Total recorded crime in the Central Police District, which takes in Palmerston North, Whanganui, New Plymouth, Feilding and Levin, was down 5.8 per cent compared with the previous year.

Each of those cities and towns recorded a drop.

"Illicit drug offences" spiked 27.6 per cent in Palmerston North, which must be of a concern for police. Rather than say there was a problem, Central District commander Superintendent Russell Gibson said: "This is actually a heartening statistic and reflects the targeted approach to stamping out organised crime and drugs in this area over the past financial year."

That statement deserves further examination. The increase is more than "significant", it's large. And, surely, while there should be more than praise for the work police do, there should also be deep concern over, and an examination of, the underlying factors to the increase.

The key is to take the figures on face value. They are the start of a conversation on how to make our communities safer places to work, live and play in.

ONE MORE THING

Yesterday marked a big day for the region with the lifting of the $5 departure levy from Palmerston North Airport.

For more than two decades, the tax was a millstone around the neck of Manawatu. Now it's gone, the ignominy of such a few now lies with two other airports - Hamilton and Rotorua. Good riddance to the inconvenience. It was long overdue.

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- Manawatu Standard

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