Make addressing violent crime a priority

So, another dairy has been robbed. An occurrence happening all too frequently the length and breadth of New Zealand with the perpetrators getting away just as frequently.

But the worst part of this horror show is the courts. Soft as butter judges playing namby pamby games with peoples lives and livelihoods. The conservative parts of society might call for a return to the gravel pits for such offenders, but this fails to address the core societal issues that are leading to these horrendous crimes in the first place. By this I am talking about the lack of role models in their lives and the presence of drugs; their failure in the school system and a lack of a job.

But at the same time the courts have a job to do and they are failing at it in an abject way. It is almost like in some cases the judges do not care any more. I find it hard to believe that human rights laws for children have advanced to the degree that some say they have and that as a result the judges somehow have their hands tied.

I wonder if part of the justice process, a judge has ever asked an offender what their ambitions in life are. I am certainly not suggesting showing sympathy, but almost none of these offenders have probably thought about where they want to go in life. Maybe – I could be totally wrong, but just assume for a moment I am not – they simply need someone in a position of authority to show them right from wrong. If they don’t care, then that is a different story.

So, what are some of the steps that need to be taken? Several steps:

  • For starters I think Civics/Legal Studies needs to be compulsory in Year 12. Students need to know how the law works because at some point they are going to have to deal with it, so they better learn.
  • A youth policing section needs to be established so that young people learn to work with the police and see that they will only be in their lives if they commit crime or are the victims of crime
  • Synthetic cannabis needs to be banned immediately and all shops given one weeks grace to hand over their stock – all in possession of it should be given an equally short grace period to hand over their private stock
  • Small amounts of cannabis should be decriminalized – police are wasting their time and resources dealing with anything under say 5 grams
  • Importers/dealers and manufacturers of illegal substances should have a 10 year starting jail sentence plus anything purchased using the profits of their criminal activity should be seized and sold – money raised goes to funding drug treatment; non New Zealanders should be deported and permanently barred from reentering

But none of this will work if there is not a co-ordinated approach involving the co-operation of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Education.

If a rise in tax is necessary to fund this, do it. Done properly, it will pay for itself in time.

National not serious about crime

When one thinks of a conservative party, they think of a party that is normally strong on law and order. It will be a party that spends more on the police, normally has a harder line on sentencing and talks about rights of the victims.

It all sounds well and good, if in the case of National, it were actually true. If National were serious about crime, then why is there this long litany of armed hold ups that have all been carried out in Auckland since 01 January 2017?

In January:

In February:

In March:

In April:

In May:

In June

It seems that not a single week goes past without a new armed hold up happening somewhere in Auckland. It might be Mangere or Manukau. It might be somewhere on the North Shore or out west in Waitakere. The target might be a family run dairy. It might be a superette or a bar – the targeting seems indiscriminate.

The victims are understandably fearful for their lives. It is quite a violating thought to know that you, in the course of your every day work life were subject to an attack on your premises by thugs. They might have been looking for cash or cigarettes to sell on the black market. Whatever the case the outcome is the same – another one for the crime stats, a legitimate business violated and the owner/operator scared to death.

So, this is what has happened in Auckland alone since June. It does not include any offences reported in Hamilton, Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch, or anywhere else.

The causes can be debated, though one can fairly conclusively suggest that increased taxes on tobacco products are at least in part to blame. The black market is thriving.

So, just stop and think about this when you decide who to vote for in September. Who do you think will try to address the causes of these offences – National? Labour? New Zealand First? Greens?

And more importantly, WHY?

The firearms threshold and the New Zealand police

Yesterday it came to my attention that an American police officer had shot dead an Australian woman living in Minneapolis when she approached his patrol car. The Australian woman, Justine Damond had called 911 to report what she thought was a sexual assault happening in the alleyway next to the property she and her fiance lived at. When the police arrived, she went out to talk to them, in her pajama’s. As she approached the car, an officer shot her through the open window.

It is incidents like this that make me very glad that New Zealand police operate to a significantly higher threshold for drawing on firearms than their American counterparts appear to. Granted the United States has a much larger population than New Zealand and much more complex and dynamic criminal elements, there is one really fundamentally troubling aspect to this shocking case:

The lady posed no threat whatsoever to the officer who shot her.

So how on Earth did he come to the conclusion he needed to draw a weapon, much less use it? When I look at police shootings here, I am grateful for the training New Zealand police receive. There are several very good reasons why I hope I never see New Zealand police officers routinely wear fire arms:

  1. The New Zealand police are trained differently and are taught to understand that the fire arm is the weapon of last resort. Because it is purpose built for delivering a potentially lethal injury, the threshhold for using a gun are correspondingly higher than that for using a taser, or lesser device such as a baton or pepper spray. I hope it stays that way.
  2. There is a certain degree of risk to the credibility of authorities when they play the fear card. New Zealand is a nation that does not like to be ruled by fear. If New Zealanders think authorities are purposefully playing on fear, the authorities will lose respect and any measures seen as punitive will become the target of ridicule. By giving authorities the means to use lethal force, the red line in the sand between credible fear and scare mongering comes a giant step closer to merging.
  3. The gun culture in America makes things much more dangerous than it does in New Zealand. Because the Second Amendment explicitly permits Americans to use firearms for self defence, and because the National Rifle Association holds significant clout with conservatives who often complain about Americans having their gun rights eroded, it is a highly politicized issue which can cause politicians to tread unnecessarily warily around. We do not have that antagonism here and there is no reason to start now.
  4. There is a degree of moral integrity at stake when a police officer shoots someone – for arguments sake – fatally. Because if that person was not armed, or in possession of something less lethal than a fire arm, unless the officer had expended the non-lethal options at their disposal and had failed to subdue the suspect, that officer has potentially committed manslaughter (giving the officer the benefit of the doubt that they did not intend to kill). How can one ascertain the suitability of an officer to possess firearms?
  5. The Police Complaints Authority and the system of accountability it uses to ensure that complaints against the New Zealand Police can be assessed have been found wanting with current cases. One where a formal complaint is laid for the accidental shooting of a homeless man high on methamphetamine could expose it and New Zealands reputation as a safe place with a reliable police force at risk. We cannot afford that.

However, a person high on drugs cannot be reasoned with, at least not safely. Their reactions, their understanding of their immediate physical circumstances and their location is likely to be affected. An officer who approaches a person in such a state is right to be wary.

Despite the concerns that New Zealand police may become like their American counterparts, I think the public scrutiny on the police force and their reactivity to that scrutiny is a good thing. The certainty that individual shootings are automatically referred to the Police Conduct Authority means officers have good reason to be careful about the use of force.

Margaret Dodd symptomatic of a bigger problem

We talk so often about people being unstable in terms of their mental health and needing urgent help. We see what happens when people in desperate need of mental health assistance begin to offend. Yet, New Zealand cuts their funding, cuts the services that might save their lives, save New Zealand from another innocent person being raped/murdered/etc by someone whose mind is shot. And now, in 2017 I tell you about a case that I have been casually tracking vis-a-vis the media for the last couple of years. It is about a woman who at first I thought was just a a disgusting woman with a sick perversion towards young boys, but now I honestly think she needs mental health assistance and fast.

The re-emergence of Margaret Dodd in the media should be of significant concern not only to people who are parents of young children, but to health authorities as well. After a jail period of several months, a lady who has been banned from numerous schools, parks and other public areas, is once again being found loitering around areas with young children, particularly young boys. Her case is not new. This began as much as 2 or 3 years ago. The lady involved is in her 50’s or early 60’s and – much to the chagrin of the police, public and schools alike – she cannot really be touched for one reason or another, and yet, the danger she poses should set alarm bells ringing in every school in her vicinity.

But is Margaret Dodd actually a serious danger? There is no doubt that she has a major problem with boys, especially those of pre-pubescent age. There is no doubt that she has posed a risk to them by constantly being around them in ways any parent would find profoundly disturbing. But – and we could all be wrong here – something in the normal sense of someone being seriously in need of being locked up is not quite adding up.

The very sad and ugly truth about mental health in New Zealand is that people are committing violent or potentially violent offences in order to get themselves noticed by officials. Driven to desperation from continually being turned away, their ability to articulate their issue matched and in too many cases overtaken by the deaf, totally mute mental welfare system, they turn to crime. Their lives are spiralling out of control, out the ability of friends and loved ones to help, who find themselves recoiling at what has happened to a person who in the past might have been among their nearest and dearest.

Whilst I am concerned in no uncertain terms about what Margaret Dodd may be up to, she strikes me as someone who may have back ground issues. And this is where things become quite alarmiing. Margaret Dodd has shown no understanding, remorse or anything else that might suggest she migh know the implications of what she is doing. And yet her offences seem to be accelerating. Going to jail seems to have done nothing at all for her – or anyone else

I am NOT defending Margaret Dodd. If she is a cunning calculating paedophile or other offender who is simply playing the system, she needs to go away for a long time.

But what if she is genuinely not able to understand what she has done? What if she is genuinely mentally ill and needs help?

Jail with a bunch of other criminals sure ain’t gonna help that. So let us assess Margaret Dodd. Is this lady who has been harassing Christchurch schools, parks and other public places an actual menace or someone screaming for help because social agencies have once again failed to spot the warning signs?


Tribal Huk P war not credible

Tribal Huk President Jamie Pink gave methamphetamine dealers in Ngaruawahia a 24 hour deadline to leave town or his gang would physically evict them. The deadline came and went. Mr Pink himself says that following the expiry of the deadline, he and his gang sent 16 individual dealers packing. Mr Pink would carry a sledgehammer when evicting the dealers.

A few days later his car was shot at and he allegedly lost an eye. A few days later after being arrested, Mr Pink appeared in court Unfortunately being found in possession of two shotguns is not a minor offence and it sets a very negative example for the children who may see him as a good guy because he helps feed them. Telling the Police and Waikato Times staff to be careful can also be misinterpreted as a warning of violence if they get too deeply interested. This is a man who has done three separate stints in jail for serious violence and who has indicated that he and his gang will not hesitate to attack rivals in the street if they turn up in Ngaruawahia.

Ngaruawahia is a depressed town on the bank of the Waikato River, which used to be home for people working at  Huntly power station or in the coal mines feeding the power station. As the power station has become run centrally, fewer people have been needed at the power stations, and concerns about climate change a down turn in the coal market have made it difficult to find work in and around the town. Mr Pink and his gang have been doing good in the community with their sandwich making programme for hungry school kids. If he had desisted the urge to seek publicity over his threat to drive out the methamphetamine dealers and maybe expanded the lunch menu instead, it would have been deserving of positive media coverage, and might have encouraged sponsorship of the scheme.

More unfortunately, the Police Association says there is no evidence that any methamphetamine dealers in Ngaruawahia have left. The main cause of criminal activity in the township thus still exists.