Editorial: Clearer picture needed on crime

By Keri Welham

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Sometimes it's hard, between the political hyperbole and the Government agency spin, to get a clear steer.

Early yesterday, opposition parties claimed New Zealand Police would no longer release family violence statistics.

Women's Refuge was obviously concerned, as were other frontline organisations dealing with the fallout of domestic violence all over the country.

But later in the day police fought back with a statement saying they would still issue the figures, and had always intended to, but the statistics would now be collated according to international best practice.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush said a new reporting system would focus on capturing information about the relationship between a victim and an offender.

He said: "People are charged with offences such as male assaults female, grievous assault, sexual assault, harassment and many others. All these offences can be 'family violence' but in some cases they are not because the crime doesn't involve people who have a relationship with one another".

While political parties argue whether this is an attempt to gloss over a lack of progress in the country's woeful domestic violence tradition, let's quickly remind ourselves of the end result of family violence: twins Cris and Cru Kahui, James Whakaruru, Coral-Ellen Burrows, sisters Olympia Jetson and Saliel Aplin and Rotorua's Nia Glassie.

While no-one has ever been made to pay for the twins' deaths, the other four children are known to have died because of someone they considered family.

Every family violence death brings with it a renewed determination to do something about our shameful record of deaths and torture in family situations. Look at the hand-wringing and reports from the Children's Commissioner after each death. Look at the celeb-heavy television campaigns telling us it's not okay to beat your partner or rule your children through fear.

We need to know these efforts by well-meaning people are having an impact. If we don't know how bad it was yesterday, how can we be certain it's better today?

We need the best quality information, and this realignment with international best practice seems to offer that. It is frightening to think we will be stumbling in the dark for a couple of years with no comparable benchmarks. But if police know a better system exists, we can't expect them to persevere with a lesser system. Anything that will give us a better picture of the safety of women and children in families in this country must be worth it.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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