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336 suspects dodging police

By Anita Moran, Lydia Anderson

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More than 300 wanted Bay of Plenty and Coromandel suspects are evading police, dozens of whom face serious violence, sexual offending or dishonesty charges.

Ministry of Justice figures released under the Official Information Act show 336 defendants were wanted on active warrants in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel region as of June 30.

The data are based on outstanding arrest warrants issued since 2004.

It shows 27 people were wanted for committing violent acts, two for crimes relating to sexual assaults, and 21 for theft and related offences.

Eight warrants for Bay of Plenty and Coromandel suspects have been outstanding for at least nine years.

The most common crimes local defendants are wanted for are offences against justice procedures such as breaching bail, 121; traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, 78; and theft and dishonesty offences, 21.

New welfare reform introduced by Social Development Minster Paula Bennett on July 15 means welfare recipients who fail to clear outstanding arrest warrants within 38 days can now have their benefits stopped, or halved if they have children.

About 8000 beneficiaries have arrest warrants outstanding nationally for issues such as unpaid fines.

However, police said it was too early to gauge whether the reforms had resulted in a surge of beneficiaries coming forward to clear warrants.

A warrant is issued by a judge when someone accused of a crime fails to appear in court or breaches their bail conditions.

It may also be issued for someone who is suspected of a crime but is still at large in the community.

Nationwide, 8249 active warrants are outstanding.

Tauranga Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Ken Evans said it was amazing there were so many people who had active arrest warrants.

"It just shows that there is a huge number of people who have broken the law and are still enjoying their freedom," he said.

"We're not even catching these people let alone getting them to court to face their sentence."

Mr Evans said this was an example of how relaxed the court system can be. "Too many people get bail too easily."

However, Police Association Bay of Plenty and Waikato regional director Wayne Aberhart said it came down to what resources were available and police had to prioritise their jobs.

He said the majority of people with outstanding warrants would be for minor offences.

"When there is a major crime, like the death of the pizza man in Paeroa, that takes up a lot of resources so we have to prioritise what we do," he said.

"We need to react to the crime at the moment so that means some stuff just doesn't get done. It is a resourcing issue."

Local police were not available to comment on the ministry figures but national manager criminal investigations Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said anyone on an active warrant for a serious offence was of concern for police.

"Police use a number of tools and methods to proactively track down those on outstanding warrants, including tracing known associates, friends and family, and also by sharing information with other agencies both nationally and internationally."

Mr Drew said social media also played a part in tracking down wanted criminals.

Police had 29 Facebook pages, 10 Twitter accounts, two YouTube channels and a commissioner's blog.

They were used in a combination of ways, including locating wanted people, intelligence gathering for particular investigations, road policing updates and real time information during emergencies.

Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokesman Garth McVicar said tracking down criminals with outstanding warrants was costing taxpayers money and wasting police resources.


ON THE RUN

Bay of Plenty and Coromandel outstanding arrest warrants



  • Outstanding warrants: 336


  • Warrants more than nine years old: 8


  • Most common offence: offences against justice procedures such as breaching bail, 121; traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, 78; and theft and related offences, 21.


- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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