and they perpetuate the fear…

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is going around the country at the moment reinforcing the fears of the converted that NZ is no longer a safe place to live, and that New Zealand is now the land of the criminals.

So much so that they’ve created a whole new web site just to perpetuate these fears and mistrusts in fellow Kiwis. “Escalating violent crime, sexual predators and violent criminals being granted Bail!” is the description for NZ in 2008, a pretty horrid place if you believe these people. It’s just such a shame that the statistics don’t back up their claim.

For instance, the Murder rate in NZ, a pretty bloody final and violent act that could be inflicted upon anyone has fallen for many years now, despite out growing population. The murder rate in NZ has hovered about the 1.5 mark for many years, with a peak of 2.3 per 100,000 people in 1991 and 1993, but since then has steadily fallen to 1.29 in the 2000s. Seems were not killing each other like we used to in the early 1990s. As a comparison with other countries, we compare very favourable with the UK and Australia, while the likes of the US whom peaked at 10.2 (per 100,000 citizens) in 1980, has decreased their rate to about 5.5 for the latest readings. Still these aren’t as horrifying as El Salvador (55.3 per 100,000) and Russia (16.5 per 100,000).

Indeed if you look at the crime stats for the last 2 years, total offences have increased from 424,134 to 426,380, a total of 2246 extra crimes. Breaking that down, there has been an increase in violent offences by roughly 6000 (50,731 in 2006 to 56,983 in 2007), however in that time the amount of violent crime resolved jumped massively by about 6000. We are able to break these categories down even further, to see that murder was down, Kidnapping and Abductions were down, Robberies were down, Grievous Assaults were up (as were resolution of these), Serious Assaults were up (again so was the resolution rate for this area). Sexual assaults were more or less steady, while resolution of these cases rose.

We’re lead to believe that there is also a drug fuelled frenzy out there, yet offences involving drugs (not cannabis) fell over the last 2 years, cannabis rose slightly.

Child abuse (non violent) unfortunately rose, but there were again more resolutions to these crimes.

The statistics show that in some areas there is an increase in crime in NZ, and I will never deny that these are serious violent crimes. The statistics also show that we are resolving more crimes than before, which presumably suggests that we are also putting more of the ‘bad guys’ away. Unfortunately we aren’t able to tell from these stats if we are reporting these crimes more, that is, are we more likely to come forward if a crime is committed against us, compared to previous years. There is plenty of evidence that the reporting of sexual assaults against (predominately but not exclusively) women are being reported more and more, as a greater trust in the police and the criminal justice system is fostered. Some suggest that sexual assaults haven’t actually increased, we’re just willing to report it more, I’d have to see the figures, but if those on the ground (rape crisis etc) are telling us this, who am I to contradict this.

What really gets me though is the culture of fear that the Sensible Sentencing Trust is willing to inflict on the public. They put out the most provocative press releases, which the media is all too willing to jump upon and just actually report, without any form of balance or rebuttal. Thus statements like “The public have been totally misled by the corrupt and dishonest policies of past and present governments and the law-abiding public has been used as puppets in a disastrous social experiment”, are just reported as fact. This is of course not a fact, this is the view of a narrow band of people whom have a lot of trouble in their hearts.

The link to the associated web site perpetuating the myth of the violence on the streets of NZ, Land Fit For Criminals (which is actually the title of a book by a British Author they have out in NZ), provides all manner of material telling honest kiwis how bad it really is here. They have a link to the sensationalist TV series by the Eastenders actor Ross Kemp (he’s a hard man apparently) in which he goes around the world hanging out with the most notorious gangs. In NZ he met with the Mongrel Mob. The show opens with the scene of an apparently “ordinary high street, in an ordinary town, in the middle of the day, Mongrel Mob in red against their arch foe the Black Power”.

This screen snap from the documentary, is of course not an ordinary street, in an ordinary town on any given day as implied by the documentary. This is archival footage of a gang fight was followed quickly by images from the Mob axe attack in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square from the late 1980s(?), hardly representative of what is going on today here in NZ.

There is a reason the documentary was slammed world wide for sensationalising the ultra violent acts of a very small group of people as representative of the criminal nature of human society. The documentary on the Mob in NZ was looking for violence and protraying it as being part of Kiwi culture, which as we all know just isn’t true. But this is how the Sensible Sentencing Trust works in NZ, demonise and victimise, and suggest that this is the reality of NZ.

I fail to see how taking statistics in isolation, calling on wildly sensationalist documentaries and perpetually telling Kiwi’s that they are no longer safe in NZ, is doing any service to the country at all. I have yet to hear one policy position from these people which would suggest that there is any hope for NZ, indeed for criminals. They suggest all manner of lock-em-up solutions, yet this adds nothing to the debate. If locking up criminals was some sort of deterrent, surely the US with the total population of NZ behind bars would be a crime free place, it isn’t.

Here’s hoping that the SST will one day start to work with those whom are at the coal face of crime in NZ from across the whole spectrum, and relay their fears and concerns, not to mention pushing their suggestions for solutions, rather than the narrow approach that they currently have. For while the media is willing to publish any rubbish these people spout out, they will perpetuate fear and hate in this country.

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6 Comments

Filed under Crime, Culture, Media, Politics

6 responses to “and they perpetuate the fear…

  1. I’ve been reading a few reports on youth crime recently (which, over all, is on a nice steady decrease btw), one of the main findings is that the less serious the police intervention is (ie formal warning or meeting with youth aid officer, instead of a trip to the youth court), the less likely reoffending is. That ones certainly likely to be problematic for them.

    I dont know if you have covered it before, but the SST’s work is kind of a self perpetuating, self fulfilling vicious cycle. Fear of crime matches media reporting of crime (not actual crime levels), media reporting is based of exaggeration of one off news worthy events, with little regard for the big picture. While at the same time the SST is promoting policies that increase reoffending, and with the support they get, we end up with discusting reactionary politicking like the 1999 law and order referendum. This has the potential to result in policy that causes more crime, and consequently more media reporting, and again begins the cycle.

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  3. mollygog

    You write like you are informed and so you may be but you are naive
    If you believe the Govt. spin that it’s getting safer out there then you can’t get out much
    You also say there were 6,000 more violent crime but the resolution rate is higher.. again it shows your extreme naivety
    While that is all true – it does mean that up to 6,000 people became the victims of violent crime in our communities – go and tell those people that ‘it’s really not so bad because the police arrested the offender’
    Surely the whole idea is to prevent crime in the first place and violent crime particularly.
    Violent crime isn’t handbag snatches and someone blowing up your letter box – it’s rape, aggravated assault, grevious bodily harm etc.
    While solving this crime is important it’s much more of a priority to prevent them in the first place and if you don’t think so then why don’t you log off your precious blog, drive your late model car out of your middle class suburb and have a really good look at your community? I mean drive into a suburb that doesn’t have paved footpaths, high fences and homes with monitored alarms – that’s if you dare??

  4. mollygog,

    police statistics aren’t government spin. Press releases from ministers is spin.

    Late model car, that would be nice, and as for the cynical assumption as to whom or where I come from, I’m guessing you don’t know Linwood ChCh very well. I used to bike bast 2 gang houses every day to school. My suburb doesn’t have paved footpaths, I don’t have a fence and don’t believe in alarms – or even remembering to lock the door at times (naughty I know).

    Sorry I don’t fit the mould of your stereotypical middle class blogger, it seems that if I don’t get out much, you don’t know bloggers that well either.

    I did not say that crime isn’t a problem. Nor did I say that the numbers weren’t up. However resolution of crime is important to those whom are victims of said crime, in that they have the piece of mind knowing that those whom aggrieved them are off the streets, and that is a big thing to a victim (I know this from very personal experience).

    My beef is with the media and the sensible sentencing trust whom day after day are more than prepared to perpetuate the fear that communities (or even walking down the street) aren’t safe anymore. This was a tactic of the ‘terrorist’ threat that the US media and administration used post 9-11. However this wasn’t the tactic used by the British media during the height of the IRA bombings, which was an actual and probable threat.

    The media has a responsibility to report the truth not just the spin that one rabid group of people portray, and that’s just not happening.

    Cheers for the comment, late model car – off to buy a lotto ticket.

  5. Hey there, I was hoping you might be able to tell me where you go the image on this page? I’ve seen that footage – it’s hilarious and want to find a slightly better one if it’s out there… perhaps you can help becauue I can’t find one anywhere? Great blog by the way!

  6. lee

    Garth Mcvicars rationalization is closely related to spin, refuses to pay attention to anything that may distract from his agenda, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it” or not giving a straight answer to a straight question and instead being diversionary, steering the conversation onto another topic, giving irrelevant, rambling, vague responses, weasel words.
    Garth Mcvicar exploits victims vulnerabilities, such as Naïveté – victim finds it too hard to accept the idea that Mcvicars is cunning, devious and ruthless or is “in denial”, Low self-confidence – victim is self-doubting, lacking in confidence and assertiveness, Emotional dependency – victim has a submissive or dependent personality. The more emotionally dependent the victim is, the more vulnerable he is to being exploited by Mcvicar

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