New Zealand Police: Dealing with dwelling burglary - follow-up audit.

Dwelling burglary is an invasive crime. It occurs often, and is a cause of concern for many New Zealanders. Victimisation surveys indicate that many of us fear being burgled. Reducing the number of dwelling burglary crimes is a priority for the New Zealand Police (the Police).

In 2001, we looked at how the Police deal with dwelling burglary. In this follow-up report, we examine the progress and changes made by the Police. We used a case study approach, and carried out our fieldwork in 4 diverse Police Areas. (Nationally, there are 12 Police Districts. Each District includes several Police Areas, which are local operational units of the Police.) We also reviewed documentation, and interviewed Police staff at the Office of the Commissioner and in the Royal New Zealand Police College.

Our findings

Overall, the Police have considerably improved the way they deal with dwelling burglary. However, because there are many and complex factors that can influence crime, we are unable to assess how much of the generally downward trend in recorded dwelling burglary offences is caused by those improvements.

Intelligence-led policing

Intelligence-led policing means using criminal intelligence analysis to identify factors contributing to crime, and directing Police resources towards addressing them. In 2001, the intelligence units operating in Police Areas did not have enough of a profile within the Police to meet their full potential.

Since then, the Police have prepared a national implementation strategy for an intelligence-led Crime Reduction Model. This has raised the profile and importance of intelligence units in the Police Areas we examined. Intelligence reports identifying major crime risks and factors contributing to crime are increasingly used to guide specific policing action plans, on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

We saw more advanced intelligence analysis capabilities in our case studies at the District level, compared with the local Area level.

Identifying and sharing good practice for dealing with dwelling burglary

In 2001, we found limited formal sharing of good practice for dealing with dwelling burglary. The Police have improved their identification and sharing of good practice since then. Each of the 12 Districts has its overall performance formally reviewed twice a year by the Office of the Commissioner, with opportunities for improvement identified.

The Police are also working to better share good practice by having staff attend national conferences, having a senior management role in each District focused on identifying good practice, and using Police Area Clusters.

Police Area Clusters are a recent initiative. Police Areas are sorted into 5 different groups, based on socio-economic and demographic similarity. Police staff in some of the Clusters have started sharing good practice for tackling common factors contributing to crime.

Electronic sharing of good practice using the intranet and e-mail groups is increasingly important in the Police, but staff can experience some difficulties in retrieving information.

Using forensic techniques for investigating dwelling burglary

Forensic analysis and scene examinations are vital techniques used by the Police to investigate dwelling burglaries, and identify offenders. In 2001, we found that the Police were unlikely to have been making the best use of forensic science techniques. The techniques were used variably, and there were weaknesses in resource planning.

The Police have significantly improved their resource planning of the forensic techniques used to investigate dwelling burglaries. Since mid-2005, the Police have had a new contract with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR) for the provision of forensic science services. Under this new agreement, the cost of forensic services ESR provides to the Police is based on the process used, not on the type of case. This offers substantial cost savings for each dwelling burglary case, and more transparency in the expected costs for the Police.

All of the Districts we looked at have introduced quality control measures for collecting forensic samples, and submitting them to ESR. The measures include having specialist officers trained in evidence gathering attend more burglary scenes, and using “gatekeepers” to approve and sign-off samples sent to ESR. The “gatekeepers” also ensure that the Districts’ forensics budgets are spent effectively.

Legislative and technological changes since 2001 have made it easier for the Police to obtain DNA from suspected and convicted burglars.

Monitoring against performance targets

In 2001, we found that the overall goals of the Police were not always carried through to operational planning. The Police’s strategic direction and the operational planning of Districts and Areas are now more tightly aligned. There is greater accountability and urgency for meeting operational targets, including linking District Commanders’ performance agreements to the results of District Performance Reviews.

The Crimes Amendment Act 2003 has changed the legal definition of burglary. This has created some coding difficulties for Police. For example, some offences that used to be coded as thefts are now categorised as burglaries. This may lead to coding inconsistencies between Districts.

Co-ordinated guidance for Police involved in investigating dwelling burglary

In 2001, we found scope within the Police for shared guidelines for dealing with dwelling burglaries.

The Police now make more use of their specialist burglary investigation staff. This improves the quality and consistency of burglary investigations.

Field Training Officers were introduced in 2003 as a way to co-ordinate the guidance given to new Police officers. Field Training Officers are experienced constables who provide mentoring and on-the-job supervision of new officers. We have some concerns about this scheme, including an adverse effect on recruitment to specialist sections of the Police, and the absence of formalisation or assessment systems.

Our recommendations

In this follow-up report, we recommend that:

  1. the New Zealand Police consider seconding intelligence analysts in the Districts into intelligence units that are using advanced analysis techniques, to improve intelligence capabilities across all Districts and Areas;
  2. the New Zealand Police formally evaluate the effectiveness of intelligence-led policing in reducing crime;
  3. the New Zealand Police monitor progress of the Police Area Clusters initiative, including assessing its effectiveness in disseminating good practice. If applicable, the reasons why some of the Area Cluster groups do not interact should be identified and addressed;
  4. the New Zealand Police review the existing electronic systems for disseminating good practice and information across all sections of the organisation, and assess whether the systems’ accessibility and search functions can be improved;
  5. the New Zealand Police update and maintain formal national guidelines for coding different crimes, to ensure consistency of reporting across all Districts; and
  6. the New Zealand Police undertake a formal evaluation of the Field Training Officer role, to assess whether the scheme is working well and meeting its original aims, and how the Field Training Officer role might be affecting the recruitment needs of specialist sections of the Police.
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