Police error leak 'political': Collins

Judith Collins. Photo NZ Herald
Judith Collins. Photo NZ Herald
Former Police Minister and Papakura MP Judith Collins was told there might be a problem with how police handled statistics around the same time as police were wrongly recording incidents to make hundreds of burglaries disappear - but she didn't investigate further.

Ms Collins, who is acting Police Minister while Anne Tolley is overseas, launched an attack on Labour police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern, calling the leaking of a report into police mistakes "politically motivated".

A police internal investigation revealed that from 2009 to 2012, five officers in Counties Manukau had re-coded about 700 burglaries as incidents, which are not counted in crime statistics, raising questions about political pressure to keep crime figures down.

The investigation - revealed by the Herald on Sunday yesterday - found that offences should have been recorded as burglaries for 70 per cent of those incidents. Police are calling it an isolated incident, which has now led to spot audits throughout the country to ensure the integrity of statistics.

Ms Collins rejected any suggestion of political pressure.

"The one thing you learn as police minister is you are the least able to have input because of the independence of police.

"I was really disgusted by Jacinda Ardern's comments in the media. "The fact that it's been sitting around for two years, and the Opposition's only just got on to it and been rarking it up right before an election tells me that it's politically motivated."

The period was when Ms Collins was police minister, and included Ms Collins' electorate of Papakura.

She said she had been told "something about the stats" possibly just after she had finished up as police minister at the end of 2011.

"I'd just heard at some stage, and I don't know when, and I can't tell you in what capacity. But I knew that something was wrong with something to do with the statistics."

She did not pass it on to the police minister because she "didn't have details". She did not seek further details "because it was very historical".

Ms Ardern denied any knowledge of the police report before media contacted her on Saturday.

"Of course we are not implying this is something that every police officer has engaged in. That would be totally unfair," she said. "But we think it is important to maintain public confidence in police record-keeping, via the minister demonstrating that this is not a more widespread problem, and I think that is an entirely reasonable request."

Counties Manukau district commander Superintendent John Tims said the officers were sanctioned.

"It comes down to five people in an area in Counties Manukau that just didn't understand the national recording standards and what was required of them," he said.

Moving offences

Burglaries that were changed to another offence

• Offender has smashed window to premises in an attempt to open door but it has a dead bolt. Attempted burglary but recoded as intentional damage.

• Offenders entered lunchroom at school, gained entry and stole food from freezer, did graffiti on areas of the school. Recoded as wilful damage.
Burglaries that were changed to non-crime incident

• Complainant was away from her home for two days in April 2011. When she returned she found offenders had gained access through insecure windows and searched through bedroom closets. Food had been removed from fridge and freezer.

• Complainant left dwelling alarmed and went to neighbour's house. Alarm was activated. Complainant found offender had placed trampoline steps under a window and used an implement to lever the window.

- NZ Herald

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