Editorial: We want to know if it's safe

By Andrew Austin

1 comment

There is something slightly disturbing about police saying an increase in violent and serious offending, including sex crimes, is "not a bad thing".

Obviously, they don't mean the offences themselves are a good thing but rather that it is good more victims of these crimes are coming forward.

The latest crime figures for last year show that crime dropped 2 per cent overall in Napier, Hastings and Gisborne. This is fantastic news. However violent and serious offending rose. Eastern District Police intelligence manager Tony Dewhirst says: "We are reasonably confident a lot of it is changes to police recording practices and the reporting confidence of the public and victims."

This is all well and good, but I certainly hope there is more than a reasonable chance that this is true. It would be alarming if the year-on-year increase in sex offences in this region from 187 to 232 was a straightforward case of more such crimes being committed.

So, I am very happy if more people have had the courage and faith in our police and justice system to come forward to ensure another violent offender gets punished.

What does concern me is that every year police at all levels give the same stock standard response to annual statistics. We are constantly told that any increases are because of changes to reporting practices.

How many more times do the systems we use to record crimes need to change before we have a system where we can simply compare one year's crime with the previous year. We just want to know if crime is up or down.

Surely it is time for the police top brass to get a thinktank together, including top detectives and criminologists like Greg Newbold of Canterbury University, to work out the best way to record crime levels.

If every police officer knew exactly how to record the crime he had just attended, or if there were mechanisms in place to alter data once the true nature of a crime was revealed, then surely that would be a system we could have confidence in.

I believe the New Zealand Police do a fantastic job and we owe them a big thank you.

But all we want to know is if it is safer for our kids to walk to the movies in the evening or if Hastings CBD is safer than it was 10 years ago.

Until the public in New Zealand can know that crime is up without it constantly being attributed to a change in reporting systems, many will wonder if we are just being told what we want to hear.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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