You might recall that a bit over a year ago a salesman in a nice suit with a nice smile came and sold us a brighter future. We haven’t seen all that much of that salesman since then but we can remember what he promised to deliver in that ‘brighter future’. We even have the billboards.
There was higher incomes (through the magic of tax cuts), there was ultra-fast broadband (now rebranded as merely ‘fast broadband’), we were going to get “more doctors, more nurses, less bureaucrats” (and, presumably, betterer teachers), and National promised to “make our neighbourhoods safer: tougher bail, sentencing, and parole”. I might come back to some of the others in future posts but, for now, let’s look at the last one.
National did indeed change parole and bail laws but did it do anything? Has that reduced crime to “make our neighbourhoods safer” as promised? Because if it hasn’t, they’re just a wasting time and taxpayer money.
Well, surprise, surprise, crime hasn’t fallen since National passed these laws under Urgency in December 2008. In the six months following their passing, crime rose by nearly 5% compared to the same period in the previous year (population growth was 1.1%, btw).
OK, I can hear you righties already – ‘six months isn’t long enough. These policies, despite having the immediate effect of keeping more people in jail longer, need time to bring the crime rate down’.
Well, the full year crime stats aren’t out for a while yet but because there are relatively few of them and they all get reported under the joyful Herald’s ‘assault and homicide’ tag I was able to count up the killings (murder + manslaughter) in the last six months and compare with the total with past stats. I wouldn’t reccommend it – not a lot of fun.
And not a good result for the ‘Lock ’em Up Longer’ brigade. Killings rose from 34 in the six months before National’s ‘get tough’ laws were passed to 36 in the next six months, and 44 in the last six months. Of course, random clusters happen with relatively uncommon events but 44 in the last six months is the 3rd worse toll in the last 15 years, the 5th worse allowing for population growth. It doesn’t look like the Nats’ ‘tough’ crime policies have done anything to reduce the worst offences.
My point here is not to blame the Government for these killings. Most homicides are the result of a lethal combination of passing rage, stupidity, and intoxication, and mostly it’s family, friends, and partners, not criminal strangers.
What I am trying to show is how foolish it is to claim that a ‘good dose of law and order’ will magically prevent crime. National’s policies have done nothing to reduce homicides and other crime because their formula simply doesn’t work.
A Government that really wanted to reduce crime, rather than one that was simply pandering to populism to get elected, would concerntrate on the well-known and understood causes of crime – the biggest of which are unemployment-induced poverty and deprivation.