Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Ask the experts: Ways to curb burglaries in NZ

This week the Herald has investigated burglaries in the most in-depth series on the subject ever done in New Zealand. Over five days we have examined where burglaries happen, talked to victims, burglars and the police and find out how you can protect your home and business. In part five we looks at the solutions experts pose to reduce the crimes.

BURGLARY SERIES - OVERVIEW

We ask

Should we change the police budget/operational focus? After five years of no change, the police budget was reduced last year by 1 per cent to $1.609 billion. Police say its focus is on prevention, but should the focus be shifted to resolution to send a message to burglars that they will be caught, and reassure victims that offenders will be brought to justice?

They say

Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash: "Police are being asked to do more for less and it's just not working. We have got to give police the resources they need to solve crime."

Green Party criminal justice spokesman David Clendon: "Police can only do so much with what they have."

Dr Jarrod Gilbert, University of Canterbury criminologist: "I think there is a disconnect between how the public view burglaries and how the police see them. Most people have, or think they will be, affected by these crimes, so if that's the case shouldn't police want to make sure they are all over it?"

Police: "Burglary is an issue driven by many factors, and it's not just police that are responsible for addressing this problem.

"Among other tools, police currently use a software package that collects information logged by communications centres and creates an interactive map which is valuable to staff working in deployment operations or intelligence. It's become one of the key tools used by police for monitoring and solving crime."

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We ask

Social and economic factors are well known to be drivers of crime. Should society take more responsibility to intervene in at-risk families?

They say

Dr Trevor Bradley, criminologist at Victoria University: "The most effective way to stop these happening is to stop people going down a crime pathway, the reason that this is an attractive option is that it creates fewer victims and is much, much more cost-effective - it is extremely expensive to punish people."

South Auckland community leader Joseph Fa'afiu: "In some of the families there is a cycle of criminal activities that hasn't been broken."

Dr Jarrod Gilbert, University of Canterbury criminologist: "We are aware what the drivers of crime are - we need to intervene in troublesome families. Family violence is a national disgrace and we need to connect with the families whose kids are at risk because kids that are that young can't defend themselves. It requires us to defend them and we have a moral obligation to do so."

Practising psychologist Richard Wheeler: "Once children have reached school age it's almost too late. If we are going to rehabilitate, particularly young offenders, we need to get to them early."

We ask

What about prevention? Most burglaries are crimes of opportunity - should New Zealanders be responsible for turning their homes into impenetrable fortresses?

They say

Police Minister Judith Collins: "We all have a part to play in preventing crimes like burglary. For example, by securing our own property, looking out for our neighbours and keeping an eye out for suspicious activity in our communities."

Ex-burglar Adrian Pritchard: "Having an alarm is very good, a dog and deadlocks on the doors are also very good. Rural houses are very easy targets and need security systems around them."

Crime researcher Spencer Chainey from the Department of Security and Crime Science, University College London: "The risk of burglary to properties near a recently burgled home is much higher than the risk to those further away. If that risk can be reduced - by informing neighbours and offering crime prevention advice - burglaries in the area will significantly decline."

Police: "Knowing how a burglar thinks and operates is good background information to help put things in place to prevent someone from becoming a burglary victim.

We ask

Security is expensive and data shows low socioeconomic areas are burglary hotspots. Should it be mandatory for tenants and their property to be protected by landlords?

They say

Victoria University criminologist Dr Trevor Bradley: "This issue of security ought to be incorporated into the ongoing debate in New Zealand about minimum standards for rental housing and basic levels of security should form part of the so-called warrant of fitness."

Housing NZ: With more than 68,000 properties, there is no standardised security. However, a spokeswoman said that tenants can approach the agency with concerns and they often work with police and other organisations to ensure tenants' safety.

"Our New Build standard has specific requirements for security ... which includes ensuring houses have good surveillance to the street, visibility of front doors and secure outdoor storage.

"Existing houses are upgraded where practical."

We ask

Should there be harsher penalties for burglars? Will stronger and guaranteed prison terms for recidivist burglars deter these offenders?

They say

Act Party leader David Seymour: Tried to introduce a new law that would see burglars sent to jail when convicted of their third offence.

"Any burglar convicted for their third offence would face a mandatory three-year jail sentence. This would protect countless New Zealanders not just from material loss, but from the unquantifiable anguish and stress of having their homes violated."

Leading criminal lawyer Steve Bonnar, QC: "The idea that stronger sentences will reduce the number of property-based offending or offending such as burglary I don't think holds water.

"The reality is you send people to prison and to a larger extent the prisons are just universities for people to become better criminals."

We ask

Connecting online is an easy way for neighbours to discuss community goings-on.

The forums are more frequently being used to keep each other informed of burglaries and other crimes, combined with traditional Neighbourhood Watch methods - is this the way to curb the crimes?

They say

Neighbourly.co.nz: The website has more than 85,000 users from nearly every community in New Zealand, said a spokeswoman.

"Being more aware of events such as burglaries ensures you're generally more vigilant and this definitely leads to safer communities."

Police: "Police provide crime prevention advice and work closely with many community groups such as Neighbourhood Support, Community Patrols and Wardens."

We ask

Does more need to be done to give prisoners the education and life skills to change their criminal ways when they leave jail?

They say

New Zealand Prison Fellowship national director Phil McCarthy: "If somebody is able to move into employment upon release, that is a significant positive effect in reducing their likelihood to reoffend upon release."

Ex-burglar Adrian Pritchard: "The whole police vetting law needs to change so people like us can get a good job. I can't even study because I have a criminal record."

Video

5 solutionsto stop burglaries

1. More police resources and operational focus to solve burglaries.

2. Intervene in troubled families to reduce the social and economic factors.

3. Minimum security standards for rental housing.

4. Prevention education and community action.

5. Prisoner rehabilitation to reduce re-offending.

Click here to see how your neighbourhood compares to the rest of NZ:

- NZ Herald

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