‘Three strikes’ pol­icy fair – bur­glary vic­tim

Central Leader - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Shannon Ber­ridge knows too well what it feels like to be bur­gled.

He is giv­ing a big thumbs-up to a pro­posal which would mean harsher sen­tences for re­peat bur­glars.

But an ex­pert warns that the ACT party’s pro­posal to sub­ject bur­glars to the three strikes sen­tenc­ing pol­icy would be a dou­ble-edged sword.

The three strikes pol­icy came into ef­fect in 2010 and means that the penal­ties get pro­gres­sively harsher for crim­i­nals re­peat­edly con­victed of cer­tain se­ri­ous of­fences. On their third con­vic­tion they re­ceive the max­i­mum sen­tence pos­si­ble.

The law ap­plies to 40 vi­o­lent and se­ri­ous crimes but the ACT party is propos­ing that bur­glary be added to the list.

There were 599 bur­glar­ies in the Auck­land City Po­lice District in Jan­uary alone.

Shannon Ber­ridge’s Mt Roskill home was cleared out by some par­tic­u­larly picky bur­glars in 2012. What was most un­nerv­ing for him and his part­ner was that the thieves sorted through al­most all of their pos­ses­sions to se­lect what they wanted, leav­ing cer­tain DVDs and brands of cloth­ing be­hind.

He’s ‘‘100 per cent’’ be­hind the three strikes pro­posal.

‘‘Three times is a lot of times to get caught. If you haven’t learnt your les­son by then, tough luck.

‘‘And, to be hon­est, if you’ve been caught three times there are prob­a­bly other times you’ve got­ten away with it.’’

The ef­fects of bur­glary on the vic­tims are long last­ing, he says.

He and his part­ner moved out im­me­di­ately af­ter the break-in.

‘‘We didn’t go back. Just be­cause of the man­ner that they went through the house, we didn’t want to be there,’’ he says.

‘‘Be­cause it’s not a vi­o­lent crime, like a rob­bery, I think people per­ceive bur­glary as not be­ing se­ri­ous, but it can be se­ri­ous.’’

Auck­land Univer­sity crim­i­nol­o­gist James Ole­son says the threat of the three strikes pol­icy could be a good de­ter­rent for bur­glars but would bring with it a raft of other is­sues.

He says re­search on this type of sen­tenc­ing sys­tem has shown mixed re­sults and in some cases it can ac­tu­ally drive up crime rates.

‘‘And there are eq­uity is­sues,’’ Mr Ole­son says.

‘‘If two people com­mit sim­i­lar crimes – one a bur­glary and one some other kind of tak­ing – the crime looks vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal but be­cause one tech­ni­cally falls into that group they get a tougher sen­tence. The judge’s hands are tied a bit.’’

It can also dras­ti­cally in­crease prison pop­u­la­tions.

Cal­i­for­nia in­cluded bur­glary in its three strikes pol­icy which ‘‘vir­tu­ally bankrupted the state’’ and lead to dan­ger­ously high prison pop­u­la­tions be­fore the state was forced to make changes, Mr Ole­son says.

Get tougher: Vic­tim Shannon Ber­ridge sup­ports a pro­posal to ex­tend the three strikes sen­tenc­ing pol­icy to cover bur­glar­ies.

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