Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Get tough on burglars, cops told

A  Herald  series revealed 164 burglaries went unsolved nationwide each day. Photo / Getty Images
A Herald series revealed 164 burglaries went unsolved nationwide each day. Photo / Getty Images

Top district cops have been ordered by police brass to prioritise burglary resolution and prevention in their regions.

The edict also flags the importance of police officers going to victims' homes after a burglary to gather evidence, identify suspects and provide reassurance.

A new guide to how police respond to burglaries is also being developed and comes after a Herald series revealed 164 burglaries went unsolved nationwide each day.

And yesterday police announced the launch of Operation Focus, a month-long effort aimed at reducing burglaries. It has a special focus on youth offenders who are responsible for most burglaries.

Information supplied to the Herald under the Official Information Act shows the week after the Herald's Hitting Home series ran in March, police were "tasked to prioritise response to burglary".

District commanders and members of the police executive met on March 16 for a monthly national tasking and co-ordination group (NTCG) meeting.

Inspector Neal Macrae, the national prevention centre's deployment manager, said the agenda included better public service targets.

"Both district commanders and police national headquarters workgroups, in support of districts, were tasked to prioritise response to burglary, both in a prevention sense and resolution of reported crime."

He said each district was told to prioritise the crimes, and each district command centre was asked to keep tabs on its region's performance.

"NTCG also confirmed the importance of police members attending dwelling burglaries, both to gather evidence to identify suspects and lines of inquiry, and also to provide advice and reassurance to the victim of the crime," Mr Macrae said.

The national crime registrar (a new role set up to improve the recording and quality of crime data) had developed a new guide for responding to burglary, which reflected "the most up-to-date evidence and international best practice".

Hitting Home revealed that the national average resolution rate for burglaries fell to single figures for 2015, with only 9.3 per cent solved in the year to December 31.

But police said the new initiatives were not linked to the Herald items.

Police pointed to Commissioner Mike Bush's comments at select committee in February, when he said police were focused on turning burglary resolution rates around, and that solving more burglaries was a priority for each of the 12 police districts.

"Police [are] always focused on ensuring we are doing all we can to prioritise prevention and investigation of crime, including burglaries," a police statement said. "We regularly run operations focused on particular crime types and these can be specific to districts or nationwide."

Auckland City District launched Operation Resolve as a direct result of the series. It assigned 20 staff to work specifically on solving burglaries in the district.

Labour's police spokesman Stuart Nash said an increased focus on burglaries was hopeless without a rise in resourcing for frontline officers. That had not been delivered in last month's Budget, he said, with most extra money covering pay increases.

"It's not about police not prioritising burglaries, it's about police not having the resources to put time into serious crime as well as property crime."

A spokeswoman for Police Minister Judith Collins said resolution rates needed to improve, and police had the resources to make that happen.

She said Ms Collins said in February that the commissioner had tasked the 12 police districts with improving resolution rates.

Victims hope new directive gets results

Tim Mason was the victim of a burglary in August 2015. He was disappointed with the police's lack of involvement in the case. Photo / Nick Reed
Tim Mason was the victim of a burglary in August 2015. He was disappointed with the police's lack of involvement in the case. Photo / Nick Reed

A Remuera burglary victim who had to go to a Manukau petrol station to get CCTV footage of the burglar, after police told him it was the victim's job to obtain that evidence, says the new directive could help.

Police sent only a fingerprinting officer and no sworn officers to investigate after Tim Mason's home was ransacked last August.

"I would have felt more safe if a police officer had come. The house was pretty torn up and if they'd come straight away there might have been some fingerprints on something. They might have had a better idea where prints would have been."

Afterwards, Mr Mason received a letter about the burglary but was never informed whether a suspect had been caught - something he is surprised about, given the footage showing the alleged offender.

A woman featured in the Herald series has since suffered another attempted burglary and asked not to be named for fear it would draw attention to her Auckland home. It has been targeted by thieves five times in less than two years.

She also hoped officers would now turn up to burglary scenes.

The woman and her partner, who have lived in their home for five years with their children, said police took fingerprints after the first two burglaries late in 2014, but never visited after the latest break-in on February 22, even though there was a council CCTV camera on a pathway next to the house.

The woman would like to see more patrols through residential areas.

"This is the fifth time I have been burgled. It's really affecting us. Every time we go home we really worry about if our window has been broken."

The family were planning to move away, partly because of their rotten luck with burglaries.

- NZ Herald

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