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The manipulation of burglary statics

Written By: - Date published: 8:52 am, September 11th, 2016 - 36 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Deep stuff, john key, Judith Collins, Media, national, slippery, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , ,

Labour gay pride parade judith collins police

Some recent media comment on crime statistics has passed unnoticed which is a shame.  They deserve greater publicity because they suggest that there is something deeply wrong with the reporting of crime in New Zealand.

Two years ago Eugene Bingham broke a story about how Papakura Police were doctoring crime statistics by reclassifying burglaries as lesser offences.  The process appeared to be deliberate and up to 30% of offences originally coded as burglaries were recoded.

The story was revisited after the recent Government announcement that all houses that had been burgled would be visited by a police officer.  There was also an open letter sent by John Key to Chinese citizens saying that burglary would be targeted as a priority.  The letter and the announcement occurred just before the release of crime statistics suggesting that burglary rates had surged and the clearance rate was pitifully low.

How the police is going to achieve this is unknown.  No extra resources are promised.

The announcement also occurred at the same time that Eugene Bingham reported in the Sunday Star Times how his attempts to find out more following his earlier article has been thwarted by years of obfuscation.  And it appears that senior officers had ordered police staff not to reply to his valid OIA requests.

From his article:

There has been no independent investigation of either the deliberate police meddling with crime statistics, or the subsequent cover-up.

Certain stories are doomed to haunt you, stories that linger and you never really know if you’ve got to the bottom of them.

Ghost crimes was one of those – and no, that’s not because of the name it became known as.

Senior police officers and the local board chair congratulate one another for the declining police statistics in Papakura in 2011.

It’s the story of how a small group of police in Counties Manukau made hundreds of burglaries “disappear” from the official police statistics, a story about allegations of a cover-up at the highest level.

Among its characters were Police Commissioner Mike Bush, Police Minister Judith Collins, five officers including area commander Inspector Gary Hill who were disciplined over it, a senior-ranking officer who put his neck on the line, and an anonymous letter writer who wreaked havoc with their determined efforts to blow the whistle.

The story broke two years ago and became a fleeting political scandal. In reality, its roots traced back five years earlier, and it has smouldered away in the background until now.

But then, last week, it finally fizzled out completely. Talk of investigations came to nothing.

A letter from the police apologised for aspects of the case, and promised more transparency and accountability in future.

“While expressions of regret such as this cannot turn back the clock, my sincere hope is that the attached material and the police apology help draw a line under past difficulties,” wrote Mike Webb, national manager of the police’s assurance group.

Media watch also reviewed Bingham’s story.

In terms of the importance of professional journalism it quoted David Simon, who was responsible for the creation of the cult police series the Wire.  In response to a suggestion that bloggers would take up the slack caused by the retreat of professional journalism he famously said that “The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day I will no longer be worried about journalism.”

In a fuller statement Simon said this about the power of blogs and why they are not a substitute for professional press:

But democratized and independent though they may be, you do not — in my city — run into bloggers or so-called citizen journalists at City Hall, or in the courthouse hallways or at the bars and union halls where police officers gather. You do not see them consistently nurturing and then pressing sources. You do not see them holding institutions accountable on a daily basis.

Why? Because high-end journalism – that which acquires essential information about our government and society in the first place — is a profession; it requires daily, full-time commitment by trained men and women who return to the same beats day in and day out until the best of them know everything with which a given institution is contending. For a relatively brief period in American history – no more than the last fifty years or so – a lot of smart and talented people were paid a living wage and benefits to challenge the unrestrained authority of our institutions and to hold those institutions to task. Modern newspaper reporting was the hardest and in some ways most gratifying job I ever had. I am offended to think that anyone, anywhere believes American institutions as insulated, self-preserving and self-justifying as police departments, school systems, legislatures and chief executives can be held to gathered facts by amateurs pursuing the task without compensation, training, or for that matter, sufficient standing to make public officials even care to whom it is they are lying or from whom they are withholding information.

The comment is as valid for New Zealand as it is for America.

Colin Peacock’s article in Mediawatch contains a very sobering conclusion:

There has been no independent investigation of either the police meddling with the crime statistics, or the alleged cover-up of it, he said. The “ghost crimes” story has fizzled out with unanswered questions, and he said it calls into question journalists’ ability to get the truth on important matters raised by whistle-blowers.

 

“My OIA request isn’t the only one that dates back that far, and it’s not just the police,” Eugene Bingham told Mediawatch.

He’s far from the first journalist to complain about this. Last year, Nicky Hager said the Act is fine for obtaining basic information, but “basically useless” for getting hold of important material.

“In practice, I’m sick of it. If someone in power wants to evade it, it’s frustratingly easy”, he told RNZ.

Two years later and the story has through the passage of time effectively died.  National’s political advantage gained on the basis of a lie has not been punished.  And an important story has been stifled by the authorities even though the OIA says that responses should be made within 20 working days.

As Bingham says there should be a culture of transparency and openness.  Even if our political masters are embarrassed by the results.

36 comments on “The manipulation of burglary statics ”

  1. Great story. I think many crime stats are manipulated this way – reclassification or hiding.

  2. Wensleydale 2

    There’s a pervasive feeling of frustration and helplessness in this country when it comes to holding power to account. If they can lie to us, manipulate statistics at will, withhold information illegally and face zero consequence, and then sit around in Bellamy’s laughing about it… what do you do? Seriously, about from quietly seething, what do you do? Is there any recourse left that hasn’t been either completely compromised or rendered an emasculated joke?

    • b waghorn 2.1

      That is why i hate the nats so much , they have put this country on a path to being being a tinpot corrupt shit hole that it will be increasingly hard to reverse out of.

      • Siobhan 2.1.1

        I just checked out the Labour Party site, the section titled
        “Announced Policies
        Following the 2014 Election, Labour placed all policy under review. We will continue to announce new policy through to the 2017 Election.”…and couldn’t see anything addressing these issues in terms of future Government Labour Party policy. Is there something I’ve missed, or are they saving policing for closer to the Election, seeing as it’s a topic that gets the average voter all hot and bothered.

        • b waghorn 2.1.1.1

          I’ve voted labour in the last two elections based purely on the basis that they aren’t the fucking nats. and will most likely continue to . A reboot of the system would be good but i can’t see it in the near future.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    It needs to be a significant crime to manipulate recorded facts and to hinder the release of information via the OIA. And I’m talking serious jail terms here. High enough that a minister that does it or causes it to be don finds that they will never be a minister again and those in the ministries that help them lie and manipulate also find themselves in jail. After all, Collins’ manipulation of police statistics couldn’t have been done without the willing cooperation of the police involved.

    • While I absolutely agree with you, I’d caution that this perversion of the OIA is done in a way that, to your average person in OIA compliance, may seem legal, by over-emphasising the exemptions and being cautious, and not correctly informing people that the presumption in the OIA is towards release. (essentially completely ignoring the principles of the law in favour of the letter which allows them to duck out of its effects) So while there are definitely some colluders out there, there are others who are simply misinformed about what the OIA (and even the Privacy Act) actually entail, or who are bullied by their minister or indirectly through their supervisor into breaking and/or perverting the law as-is.

      This is then compounded by the severe bipartisan underfunding of the ombudsman’s office, because the OIA is troublesome to Labour as well, so that it simply can’t keep up with the complaints that are lodged, and so that people are discouraged out of making most complaints because they will never be resolved in an acceptable timetable. I sincerely hope that having the Greens in coalition when the government changes will aid in some reform in this area, because before his departure Kevin Hague had noted this underfunding in a speech in the house, and the Greens are, if anything, quite sincere.

      Because the public service is OUR public service. They are actually supposed to be able to chat about the function of the government with journalists, activists, or merely interested citizens to keep them informed. Even departments that know about the correct use of the OIA are usually extremely risk-averse because of the fact that releasing too much information can’t be undone. (which in terms of privacy details, is fair, but in terms of other official info is not)

      • Craig H 3.1.1

        I can’t speak for other government departments, but the one I work for (MBIE) has ongoing OIA and Privacy Act training for staff, and it is emphasised heavily that the presumption is to release, rather than not.

        • That’s good. It’s possible that MBIE is one of the ones doing it right. I can’t comment because I haven’t worked there.

          What you really need to look at to determine that though is the sorts of things people actually flag as justifications not to do OIA releases. Because you can have all the emphasis in training you want, so long as you’re incentivised in practice to apply exceptions too easily, you still have a problem, and people can definitely do that while still thinking they’re giving a presumption of release. There needs to be a realistic expectation that releasing information would do harm under one of the exception categories to not release it, or a practical reason why the information can’t be sourced.

          Even then, an effort should still be made to work around those limits and see if general assurances can be made, or alternative information can be released that might answer the thrust of the question. You can tell an employee who gives 100% on an OIA from one that’s trained just to apply exceptions and copy-paste exactly what they’re asked for pretty easily, and the generally slow turnarounds for OIA requests would be perhaps acceptable if we got the sorts of replies those giving 100% routinely give. It’s usually those last two measures that set apart the people really trying, especially when they do them for already-long OIA replies.

    • reason 3.2

      I think in this instance originally it was the Police doing the physical manipulating and falsifying of the burglary stats ……………. collins just used the already cooked numbers to her and Nationals fraudulent advantage….

      Once collins was aware the police statistics were falsified she lied by ommision and said nothing in public …… both she and the Nacts continued to benefit politically from the false numbers …………. manipulating the voting public with false info.

      She is corrupt as a bent tax lawyer …. between her and Keys prime ministers office cameron slater was getting king of the OIA treatment …… http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11313041

      http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/mediawatch/audio/201777171/getting-it-out-in-the-open-reviewing-the-oia

      “Dirty Politics revealed Slater was guided to make OIA requests for information that would embarrass the Opposition. Subsequently, the New Zealand Herald uncovered a case of the Ministry of Justice releasing information to Slater under the OIA within one hour of his request.

      Prime Minister John Key also admitted his ministers sometimes withheld information if it was in their interests. ”

      “Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater got a response to an Official Information Act request from Justice Minister Judith Collins in just 37 minutes.

      He received another OIA response with just a five-hour turnaround by Ms Collins’ office – including being given correspondence which had come in just that day.”

      • RJL 3.2.1

        @reason

        Of course, the reason that Slater gets fast OIA responses is because he is a sock puppet that has been coached on what to request. That is, he is only requesting information that Collins has already identified that she wants to release, but that would be crass/inappropriate/ineffective for her simply issue a press release for.

        • reason 3.2.1.1

          I agree fully RJL ………. Slater the puppet is a bit like a sweaty smelly sock that JK has biffed out …..everyone noticed how filthy it was …… but tax haven John still has his bloated prime ministers office and Farrar to spin and for him

          crusher collins will keep abusing her powers and Lost sole slater will be her ugly sister in arms throwing her dirt around …..

          National have a long history of using the police for their own political ends and the result is always poor policy, less effective policing and loss of reputation for the cops …..

          Collins doubles down on these abuses of power and declines in standards …

      • Grant 3.2.2

        Events surrounding the last election, events I was personally involved in, say different!
        I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the most senior officer for Counties Manukau was Collins puppet! Just one ‘small’ but revealing incident, attended by that same officer, following complaints by Collins supporters, witnessed by others confirms that he was operating at her beck and call.

  4. Fustercluck 4

    When you live in a country run by a dictatorship of cabinet that is empowered by an unaccountable unicameral parliament that operates with no meaningful oversight whatsoever, this is what you get. All of those folks who resist a written constitution against which an independent judiciary can measure and reject laws, a second house of parliament, etc., and who celebrate the “flexibility” of our “constitution” are enabling every act of our immoral and irresponsible governments (and yes, this includes all the neoliberal “Labor” governments that cheerfully participated in this antidemocratic project too).

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      A second house of parliament does absolutely nothing to holding parliament to account. Just look to the US, UK and many other jurisdictions that have two tiered government. It’s either a rubber stamp or a hold up depending if the second house is the same party as the first house or not.

      • Indeed. Unicameralism versus becameralism is just a matter of speed making laws. We have the committee process to slow things down appropriately, so I don’t think an upper hous is necessary. But having more laws be sovereign over Parliament (such as BORA) like FC indicates when talking about an independent judiciary, would be very helpful, and is why I agree codification is necessary within the next decade or so, whether that tips us towards a Republic or not.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1

          But having more laws be sovereign over Parliament (such as BORA) like FC indicates when talking about an independent judiciary, would be very helpful, and is why I agree codification is necessary within the next decade or so, whether that tips us towards a Republic or not.

          QFT

          The only way we can hold parliament to account is by having laws that they can’t change on a whim.

      • Fustercluck 4.1.2

        While I feel a written constitution and a judiciary empowered to judge the acts of the legislature against said constitution is most important, a second House of Parliament with different electoral cycles, different constituencies, and thus different political imperatives, would still be a good that outweighs the bad that posters here rightly point out.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.1.2.1

          a second House of Parliament with different electoral cycles, different constituencies, and thus different political imperatives, would still be a good that outweighs the bad that posters here rightly point out.

          No it won’t. As I say, just look to the bicameral jurisdictions that use such a system. It doesn’t result in better law and it doesn’t produce any checks and balances.

          • McFlock 4.1.2.1.1

            agreed.

            My personal opinion is that for a start we need speaker’s rulings, cabinet manual transgressions, and privileges committee rulings to be fast-track appealed to a standing chamber of the supreme court. I.e. sorted that day or the next.

            At the moment we have the situation where the people who are supposed to enforce the rules have even more contempt for those rules than the mps and ministers who break them. It’s a farce.

          • Fustercluck 4.1.2.1.2

            You’d have a hard time convincing me that a unicameral system is in any way better given our experience in NZ! I remain of the opinion that a well crafted constitution, with balanced power and, yes, a bicameral legislature with carefully and somewhat different roles for each house is a good idea. Having said that, and acknowledging that unicameral/bicameral arguments are a sideshow to the real reforms needed, a well crafted unicameral legislature embedded in a well constructed democracy would be just fine with me!

            • Draco T Bastard 4.1.2.1.2.1

              You’d have a hard time convincing me that a unicameral system is in any way better given our experience in NZ!

              A unicameral system is better as can be proven by just how dysfunctional the worlds bicameral legislatures are.

              What we need in NZ is a well crafted constitution that limits the power of parliament. At the moment our parliament simply has no limits to it except for tradition and, as John Key’s pointed out when he’s gone against that tradition, that’s not actually a legal requirement.

              • Crashcart

                Also replacing the speaker with a Judge to remove the partisan bullshit that goes on would go a hell of a long way. Having ministers forced to act professionally and also work within the rules of the house would allow for far more effective opposition no matter who holds the Government benches.

  5. Takere 5

    How it works is …. when you got burgled you just had to call in, log your details and they’d send you a report to pass onto your insurer to make a claim. GDP Grows a little?!
    Less Police on the beat, reducing man hours. Savings.
    Publicise kiwi drivers are all dangerous drivers justifying fines & ticketing. Savings & Income, GDP growth.
    Extort money from “Suspected” criminals that cases never get to court or cases get dropped. $43m from Ding Dong Lui or whatever his name is. No crime other than the Crown Agency extorting $43m.
    Every Crown Agency is expected to turn some kind of a profit in real terms even though on the balance sheet its a deficit …. Blinglish’s magic accounting software ….

  6. reason 6

    Perhaps it’s part of becoming like Jersey as John Key has worked so hard to achieve that dream ….

    ” an outsider appointed to be Jersey’s deputy police chief until his retirement in 2008, gave a flavour of the small island’s mouldy governance in an affidavit in 2009, following a high-profile child abuse investigation. “There are no checks and balances on power and the abuse of it,” he wrote. “It was like nowhere else in the British Isles … this is obvious each time one tries to make a complaint against any member of the government … With such an absence of controls, such an absence of accountability, the ordinary decent people of Jersey are helpless.”

    “Jersey, like other small island states, has a small powerful elite which pervades all sections of public and private life and which uses its positions and influence to its advantage. In my opinion, the investigation and handling of the police investigation into Haut de la Garenne was not only acutely embarrassing to them but it also opened up a can of worms that they did not want exposed.”

    And here in NZ … ““contentious exemption of professional services firms – mostly lawyers, accountants and real estate agents – from being covered by anti-money laundering laws passed in 2009.” ….

    “Police Association president Greg O’Connor yesterday said the exemption was unsatisfactory and the revelations in briefings to the Ministers should be no surprise………”O’Connor agreed opposition from the sector was the most likely cause: “Naturally enough, they’ll fight this tooth and nail.” http://m.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11706741

  7. Conal Tuohy 7

    Clearly the NZ Herald does not have sufficient “standing” to support “high end” journalism.

    • Well, yes and no. The Herald is subject to a very different problem- NewsHub is the ones suffering from not showing up, I would imagine.

      The Herald (and most Fairfax reporters in Wellington, too) have instead been compromised by institutional capture, where they identify too much with the people they are supposed to have an adversarial relationship with, instead lobbying for “access” to official “sources.”

  8. McFlock 8

    And other police officers have been declining to investigate “dine and dash” crimes, calling them a “civil matter”. It’s actually obtaining credit by deception. By calling them “civil matters”, police are saying they’re not crimes, therefore they won’t be logged as reported crimes.

    So we have a clear pattern of lesser crimes being downgraded and not recorded as crimes, while more serious crimes are downgraded and recorded as minor offences. All to make it look like things are alright in NZ.

    In The Wire, this was called “juking the stats”.

  9. mosa 9

    Another reason why Judith Collins is unsuitable to be a PM.
    The current one is bad enough but Collins would be worse if thats possible.
    And the police force should know better than this, if they are not above reproach then we have a crisis of confidence in those who we have always trusted to obey and enforce the law and a robust disciplinary procedure for those who do not.
    I can feel the slide in our corruption ratings heading downwards.

    • TC 9.1

      Collins should possibly be facing charges or at a minimum been booted from office.

      Higher standards shonky styles.

  10. Red 10

    Look any one in national is a step up on the leader of the opposition., even more so the leader of labour

  11. Henry Filth 11

    Do Statistics New Zealand have a mandate (indeed a legislated duty) to review New Zealand government statistics, and offer helpful suggestions?

    What does the Government Statistician think about this apparent dogs breakfast?

  12. Monique vincent 12

    I have heard of this happening. When a known burglar is in jail near to there release date some are contacted by police who have gatherd the burglary files near to where the inmate lived and told to admit to the charges and they can recommend the sentence is served concurrently or they’ll be charged with them anyway and no recomendation made. The inmate has about a minute to decide whether he’s going home tomorrow or not.
    I dont know for sure i just hesrd it but maybe look into that.

  13. John Ball 13

    It is the police business model and it is called “policing Excellence” and has been running since 2009 and claims a reduction of crime in the order of 17% p.a.
    Cooking the books is a requirement of employment under this business plan. Nothing new! Obviously the “bread and circus” is working well as no one is interested in this fraud. Do some research on “policing excellence”.

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