Thursday, October 29, 2009

Picking up the tab on law and order

A lot of very expensive pre-election law and order promises are coming online. The Nats have given the police everything they asked for. Labour's old idea for an organised crime bureau has been repackaged in friendly blue colours as a Nat initiative. A stack of new crimes have been invented, from recreational (boyracer-like) driving to driving with a cellphone or on drugs.

The prisons are getting kitted out and fitted for double-bunking. At least one new prison on the way and a whole bunch of old ones are being dusted off. We're at a record prison muster already. It is anyone's guess how many will be behind bars and off the electoral roll come 2011.

Everyone arrested for a crime with potential jail punishment, from drink drivers to drunk entertainers in alleyways, will have their DNA taken by the authorities, at least by 2011. The scheme is being staggered in.

The entire reason for this greatly expanded database is to solve current or cold cases, sez the ESR:
Of the 100,000 DNA samples held in the databank, 8,000 relate to unsolved criminal cases or “cold cases” according to the Ministry of Justice.

The Science Centre goes on to quote forensic science expert Dr Anna Sandiford: 
“Personally, I have no problem with the New Zealand Police being given greater powers to collect DNA samples from individuals who will be charged with an offence."

Professionally though, Sandiford has also been assisting the UK government database, so this is not a disinterested opinion. Seeing how the ESR is the business being kept in clover with the expansive new program as well, there's every reason for them to sex this up.

Time will tell. Take this snippet from The Press:
The Justice Ministry forecasts that 4000 more samples than usual will be taken in the first year of the new laws from next July. A further 5000 samples will be taken in phase two, expected to come into force in 2011, when the power to take DNA will be extended to all imprisonable offences for adults.

It will be very easy to see the effectiveness of the scheme. Come July 2011, after one year of that first additional "4000" DNA samples, just pull an OIA on just how many "current and cold cases" got solved. Let's see then whether it is good value.

That's the thing with law and order promises. They aren't cheap and you can't juke all the stats all the time.