Three strikes and you’re in

23/04/2014

Act leader Jamie Whyte is proposing that three strikes for burglary will put offenders in jail.

Over two thousand families will come home after this Easter Weekend to discover that burglars have robbed their homes.

If they are lucky they will just have lost their TVs, computers, cell phones, jewelry and cash. If they are unlucky the burglars will have trashed the home.

If they have insurance then the victims can claim. But they will discover the insurance company requires new locks, security screens, burglar alarms and, for commercial clients, possibly even the hiring of security guards.

Because successive governments have failed to do their primary job of providing for the secure use of our property, we must pay private firms to protect us against thieves. First we pay with our taxes and then we pay again because our taxes have been poorly spent.

Half of those who are robbed this Easter Weekend have no insurance. There will be students, beneficiaries, pensioners and other families who will lose everything they own. It happens every day.

Many will be traumatized. I know of people who, having been burgled, never feel safe again. No dead locks, sensor lights or alarms let them sleep well. The emotional cost of burglary is incalculable, but it is real.

When I was elected Leader of the ACT Party I said at our conference that we were considering a three-strikes policy for burglary, similar to our three-strikes policy for violent crime. I was attacked by commentators who said the idea was half-baked.

ACT has carefully researched the policy.

Three strikes for burglary was introduced to England and Wales in 1999. As in New Zealand, burglary was out of control and given a low priority by the police and the courts. A Labour government passed a three strikes law whereby a third conviction for burglaries earned a mandatory three years in prison.

Burglary in England has fallen by 35 percent.

There are reasons to believe the law will work even better here. In England there are professional criminals who come across from Europe to conduct crimes and their previous convictions are often unknown to authorities. And the English law allows parole for third strike offences.

ACT has consulted with experts on the likely cost to the taxpayer. Our view is that any increase in prison population will be moderate. Indeed, if it has the deterrent effect we expect, it may ultimately decrease the prison population. Four years after becoming law, that seems to be the effect of our policy of three strikes for violent crime.

Unlike violent crimes, which are sometimes spontaneous, burglary is a calculated crime.

Burglaries happen when burglars figure the rewards outweigh the risk of detection or likely punishment. Three strikes for burglary will change the calculation.  . . .

Burglary is regarded as property crime but it is traumatic for the victims.

People who’ve been burgled say that even if nothing irreplaceable has been stolen, no mess was made and no damage done, the feeling that their home has been invaded is devastating.

It’s even worse if irreplaceable items of great personal value are taken, the burglars leave a mess and/or leave damage in their wake.

But will a three strikes and you’re in jail law act as a deterrent and help reduce burglaries?

Anyone who is charged with a crime after two previous convictions hasn’t learned, but will prison teach the lesson that’s needed?

It will keep the criminal off the streets, but it can be a nursery which teaches worse crimes.

Crime rates are dropping, but is the three strikes law for violent crimes one of the contributing factors or just a coincidence?

Even if it is a contributing factor to the drop in crime, would a similar three strikes and you’re in law work as well for burglary?


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