Street Offences and Crime Prevention
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Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 09/1998 by Gareth Griffith and Rachel Simpson
- Proposed reform package: Arising out of the recent law and order debate in NSW the Premier has foreshadowed a package of reforms, including the creation of a new offence involving a prohibition on the carrying of any knife in a public place or school. Also, the police are to be given a Statewide power to search for knives and other weapons where they have a reason to suspect that a person is carrying any deadly weapon. Another feature of the proposed package is that police powers will be codified and consolidated into a single Act.
- Background issues: Among the key background issues to any debate about police powers in this State are the findings of the Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service and the statistical findings on crime rates and the fear of crime.
- Viewpoints in the contemporary debate: As one would expect, comments on the recent developments in the law and order debate, as well as on the proposed reform package, show a varying degree of emphasis on the need for stricter policing and more police powers, on one side, against a concern for balancing effective law enforcement with the protection of civil liberties, on the other.
- Present police powers in NSW relating to street offences: At present the relevant police powers are contained in a number of Acts, notably the Summary Offences Act 1988 and the Crimes Act 1900.
- Approaches to crime prevention: Broadly speaking, a distinction can be made between those approaches which emphasise individual responsibility and accountability, against those which stress social and cultural influences on human action and behaviour.
- US National Institute of Justice report: By way of an overview of the available international research, this 1997 report presents an account of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a wide range of crime prevention programs in America, Europe and Australia. For example, it concludes that increased directed patrols in street-corner hot spots of crime works; that arrests of juveniles for minor offences doesn't work; and that zero tolerance policing is promising, provided legitimacy issues can be addressed.
- Preventing drug related crime: Various approaches have been tried in the US, including the electronic tagging of drug offenders and the use of drug courts which attempt to combine increased surveillance with treatment.
- Australian perspectives on crime prevention: Over the past two decades or so the various Australian jurisdictions have adopted a wide range of crime prevention programs and strategies. These include the introduction in NSW in 1982 of random breath testing of motorists. When overseas experience is relied upon, the question of its applicability to Australian conditions is an issue in itself. This is an important consideration in the current debate about zero tolerance policing.