Burglars never had it so good
Catching the crims at 10-year lowMATT BOWEN AND JENNA LYNCH
Hamilton burglars - you can breathe easy: your chances of being caught have reached decade-plus lows.
As we move in to peak season for house break-ins, the number of burglary cases being resolved has reached what is being described as an "appalling" 10-year low in the city.
Latest crime statistics show that of the 3320 cases of "unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter" in Hamilton for the year to June, 414 cases were resolved at a rate of 12.5 per cent.
A case is considered "resolved" when a suspect appears in court - regardless of whether anyone is actually convicted.
And top cops are admitting their focus has moved to trying to stop burglars before they strike.
District commander Superintendent Win van der Velde said police would like to solve every offence but "the reality is that is not possible".
"It is not possible because [of] some complaints being quite historic, some offences are identified but there is insufficient evidence to advance a prosecution, and sometimes the onus rests with the victim who has failed to record serial numbers of property, so recovered items cannot be identified and returned, and the receiver held to account."
His comments come after former Hamilton police officer Carl Fischer contacted the Waikato Times slamming the latest police figures.
"The clearance rate has now dropped over the years to this appalling low figure.
"This is not a reflection on our hard-working police but a reflection on how our policing is allocated."
And he blamed the situation on the loss of community policing stations.
"When we had fully-staffed community policing centres, we had clearance rates on burglaries of nearly 30 per cent.
"Community policing works."
Figures show that since 1999 - when the resolution rate was 11.4 per cent - the rate has been so bad just a couple of times.
Five years ago, the resolution rate in the city was 13.8 per cent.
In the 2002/2003 year it was 21.2 per cent, or 579 out of 2733, and it peaked in 2001 at 23.8 per cent.
The Hamilton city area commander, Inspector Greg Nicholls, said police had moved more resources into preventing crime and suggested Mr Fischer was looking in from an outdated point of view.
"It's a balance.
"The focus is around prevention first but where there are lines of inquiry for resolution, absolutely, there is a willingness and desire to resolve those," Mr Nicholls said.
The offence itself was not as easily solved as other crimes, such as low-level drug offences, he said.
"Burglary is quite a challenge in terms of the intensity of investigation required, the level of resource and the forensic awareness of a lot of our offenders - it is challenging," Mr Nicholls said.
Yet the resolution rate change appears to be a region-wide phenomenon, with eastern, western and the whole police district all following a similar trend.
Mr van der Velde said he wanted to see resolution rates for all crime in the region - currently running at 45.7 per cent - lift into the mid to upper 50 per cent range.
"But this will only be achieved with the assistance of the community who can identify their property or report suspicious activity or have information that may assist in identifying the criminals involved.
"The nirvana, is where police are able to deploy resources into the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, so that the crime is prevented from even occurring.
"That too requires the support of our community."
TRACING PROPERTY NOT ENOUGH
When Tim and Michelle Cameron tracked their stolen iPad using GPS, they thought their burglary was solved.
Unfortunately, three months down the track, they are no closer to getting $17,000 worth of possessions back.
Mr and Mrs Cameron were robbed on a Sunday afternoon in August.
Mr Cameron, a vet, had been called out to a job, and Mrs Cameron, an emergency nurse, was at a friend's farewell party. They were only out for an hour, but in that time their home had been ransacked by thieves.
"We came back and the house was totalled. Drawers tipped out, furniture tipped over, the place had been ransacked," Mrs Cameron said.
Mr Cameron was first on the scene. He only realised what had gone on when he saw their bedroom, with jewellery boxes strewn across the floor.
When Mrs Cameron arrived home five minutes later, they hastily called police.
"I rang the police and I guess I expected the world to stop ... but we didn't really get that response," Mrs Cameron said.
But it was something she could understand, as a nurse in the emergency department, sometimes other emergencies were more important.
A couple of hours later, the couple realised they had installed a GPS on their iPad and tracked the device to an address so they called police with this information, but the information was not quite enough to fast-track a search warrant and seize the property.
"Initially they didn't take us seriously until Tim went down and physically showed them the map," Mrs Cameron said.
But despite the response they received early on, Mr and Mrs Cameron were largely happy with their dealings with the police.
They believed the individual officers who came around and fingerprinted the house, then offered them counselling were "brilliant", however the systems that stopped police from immediately searching a house were "frustrating".
"In the future, there's a great opportunity for that to change," Mrs Cameron said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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