‘Three strikes’ policy fair – burglary victim
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.