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.