Police have no faith in crime statistics

By Staff Reporters

Frontline police don't believe their own statistics on the level of crime in New Zealand.

While figures released last week showed a fall in recorded crime across the country, concerned police in different districts have told the Herald they do not accurately reflect the true level of offending.

They tell of crime going unreported because people cannot be bothered or think that police do not have the time to investigate, and reveal the majority of under-reporting involves property crime such as burglary and theft from cars.

They say people without insurance - or if the value of stolen property is less than the insurance excess - simply do not bother to contact police.

And officers themselves admit they do not report thefts of their own property.

Senior Constable Craig Prior of Christchurch said he had criminals in his car admit to carrying out 100 car break-ins in a night, but only three complaints arose.

Mark Leys, a Police Association representative in Counties Manukau, told of a man linked to 15 burglaries in Manurewa who admitted carrying out a further 60. Most had not been reported.

"The public in Manurewa, which is a high crime area, [are saying] 'There's no point reporting it, I'm not insured'."

Mr Leys himself had not reported two thefts of property from his car, and an experienced Christchurch officer, whose vehicle was hit three times, reported none of them.

"I know there's so little chance of catching the person. I think that would be the line of thinking for many people," he said.

Detective Sergeant Mel Ridley, Police Association representative in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato, said anecdotal evidence suggested victims who had not suffered a great trauma did not report the crime because they did not think it was worth the effort.

An Auckland officer said burglary was treated as a "relatively minor" crime despite carrying a maximum term of 10 years in prison.

"It is the police response, or lack of response, in attending these historic [burglaries] that puts the public off reporting."

Another frontline Auckland officer said it was discouraging to hear people say there was no point ringing police to report a crime.

"All people see is traffic enforcing and you get a lot of decent people in the public getting tickets for minor infringements."

He added: "There's no need for us to be standing out in the road in the middle of the day clocking someone who's doing five or 10 kilometres over the speed limit. Those resources would be better solving crime."

Widely publicised difficulties with the 111 call system had also deterred complainants, according to Mr Ridley.

"Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. If people ring the police they want a high level of service. They don't like getting that 'banking' response," said the veteran of 33 years in the force, who is based at Mt Maunganui.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said he did not doubt officers' comments about under-reporting but noted that individual views on crime statistics differed depending on what area of policing they were involved in.

Police Minister George Hawkins said victimisation surveys showed that crime was under-reported but the amount of unreported crime had not increased. The next survey, which is run by the Ministry of Justice, is due next year.

Last week, National claimed the falling crime rate was the result of victims not reporting crimes such as theft, car break-ins and car conversions.

Police Commissioner Rob Robinson dismissed the claims, saying independent research showed people were "reasonably constant" in whether they reported crime.
Yesterday, Assistant Police Commissioner Howard Broad agreed there were people who chose not to report, but he did not believe the problem was getting worse.

* Recorded crime in the year to June 30 dropped 7.1 per cent, from 426,169 to 396,018 offences, with 44.2 per cent of offending resolved by way of warning, caution or prosecution.

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