Prime time crime: TV shows educating crims

Source: The Courier

Television shows and documentaries depicting crime scenes could be helping criminals avoid detection, police in the Victorian town of Ballarat say.

The comments by Ballarat’s divisional Superintendent Andrew Allen come as Fairfax obtained “cleared crime” police statistics for the last financial year, revealing the rates of solved crime throughout the 2011-12 reporting period.

Police define cleared crime as when an offender is charged, cautioned, the complaint is withdrawn, no offence is detected or when an offender is too young to charge.

Just 84 out of 752 reported home burglaries were cleared by police in the 2011-12 financial year.

Superintendent Allen said the low return could be attributed to a combination of factors,  and stressed that outstanding crimes can still be cleared by police in the next reporting period.

He said one possible reason for the discrepancy could be the prevalence of crime-scene procedure depicted in documentaries and dramas on television – primarily coming from the United States.

“There’s no doubt these (shows) are educating criminals of today and of the future, in my opinion,” he said.

“Its a whole combination of things . . . but with the discussions and experience we’ve got around the investigation table in Ballarat, it would be not unreasonable to say that’s part of it.”

Superintendent Allen said repeat, or recidivist, offenders also “debrief” one another in prison, learning more about police methods each time they are arrested.

“Going back to my days in crime squads, when we charged serious offenders and they’d be remanded into prison, they would debrief each other as to how they were caught, how they were interviewed, how they managed to give either false confessions or false alibis,” he said.

“Once someone goes into the system, cases, methods, modus operandi are discussed with others and comparisons are made – that’s done with all levels of crime.”

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While a low percentage of residential burglaries were cleared inside of the 2011-2012 financial year, 66 of 69 reports of drug manufacture, cultivate and trafficking in Ballarat were cleared in the same period.

Superintendent Allen said the 95 per cent success rate was evidence that targeted operations by Ballarat’s Divisional Response Unit, among others, was having a big effect on the city’s drug scene.

DRU Senior Sergeant Darren Tanis said his unit had recently established a Police Recidivist Offender Team, which specifically targets identified youth and adult recidivist offenders committing offences across the Ballarat police division.

He also said drug traffickers would continue to be a focus for the DRU.

“We will continue to target individuals and groups within Ballarat who traffick drugs into our most vulnerable community members,” he said.

Superintendent Allen said police were adopting a holistic approach to improving community safety in 2013, with detectives, front-line police, covert operatives and members from the Highway Patrol all focusing on repeat offenders.

“We’re responding more with vehicles and on foot – we’re doing as much as we can to put ourselves out there in the community,” he said.

“The community deserves the best service we can provide and if anyone sees somebody committing offences, then we ask people to just make that phone call and we will respond.”

Superintendent Allen said more police would join Ballarat’s growing ranks in 2013 and said the new Ballarat North police station would become operational mid-year.

Other cleared crime statistics include almost 60 per cent of assaults cleared, more than 63 per cent of all rapes cleared and almost 70 per cent of all robberies cleared in 2011-2012.

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