Four weeks ago, the Herald published a special series on burglaries. Among the disturbing findings was the startling revelation that the national burglary resolution rate last year was a bare 9.3 per cent, the first time that it had fallen to single digits. The disappointing cleanup rate may have been affected by a wider definition of burglary, where even minor incidents - the most-cited example was a basketball going missing from a front lawn - were logged in police records as burglaries. Still, it was someone's ball, and its loss would have upset its owner.
The sense of personal distress was a strong element of the series, because it underlined how property owners felt after their belongings had been taken from their homes or possessions stolen from their vehicles. People whose properties had been targeted more than once described how they no longer felt safe inside their own residence.
A month on, it is heartening to know the police have clearly had a rethink about their approach to this category of crime. They could hardly ignore their own statistics, with nearly 100,000 burglaries logged over 18 months going unsolved. In some parts of the country, police were unable to resolve any of the recorded burglaries in their jurisdiction - a regrettable result for the victims of the crimes.
In the central Auckland police district, where the clean-up rate was a paltry 6.2 per cent last year, 20 staff are being assigned specifically to deal with burglaries. It is a welcome response to the undeniable facts. The officer in charge of the initiative, Detective Senior Sergeant Iain Chapman, offered a frank response when he outlined the objectives of Operation Resolve: "We simply have to get better results for victims."
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The Resolve team will be run out of the Mt Wellington police station, with a remit to cover the sprawling central district, which extends from Herne Bay east to St Heliers, south as far as Onehunga and to Avondale in the west. Last year 8043 "victimisations" - a definition in police statistics which records the victims of burglary - were reported in the district, which suggests that Mr Chapman's team will be busy.
From his initial remarks, there is much to applaud in the officer's approach, given he has pledged to do much better in terms of the resolution rate. Police will focus on recidivist burglars, receivers of stolen goods and liaise with neighbouring districts to make a dent in this pernicious offending. Mr Chapman is signalling to the courts police will oppose bail in their efforts to bust criminal enterprises, and the community will look to the justice system to play its part.
Hitting Home, the Herald's series, struck a nerve with readers. It drew a deluge of responses, and did not go unnoticed in political circles - the issue was raised in Parliament. Detective Senior Sergeant Chapman said police too took the Hitting Home concerns "very seriously". The thousands of burglary victims beyond the central Auckland district will now hope for an Operation Resolve response in their areas, too.
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