Judith Collins26 MARCH, 2013
Conviction, sentencing stats show crime down
Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice today show the number of people being charged in court has reduced by more than 20 per cent since 2009, Justice Minister Judith Collins says.
The Conviction and Sentencing Statistics, published on the Statistics New Zealand website, show 98,783 people appeared in court in 2012, down 7 per cent from 2011 and 22 per cent from 2009.
The Child and Youth Prosecution Statistics, also published today, show the rate of children and young people being charged in court is the lowest in 20 years and down 40 per cent since 2007 to 3,018.
“These figures confirm what we already know – that crime is falling and New Zealand is becoming a safer place to live.
“The results show that this government’s strong commitment to making our communities safer is working,” Ms Collins says.
The number of people charged with a violent offence has dropped 17 per cent over the last four years, after steadily increasing between 2004 and 2009.
“Reversing of the violent offence trend is particularly pleasing because violent offences are responsible for the most harm in our communities,” Ms Collins says.
74 per cent of the people charged in court are convicted, and 10 per cent of those are sent to prison. For every 10,000 people in New Zealand, 22 were sentenced to prison in 2012 compared with 25 in 2011.
The most common sentence imposed is a fine or reparation (39 per cent), while 17 per cent get a community sentence and 28 per cent community work.
Along with the general reduction in youth convictions, the number of children and young people convicted in an adult court for serious offences has dropped from 500 to 199 in the last five years. Children and young people now make up less than 3 per cent of the total people charged in court in New Zealand.
“Fewer children and young people coming before our courts is an encouraging sign. We know that a key to reducing crime is to stop young people entering the court and justice system in the first place,” Ms Collins says.
The statistics also show:
In the adult court, charges for most offence types have decreased compared with 2011.
In 2012, most offences charged in court were low level offences. For example, the two main categories of offences are traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, and offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations.
People charged with the most serious violent offences were more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment, and for longer periods than those convicted of less serious offence types in 2012.
Statistics are available at www.stats.govt.nz and www.justice.govt.nz
This excerpt is taken from the blogsite of Karen Franklin, Ph.D. is a forensic psychologist and adjunct professor at Alliant University in Northern California. She is a former criminal investigator and legal affairs reporter. This blog features news and commentary pertaining to forensic psychology, criminology, and psychology-law. If you find it useful, you may subscribe to the newsletter (above). See Dr. Franklin’s website for more
The case of Daryl Thomas (Anecdote 2) involved more than neglect of violent crimes. As Detective Hernandez discovered, police brass in his precinct — and throughout New York City — were systematically downgrading crimes from serious felonies to minor misdemeanors, in order to improve their CompStat crime statistics. A model that has been adopted throughout the United States as well as in England and Australia, CompStat had the unintended consequence of fostering competition among precincts for lower statistics. Only seven categories of major crime are counted in crime statistics and made publicly available, so police can reduce crime rates by, for example, reclassifying attempted rape as criminal trespass.
The Thomas case was handled quietly, with no media attention. Thomas was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison. But Hernandez, frustrated by the constant battles with his own superiors, took an early retirement. “Unfortunately, this is the culture for the young cop coming into the department. He doesn’t see the bigger picture,” he said. “If it’s going to allow him to have a day off, and they won’t ride him or harass him, he’ll go along with it. And New Yorkers are being victimized, and no one responds to their complaints.”
While major crimes were being downgraded to misdemeanors, Manhattan police were also being encouraged to trump up minor cases — drinking in public or driving without a seatbelt — in order to bolster their statistics. Police officer Adrian Schoolcraft surreptitiously recorded his superiors giving these directives; with the collusion of a department psychologist, he eventually found himself drummed out of the force on trumped-up psychiatric grounds. (You can hear excerpts from his secret tapes on This American Life.)
Detective work is no fun
Many police officers are appalled by the insidious militarization of police. Betty Taylor, police chief of a small Missouri town, recalled how she became troubled by the economic disparity between the “drug guys,” flush with property seizures and endless federal grants, and the struggling sex crimes unit that she had established.
“When you think about the collateral effects of a sex crime, of how it can affect an entire family, an entire community, it just didn’t make sense,” she told Balko. “The drug users weren’t really harming anyone but themselves. Even the dealers, I found much of the time they were just people with little money, just trying to get by.” Her opinion solidified when she was recruited onto a SWAT team, and witnessed first-hand the lasting terror that the raids produced in vulnerable children.
“I thought, how can we be the good guys when we come into the house looking like this, screaming and pointing guns at the people they love? … Good police work has nothing to do with dressing up in black and breaking into houses in the middle of the night…. When you get into that [us-versus-them] mentality, there are no innocent people. There’s us and there’s the enemy. Children and dogs are always the easiest casualties.”
Allure of the techno-warrior
“Why serve an arrest warrant to some crack dealer with a .38?” asked one U.S. military officer who trained police SWAT teams in the 1990s. “With full armor, the right shit, and training, you can kick ass and have fun.”
As this quote implies, SWAT raids — conducted hundreds of times per year in cities large and small — foster a masculine culture of violence and a worship of a “techno-warrior” image of policing. SWAT raids are the ultimate in power, an adrenaline rush that is quickly habit-forming. Recruitment videos that emphasize this culture may, in turn, be changing the type of individual who seeks to become a police officer.
Texas SWAT team terrorizes organic farmers in August
Balko traces the militarization of police to the “drug war” ideology that began under President Nixon and escalated under Ronald Reagan. One specific clause in an omnibus crime bill of 1984, not considered particularly controversial at the time, ultimately produced a seismic shift in American policing. The asset forfeiture law allowed police to seize property, auction it off, and divide up the bounty, just so long as federal agents were even remotely involved in the investigation.
Asset forfeiture created a huge incentive for police to go after people in order to seize their property. Drug enforcement brought in boatloads of cash, much of which was reinvested into more battle gear. Police departments competed with each other for drug revenue, to the neglect of investigating violent crimes such as rape, robbery and murder. So, we end up with situations like the one a few years back in Oakland, California, in which a lack of investigative prioritization allowed a serial rapist on parole to remain free to prey on young African American girls until he finally made the mistake of gunning down four police officers.
Reducing prosecution may be a public good – when a father flicking a child’s ear is all that is being prosecuted.
The police were not very brave, when it came to prosecuting John Banks for electoral fraud. Unfortunately, the only issue was that he wasn’t quite so careful over paperwork and who handled the cheque, in terms of electoral honesty – John Banks behaviour was no worse than most of the Labour and National MPs.
It appears that much of the crime reduction is due to slow moving demographic changes in our society, rather than successful prosecutions and police work.
It is also important to take into account changes in societal tolerance of violence. Many of the offences now being prosecuted, wouldn’t even have been recorded as offences 40 years ago.
Quite careful analysis of crime statistics is required, to create a fair comparison of statistics over long periods of time, to remove the effects of political and police manipulation, changes in levels of violence for each offence level.