Crime figures reflect 'violent generation'

The son of murdered school teacher Lois Dear says we need to write off a generation of violent criminals and concentrate on at-risk youth.

Kevin McNeil, whose 66-year-old mother was brutally murdered in her Tokoroa classroom in 2006 by Whetu Te Hiko, said early intervention was the key to addressing rising crime rates.

Speaking today after the release of police figures which showed a nine percent increase on violent crime last year, Mr McNeil said drug and welfare dependent criminals were already beyond help.

"We've just got to start at the bottom. We've got to write off 20 years of our youth now because they're in the system as it is.

"We've got to start with our five and six-year-olds now so they grow up to be decent New Zealanders or decent people.

"New Zealand's lost its way and I think it's just too hard - they don't know how to deal with it severely enough."

Police have credited an increased in reporting of crime, in particular domestic violence, as a reason for the rise in increase in crime but Mr McNeil did not believe attitudes to crime were changing.

"The over 30s are quite disgusted by what is going on, I believe the younger ones don't really care, and the elderly are just scared and a lot of people just don't want to speak out about what is going on.

Unsurprised by the figures, he said drug and welfare dependency were so deeply ingrained, that it would be up to 30 years before we saw any impact from crime prevention strategies.

"I believe if the government acted on it 20 or 30 years ago and tried to get on top of it before where we're at now, we might have got on top of it then rather than trying to get on top of it now, where it's extreme."

He wished those who were carrying out the brutal crimes were able to comprehend the full impact of their actions.

"I do really wish that they did think about the victims of crime - the people that are P-fuelled and dont really care about the people that are victims of crime. It's a bloody hard life to love when you've got to deal with it."

He supported tough on crime measures such as the proposed Three Strikes legislation but said the government was battling years of ineffective policy.

LATEST FIGURES

Violent crime is up more than nine percent, with total recorded crime up by 4.6 percent, according to latest figures released by police.

Reported domestic violence is up over 18 percent but police are trumpeting their highest-ever rate of crime resolution, with police solving almost half of all reported crimes.

There were 451,405 recorded offences last year, compared with 431,383 in 2008 - an increase of 20,002 crimes.

Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls said violent offending continued to be a concern, increasing 9.2 percent to 65,465 offences.

An increase of 18.6 percent in reported domestic violence was the main driver of the increase, he said.

There was also a rise in violent offending, included threatening behaviour, assaults and possession of weapons - issues compounded by the misuse of drugs and alcohol, he said.

Mr Nicolls said the jump in recorded homicide offences - up by over 20 percent to 134 - was concerning.

There were 65 recorded murders in 2009, up by 13 from 2008. However over a 20-year period, the trend was flat.

"To provide police with a better understanding about victims of culpable death offences, a new report has been developed this year for the first time. The culpable death report, also being released today, will allow police to better understand culpable deaths," said Mr Nicholls.

Sexual offending increased by 0.6 percent in 2009 (23 offences) while dishonesty offences, which make up around half of all offences, increased by 2.6 percent.

Cannabis offences were up 20.7 percent, with an extra 3414 crimes reported, while there were over 11,500 breaches of liquor bans.

Harmful alcohol and drug misuse cost the taxpayer an estimated $6.5 billion.

Drug offences increased by almost 20 percent last year as police concentrated their efforts on combating methamphetamine.

Since the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 was introduced in December, police had identified $36 million worth of assets believed to have been obtained through criminal activity, and seized $11 million worth.

Police minister Judith Collins praised the efforts to clamp down on illicit drugs.

"The Government has sent a strong signal to police that it is time to put organised crime out of business and stop the spread of methamphetamine into our communities," she said.

"This focus is paying off, with an increase in the number of clan labs dismantled, an increase in the number of precursor materials seized and millions of dollars in gang assets seized by police."

Ms Collins pointed out that much of the Government's anti-crime legislation had only recently come into effect, while the figures were from the beginning of January to the end of December.

Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls said they were disappointed with the rise, but pleased with the resolution rate.

New Zealand's resident population rose by approximately 1 percent during the reporting period, and taking this adjustment into account, the recorded total crime rate per 10,000 people went up by 3.5 percent, he said.

Mr Nicholls said this showed policing strategies were working.

"We're disappointed that crime has gone up, but are particularly pleased with the resolution rate we've achieved."

RESULTS 'NOT SURPRISING'

Anti-crime advocate Garth McVicar says there has been a hardening of public attitudes towards crime, which will eventually lead to a reduction in violent offending.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman was speaking after the release of the latest police figures which show a nine percent increase in violent crime.

Mr McVicar said the results were not surprising.

"The last 25 - 30 years, the direction that the country's been going, with that whole sort of, removal of responsibility... and saying that it's a community problem, well I think we're going to reap that for some time yet."

He said the "handout mentality" in New Zealand meant that criminals felt entitled to take and do whatever they pleased.

It would take time for the new policies to come into an effect as the onus was put back on personal responsibility, he said.

Mr McVicar said he sensed a sea change in the public attitude to crime and an increased political sensitivity to it, and expected this to have a positive effect on crime rates.

"We've got to keep the foot hard on the accelerator and saying we dont want criminals on the street."

Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesman Kim Workman was also unsurprised, given the current legislative and economic environment and greater community awareness of violent crime.

"If you look at the broad picture, any recession brings an increase in crime and that's been the case for the last 30 years."

Mr Workman warned that history suggested the rate of crime would now stay higher as people became accustomed to the lifestyle.

Income inequality was also driving crime and he warned that Government measures, such as tightening benefit conditions, would at least contribute to the perception that this was getting worse.

Social inequality was a clear driver of crime, he said.

The country was also now seeing an increasing number of prisoners released who had served longer prison sentences after parole restrictions were introduced in 2002, and who were going back to a life of crime, he said.

Mr Workman said the Government had introduced a number of vote-grabbing measures such as boot camps and proposed Three Strikes legislation as well as extending the powers of police.

It now needed to focus on measures alternative measures such as those proposed in its Drivers of Crime report and look at rehabilitation and targeting at-risk youth from a young age.

He warned that it would take years to see results and people needed to be patient with such strategies.

Labour's law and order spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said the increase showed National's law and order policies had come to nothing.

"The John Key Government has now become the government of excuses on law and order issues," Mr Cosgrove said.

"A staggering increase of 25 percent in the number of murders and 9.2 percent in violent crime in 2009, National's first full year in office, is incredibly embarrassing for John Key and frightening for Kiwis who put their faith in him."

Mr Cosgrove said the real tragedy in terms of violent crime was that the blowout during National's first year followed years of low or even negative growth in overall crime statistics.

"Labour's law and order programme, particularly the funding of 1250 more police over its final three years in office, was having a real impact on crime statistics."

LOIS DEAR: The murdered school teacher's son says the country needs to write off a generation of violent criminals and start again with at-risk primary age children.
LOIS DEAR: The murdered school teacher's son says the country needs to write off a generation of violent criminals and start again with at-risk primary age children.
WHETU TE HIKO: Lois Dear's murderer.
WHETU TE HIKO: Lois Dear's murderer.

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