Part 6: Co-ordinated guidance for Police involved in investigating dwelling burglary

New Zealand Police: Dealing with dwelling burglary - follow-up audit.

In this Part, we set out:

  • our findings about co-ordinated guidance in 2001; and
  • co-ordinated guidance for investigating dwelling burglary in 2005.

Co-ordinated guidance in 2001

In 2001, we concluded that there was scope for the Police to use more detailed, shared guidelines for dealing with burglary investigations. This would reduce duplication of effort, inconsistent approaches to the same tasks, and lost opportunities to share new approaches.

Our findings in 2005

The New Zealand Police is a de-centralised organisation, with much autonomy devolved to the 12 Districts. This management structure, combined with substantial diversity of socio-economic and demographic conditions between different regions, has led to the Districts adopting some different operational approaches. This means that how the Police organise themselves for burglary investigations, including on-the-job training and informal information sharing, is important.

Dedicated burglary attendance and investigation teams

A common way to improve performance is to use specialist burglary investigation staff for scene attendance and subsequent investigation. Figure 9 summarises the different dedicated or specialist teams (excluding SOCOs) involved in burglary investigation in the 4 Police Areas we studied.

Although there are terminology and structure differences in the 4 Areas we examined, they share some common characteristics. First, some of the Areas have introduced dedicated teams to be the first to attend the scene of reported burglaries. In the case of Christchurch Central Area, an Incident Reporting Centre was introduced in 2005 as a District-level reporting desk for burglaries and other crimes where an offender was no longer at the scene.16 Second, all 4 Areas have specialist teams that focus on investigating high-incidence crimes.

Figure 9
Dedicated burglary investigation staff in the case study Police Areas

Police AreaUse of dedicated personnel for investigating dwelling burglaries
Christchurch CentralVolume crime team – Investigates high incidence crimes such as burglary.

Incident Response Centre – A District-level reporting desk for members of the public to report burglaries (where an offender is no longer at the scene) and minor “cold” crimes. Call-takers receive training from SOCOs on how to make initial assessments over the telephone. These assessments include whether sufficient evidence exists at the scene to arrange for a SOCO to attend the scene.
Counties Manukau East Burglary Attendees Team – The team’s role is to attend burglary scenes within 24 hours, and carry out the initial investigation for every dwelling burglary. Police officers from response units are rotated through the team.
Burglary Tasking Squad – A tactical crime response unit that concentrates on investigating crimes such as burglary.
Kapiti-ManaBurglary Response Team – A specialist team that attends, with a SOCO, every dwelling burglary.
Crime Control Unit – A dedicated crime investigation squad.
Waikato West Law Enforcement Team – A specialist team that concentrates on investigating high incidence crimes, including burglary.

We identified several potential advantages of dedicated burglary attendance and investigation teams:

  • accuracy, consistency, and quality of reporting can be improved by using dedicated staff;
  • response times can be shortened by not having attending staff diverted to other policing tasks;17
  • identification of “hot offenders”, “hot locations”, and “hot victims” is enhanced (including learning the operating methods of prolific and recidivist burglars);
  • specialist burglary investigation training can be used and targeted; and
  • other frontline Police staff are freed from investigating historical burglaries to concentrate on other factors contributing to crime.

In our case studies, although we observed potential advantages with dedicated burglary response staff, we also noted that their resourcing came out of existing District or Area budgets. The Police therefore prioritised resources, with burglary and other crimes targeted for attention. It is likely that the use of dedicated burglary attendance or investigation teams may not be a practical or an efficient use of staff and resources in some other Areas. This includes Areas where the number of staff is small in each station, or the incidence of burglary is low compared with other crimes.

Field Training Officers

Field Training Officers are an initiative for “on-the-job” co-ordinated guidance, introduced by the Police since our 2001 report. Field Training Officers are experienced constables who are paid an extra annual allowance to provide mentoring and on-the-job training to probationary constables.18 The role was originally conceived as a way to retain experienced officers on frontline policing duty in metropolitan Auckland, but was introduced in all Districts as part of a national pay round in August 2003.

In our view, the Field Training Officers scheme has the potential to be an important way for new Police officers to receive on-the-job training and supervision in practical policing activities such as burglary investigation. It is also useful in Districts or Areas where staff turnover, or the number of probationary constables, is high.

However, we have 2 concerns with the way the scheme is organised:

  • It may have contributed to recruitment difficulties for specialist Police sections, such as the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB). The Police should assess the extent to which this has happened.
  • No national assessment systems are in place relating to the role (for either the probationary officer or the mentor), although some Districts have introduced their own training sessions for the role based on an initial course prepared by the Royal New Zealand Police College.
Recommendation 6
We recommend that the New Zealand Police undertake a formal evaluation of the Field Training Officer role, to assess whether the scheme is working well and meeting its original aims, and how the Field Training Officer role might be affecting the recruitment needs of specialist sections of the Police.

16: We understand that the Wellington District is also planning a pilot of a single reporting desk for the District.

17: Some of the Areas we examined have introduced tight response processes for burglary cases, such as requiring attendance at the scene of all reported burglaries within 24 hours.

18: Probationary constables are new Police officers who have completed their initial training at the Royal New Zealand Police College, and have been assigned to a District for a 2-year probationary period.

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