Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Achieving Better Public Services

Back in 2012, the National Government set itself some targets as part of its "Better Public Services" Programme. Among them was a goal to "reduce the recorded crime rate by 15 percent, the violent crime rate by 20 percent and the youth crime rate by 5 percent". Apparently they've been doing very well at this, with Police Minister Michael Woodhouse so pleased with progress that he has strengthened the targets to a 20% reduction in crime. Its a success story, a clear example of how targets drive performance.

Or maybe not. Because police statistics released by the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse show something interesting:

Police conducted 101,981 family violence investigations in 2014. In only 37 percent of investigations was an offence recorded. This is down from 47 percent in 2008.

Isn't that amazing? The government sets a target to reduce crime, and specifically violent crime, and suddenly police are recording fewer offences in its most common category? Which sounds awfully familiar:
"Juking the stats ... Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and majors become colonels. I've been here before."

And concerns about stat-juking aside, there's another serious problem here: resolution rates have dropped by roughly 10%, or 20% for sexual offences against adults. So, the police are recording fewer crimes, and solving fewer of the ones they do record. Which suggests that there may be a problem with resourcing here...