Monday, January 4, 2010

My wife and I have made two trips to New Zealand... the South Island region of Southland is the very South Tip of a country, already very far South

A different approach to policing in Southland that included officers visiting criminals at home for a friendly chat had contributed to a 17 per cent drop in crime in the region, a police boss said.

Southland police area commander Inspector Barry Taylor said they had been working since July on increased urgency and accountability, with a big focus on reducing crime rather than just arresting criminals.

As a result, indicative crime figures – which were not official police statistics – showed overall crime in Southland was down 17 per cent for the first five months of the reporting year, compared with the same period the previous year, Mr Taylor said.

Burglaries were down 28 per cent, while provisional indicators showed other types of crime were also down, he said. "We have just had a bit of a look at how we are going about our business and we felt we could do it a bit smarter, and the initial indicators are we are on the right track."

The altered approach to policing included working to prevent crime rather than react once a crime had been committed, he said.

"A lot of it is problem-solving work. For example, houses we may regularly visit over the weekend may be visited again during the week to work out why we were called and what interventions can be put in place to prevent us being called the following weekend."

Police called in for a chat with the offenders during the week to help sort out issues, with other agencies often being involved also, Mr Taylor said. "It's not rocket science but the provisional results are starting to speak for themselves ... if we can prevent crime from taking place it means fewer victims and less victimisation."

The new focus on crime fighting was already being used in some other areas of the country, he said.

Communities in Southland were also helping to reduce crime because they had had enough of people making a living and lifestyle out of criminal activity, he said. People had become more alert in reporting crime and police were dealing with it with more urgency, Mr Taylor said. The community policing group and volunteer community patrol group were also doing their part in reducing crime.

However, it was early days, with much work needed to sustain the improvements, he said.

"We have set a platform and it's up to the community to take some ownership and responsibility, and between everyone we can make a significant impact, and that's what I want to see progress in 2010."

Senior Sergeant Dave Raynes, of Invercargill, said the new style of policing included having daily morning meetings to discuss crime during the previous 24 hours, identify problems and assign relevant staff to intervene.

Mr Raynes said when he joined the police 36 years ago the glory was in arresting criminals. "Now the glory is in preventing the offences being committed."

Southland police have tackled family violence during the past two Christmas seasons by visiting Invercargill's top 10 offenders and asking them to take it easy.

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