Justice Minister Judith Collins launched an action plan to reduce crime and reoffending today:
“We’re focusing on six key areas, with a series of specific actions under each. We’re going to target high-crime locations, provide strong support for people at risk of repeat victimisation, improve interventions for vulnerable youth, reduce the availability of alcohol, increase availability of alcohol and drug treatment – both in prison and in the community – and invest in reintegration and rehabilitation for offenders.
“We’re throwing the weight of the justice sector – 22,000 staff and a budget of $3.8 billion each year – behind these targets. They are particularly ambitious given the reductions already gained, as continuing to reduce crime will get more difficult every year.”
Ms Collins says the plan is about locking in success and keeping crime falling.
“2011 saw the lowest crime rate in thirty years. Resolution rates continue to increase, and even violent crime – which had been rising – has stabilised. But for a victim of crime, that one crime is too many. Even on top of recent gains, achieving these targets will mean 112,000 fewer crimes between now and 2017 – and thousands fewer victims.
“We know a lot about crime – where it tends to occur, who it tends to affect, and the underlying factors that contribute to criminal behaviour. We’re taking what we know and turning it into comprehensive action across the justice and wider social sectors,” Ms Collins says.
- Location is one of the strongest predictors of crime – particularly property crime, such as burglary, vehicle theft and shoplifting, which makes up two-thirds of all crime.
- 6 per cent of adults experience 54 per cent of all crime – this small group are victimised five or more times.
- The earlier a person begins offending, the greater their odds of reoffending. 17-19 year olds appearing in the adult court system for the first time are 2.3 times more likely to reoffend if they have a youth court history.
- 51 per cent of crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Alcohol is implicated in 35 per cent of apprehensions for assaults, 18 per cent of apprehensions for sexual assaults and 49 per cent of apprehensions for disorderly conduct.
- Over 60 per cent of prisoners are unemployed prior to imprisonment and 90 per cent of prisoners have high literacy needs. Unemployment is also very high among offenders serving their sentence in the community. 65 per cent of sentenced offenders have a drug or alcohol problem.
The government has set goals for the public service in five key areas, one of which is crime reduction.
“By 2017 we want to see the crime rate reduced by 15 per cent, the violent crime rate by 20 per cent, the youth crime rate by 5 per cent, and the reoffending rate by 25 per cent.
“These would represent meaningful results for New Zealand – 112,000 fewer crimes, 19,000 fewer violent crimes, and 1500 fewer young people appearing in court over the next five years.
Reducing crime has social and economic benefits.
Even people who aren’t directly affected as victims of crimes or through relationships to criminals are better off with safer homes and communities.
A separate initiative is the expansion of social workers in schools.
Extra Social Workers in Schools (SWiS) will begin in schools as the next term starts this month says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett
“The first fifty additional social workers will cover 95 schools in Northland, South Auckland and Hawke’s Bay, starting in the third school term.”
Minister Bennett announced the expansion to SWiS to all decile 1-3 schools last year, with coverage planned to increase from 285 to 673 schools.
‘’We said we’d phase the extra social workers in and these are the first 50 of 149 extra SWiS workers,” says Mrs Bennett.
“School staff can be the first to notice when something isn’t right with a child and with problems increasingly complex and difficult, qualified social workers are needed to address these issues with children and families.”
“Protecting children is an absolute priority and we need enough qualified social workers focused exclusively on children to do that,” says Mrs Bennett.
Helping children in need is worthy by itself and also as part of crime detection and prevention. Some children’s problems occur because they are victims of crimes. Regardless of what causes the problems, troubled children are more likely to have learning problems and therefore less likely to get work when they leave school which in turn makes it more likely to commit crimes.
It won’t be cheap but it is far better to spend money on the causes and prevention than on dealing with crime and its consequences.