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September 2010
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Warnings approach welcomed

Use of pre-charge warnings in Auckland metro has been welcomed by many longer serving officers as a return to the use of police discretion.

The warnings are the first part of a move to alternative resolutions nationally, which will allow Police to continue to confront offending and redress for victims while reducing reliance on the sometimes counter-productive courts processes for minor offences. Initial data trends show promising results in reducing volumes of prosecutions.

Between November 2009 and May 2010, there was a nine percent reduction in the number of minor offences that would otherwise have been prosecuted across Auckland metro districts.

The most common offences resolved by formal warnings were disorder, breaches of liquor bans, shoplifting, fighting in a public place and procuring/possessing cannabis.

A survey of stakeholders’ views of the pre-charge initiative, including a small sample of victims, showed positive feedback from the retailers affected. They appreciated Police had made an arrest and their staff didn’t have to appear in court.

Alternative resolutions is one of the workstreams under the Policing Excellence portfolio.

The portfolio is a range of common sense initiatives driven by district commanders to:

  • better understand victims’ needs
  • place more emphasis on preventing crime and crashes
  • improve Police’s ability to respond to changing demands.

Waitematā District Commander Bill Searle, who is leading the alternative resolutions workstream, says most officers like the fact formal cautions can hold offenders to account for their behaviour without criminalising them for minor offences.

“A major bonus for officers is formal warnings reduce the paperwork and time spent on court-related activity.

“Less bureaucracy means more time spent on preventing crime and focusing on more serious offending,” he says.

Pre-charge warnings are expected to be rolled out nationally this month and further work will proceed on a nationally consistent approach to traffic warnings, pre-arrest warnings and the use of community panels.

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