The criminal justice system broadly consists of police, courts and correctional services. As such, we have included three examples of initiatives under the umbrella of the justice system: Neighbourhood Policing in Counties Manukau (Police), Rangatahi and Pasifika Youth Courts (Courts) and Māori Focus Units (Correctional Services).
Neighbourhood Policing is a newly-established programme in New Zealand and the full impacts are not yet known. Those involved, however, report that it has the potential to shift Police relationships with communities and reduce levels of crime. It also has the potential to address issues of structural discrimination within the Police force. Neighbourhood Policing changes the values and structure that police work is based upon, in order to make policing more effective in reducing crime by placing an emphasis on prevention and relationship building between communities and Police.
The programme reflects a shift in national Police strategic planning to an overarching philosophy called Community Policing.187 Community Policing incorporates an emphasis on prevention and proactive work that is reliant on relationships with communities and other government agencies. Counties Manukau reflects this prevention philosophy with their new motto, “be safe, feel safe.” Preventative and proactive police-work work builds relationships with neighbourhoods and communities over time, while units simultaneously respond to crime, then follow up with measures to prevent the same problems happening again. One Sergeant says of the neighbourhood policing team:
We're not expert investigators and we're not solely community cops - we're a bit of a mongrel group that can be flexible. The advantage with it is its still relationship-based, so while we're doing our apprehensions and our hard-nosed stuff, we still have a good relationship with both our criminals and our members of the public.188
This approach is based on constructive relationships with the community. As such, the New Zealand Police recognizes that community relationships are strengthened when Police units reflect the cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity of the communities they serve. Counties Manukau, for example, aims to have a workforce comprised of six per cent Asian police, to reflect the Asian population in the community. In our interviews we heard an example of a criminal investigation involving a Sikh family. Indian police staff involved were able to interact with the community using shared language and cultural connections to assist the investigation. Police interactions with the community are more effective when police can connect around shared cultural values.
The Neighbourhood Policing team in Counties Manukau was launched in September 2010, initially with six units of one sergeant and up to six constables. The aim is to have 16 units in Counties Manukau by the end of 2011 and trialling teams in other districts in 2011, before extending the initiative nationwide in 2012. Units within the neighbourhood police teams focus on small, primarily residential neighbourhoods of approximately 4000 people.
In the first phase of the programme the unit visits homes to conduct a household survey. The purpose of the survey is to gather information about community concerns and needs and to visibly begin relationship-building between police and the neighbourhood. Common issues raised by community members during the survey collection in Counties Manukau are family violence, drugs, burglary and truancy. The second phase of the programme sets up local community boards formed with key representatives of the neighbourhood. Together with the community boards, Police participate in community-initiated responses to crime.
The interviewees revealed that there was an initial sense of cynicism within the police force about the Neighbourhood Policing programme. Police were reluctant to sign up, with the view that “neighbourhood policing isn’t real policing.” There has, however, been a marked change in the views of staff who are involved in the programme. Some of the older, more established and respected sergeants signed up for the programme and realized the impact building relationships with members in the neighbourhood had on preventing crime. Additionally, police can become burnt out when dealing with negative aspects of society and appreciate the focus on positive, proactive and community-oriented initiatives.
If the programme meets its potential, it will have many related benefits for communities, beyond crime reduction. One Police staffer interviewed suggested a study on the correlation between the Neighbourhood Policing programme and an increase in property values, as a measure of the success of the programme.
Based on interviews with Police staff involved in Neighbourhood Policing and other reports on the programme, the following factors can be highlighted as key to its potential for success:
Commitment from Government Ministers, Police senior management and Police staff involved.
Ensuring diversity in the police force, as a tool to build relationships with local communities through shared language and culture.
Neighbourhood Policing teams are deployed based on which communities have greatest need. Community needs are then understood better through face-to-face surveys.
Partnership with other government agencies, community and community leaders.
Neighbourhood Policing teams are intended to be a long-term, sustainable way to prevent and reduce crime. The sustainability of the initiative is based on the meaningful relationships developed through the programme’s preventative focus to crime. As well as ongoing commitment from Police, the sustainability of Neighbourhood Policing is in part reliant on leadership from communities and partnership with other government agencies.