Do we need preventive detention for the worst burglars

May 24th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

One of New Zealand’s most prolific burglars has died in custody.

Prison, police and judges could not stop Stacey Spinks’ life of crime.

In the end it was a suspected heart attack that stopped the man whose brazen skills led to him racking up over 300 burglary convictions. …

His offending was continual.

He had over 300 convictions for burglary alone, with many others for breaching sentences, impersonating police officers, escaping, and shoplifting.

The man obviously could not be rehabilitated. Burglary is a lesser offence than violent offending. I don’t think you should have a three strikes and you’re locked up forever for burglary. But how about 100 strikes and you’re out? By out I mean an automatic 10 year (maximum sentence) prison sentence for every burglary conviction after you reach the threshold?

No sentence seemed to deter him.

Twelve times he was caught impersonating a police officer. He even handed over a police business card at commercial premises where he asked about security measures.

There comes a point where you accept someone can not be deterred. Then the focus is on community safety. If we know beyond a slither of a doubt that the moment he is out he will carry on, why let him out?

Blunt on burglaries

March 26th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

blunt burglaries


March 9th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key says he has been burgled three or four times in his life, including once when he “screamed” after confronting an intruder. 

Perhaps the most embarrassing was when his wife Bronagh’s birthday present – a pink Honda City – was stolen when they lived in Wellington. 

His comments came as Police have defended their efforts to solve burglaries, despite the percentage of overall crimes solved dropping below 10 per cent in some parts the country.

On the burglary resolution rate, it is worth noting that there is a difference between the resolution rate for individual burglaries, and the arrest rate for burglars.

Sadly, unless a burglar is stupid or unlucky, it is hard to prove who burgled a house. The nature of burglary is there are generally no witnesses, so it is not like many other crimes. Unless they get caught at the time, captured on camera unmasked, leave DNA/fingerprints or get found with your property, it is hard to prove they did a burglary.

However while a burglar may not get prosecuted for a specific burglary, most burglars do get caught eventually. They may have done 50 burglaries before being caught. There will be enough evidence to prove he or she did say five of them (the Police will have a fair idea they did the others in the area) so officially only five out of 50 burglaries are resolved, but the burglar has still been caught and punished.

Now ideally every burglary will get resolved. It brings peace of mind to know the actual burglar who robbed your place has been found and convicted – for your burglary. But the nature of burglary is that the resolution rate will never be particularly high. The more important indicator is the actual incidence rate.

He had been burgled three or four times, including most recently at his St Stephens Ave house in Parnell, when he was Leader of the Opposition. Those involved were caught. 

Earlier he and wife Bronagh were burgled when they lived in Johnsonville, Wellington, before he entered politics. 

“They stole Bronagh’s birthday present at the time, which was a pink Honda city. Which was of some amusement to the cops at the time – that I’d be stupid enough to buy her one.”

When he lived in Auckland’s Burwood Crescent burglars had “cleaned out” the house.

On one occasion at the Key’s Parnell house he had gone down stairs at 3am – clothed – to see what was happening when the alarm went off.

They had thought it was set off by bad weather.

“The wife sent me down to sort it out … as it turned out it was someone downstairs. I started screaming and the next thing you know the cops turned up.”

Heh, most PMs wouldn’t admit to screaming at a burglar – or buying a pink Honda City 🙂

Just taken a look at the crime stats. This is the rate of burglaries per 10,000 population from 2004 to 2014:


There was a very good decline from 2009 to 2014. The rate has been static since then. would be good to have it decline further.

Three strikes for burglaries

March 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Burglars will be sent to prison for a minimum of three years without parole on the third burglary conviction under new policy announced today by Act leader Jamie Whyte.

A lot of people may be surprised to know that a very similar policy is the law of the land in the United Kingdom, and was passed by a Labour Government.

Under the UK law an adult burglar convicted of their third burglary must be given a sentence of at least three years in prison unless the court considered there to be “exceptional circumstances”. I’m unsure if the UK law is also without parole, but that appears to be the only possible difference.

So this proposal isn’t some far right extremist policy. It is a law put in place by a left-wing Government in the UK – just one that was hard line on law and order.

It is unclear how many people would be affected in New Zealand by such a law, and what the cost would be. ACT deserve some criticism for not having any estimates at all about impact and cost, but the UK experience suggests it may not be that great.

In 2012 there were 2,693 convictions for burglary (as the primary offence). Around 40% of them or 1,055 received a custodial sentence. That suggests repeat burglars are already mainly getting prison sentences.

How long is the average sentence for burglary, if custodial? A report to 2006 found an average sentence of around 15 months. This is for all custodial sentences for burglary. I imagine it is longer for those on their third conviction.

So there would be some costs associated with this policy, with more burglars in prison and for longer. The potential benefits though are that while in prison, recidivist burglars are not robing people’s homes, and also that the law may discourage recidivist burglars from carrying on.

A report in the Daily Telegraph found that from 2000 to 2008, only 3,018 people had been convicted of a third burglary. The burglary rate halved in the decade to 2010.

So what would be the expected number of third strike burglars in NZ, based on respective populations. They have around 15 times our population so one might expect over an eight year period 200 recidivist burglars to get a third strike. That suggests the costs of such a policy could be relatively modest.