Tough targets set to reduce Maori offending

Police and iwi have set tough targets for reducing Maori offending and road fatalities as part of a new Whanau Ora initiative.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall today launched the Turning of the Tide crime and crash prevention strategy, which aims to reduce Maori first-time offending by 10 per cent and repeat offending by 20 per cent by 2018.

The strategy also hopes to reduce apprehensions leading to prosecutions by 25 per cent, and the number of fatal and serious road crashes involving Maori by 20 per cent.

It was developed by the commissioner's Maori Focus Forum, a group of senior iwi representatives from around the country, with help from police.

The strategy draws on iwi crime and crash prevention plans developed Te Arawa, Ngapuhi, Ngati Whatua and Tainui and has been strongly endorsed by iwi leaders around the country.

Part of the strategy will involve police informing iwi about crimes in their areas, so they were aware of who needed support.

Police intelligence director Mark Evans said a new senior intelligence advisor, to be appointed in February, would help identify repeat victims, offenders and road crash locations.

"We're really focused on helping iwi understand who their repeat offenders are so they can help them, who their repeat victims are so they can support them, and what the repeat locations are so they can have conversations with police or other agencies about what we might do about those places."

Mr Evans said police had put processes in place so privacy would be protected.

Police had already done a lot of work to identify where Maori were dying on the roads, and iwi would be given specific information on high risk roads this afternoon.

The new role will be funded within existing police budgets rather than Whanau Ora funding.

Mr Marshall told senior iwi and police today that the strategy, which was six years in the making, had set some "ambitious targets".

He said iwi needed to take the lead, but police had also looked into their practices to see how they could complement the work of iwi.

Mr Marshall said there was an obvious need to reduce the number of Maori entering and re-entering the criminal justice system and dying on the roads.

Maori accounted for more than 40 per cent of all police apprehensions, more than 50 per cent of the prison population and more than 20 per cent of crash fatalities, despite making up only 15 per cent of New Zealand's population.

"It wasn't always like this and everyone recognises things need to change," Mr Marshall said.

He pointed to research which found a 10 per reduction in repeat Maori offending by 2025 would save the criminal justice system $400 million, put $150m back into Maori households and generate $20m in tax revenue.

Reducing road crashes involving Maori, which had cost $3 billion in the last five years, would also bring benefits.

Naida Glavish, who has helped lead the Ngati Whatua crime prevention plan, said there had been a lack of trust between iwi and police in the past, but the crime prevention strategy was eroding that.

To be successful, the strategy needed support from police, good information-sharing, and local governance oversight.

Ngati Porou leader and forum member Apirana Mahuika said most Maori victims or offenders were under 25 years of age.

"With our population of young people growing, if we do nothing, then even more Maori will end up in hospitals, police cells, courts and prisons. We can't let that happen," he said.

Dr Mahuika said iwi around the country were serious about working with police to make a long-term change.

- Matthew Backhouse of APNZ

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