Papers show cuts to key crime roles

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Eastern district commander, Superintendent Sandra Venables.
Eastern district commander, Superintendent Sandra Venables.

Concerns were raised within the New Zealand police about staffing changes that have taken specialist officers away from crime investigations, documents leaked to the Herald show.

Officers in the Eastern Police District raised serious concerns about the impact of removing Scene of Crime Officer (Soco) positions, according to the documents.

The draft papers are draft submissions to an official consultation process in September, and come after the Herald revealed more than 90 per cent of the country's burglaries went unsolved last year.

While the reported number of the crimes has steadily declined in recent years, so did the rate at which they were solved - falling to 9.3 per cent last year.

Socos are specialist trained investigators who gather evidence - including forensics - from crime scenes, and play a crucial role in solving crimes like burglaries. They work with the less specialised Tactical Crime and Investigation Support units.

The lengthy submissions raised issues from officers in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne where one Soco position from each region will be disestablished, reducing manpower in the teams by a fifth and a third, respectively.

Eastern district commander, Superintendent Sandra Venables, said the roles were "reallocated" after a two-year review. The changes will come into force on Monday.

The papers said removing the staff was "short-sighted" and "destabilised" investigations, and would increase costs as other staff had to receive extra training and extend their workloads.

"It would probably hinder the service currently offered.

Ms Venables said, while resolving crime was still a priority , "we need to balance this against the need to prevent and respond to other serious crime - such as child abuse, family and serious violence."

Police Association vice-president and Senior Sergeant at Hawke's Bay Police, Luke Shadbolt, said it was too early to tell what the outcome of the changes would be, but it was another example of stretching frozen police resources thinner.

"Staff are under pressure to meet demands."

- NZME

- Hawkes Bay Today

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