In a report released today, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found major deficiencies in the way in which Police are responding to fraud complaints, which potentially undermines trust and confidence in not only NZ Police but the criminal justice system generally. However, addressing these deficiencies is only part of the solution to New Zealand’s overall fraud problem. To meaningfully reduce the number of New Zealanders affected by fraud we recommend Police lead the development of a fraud prevention strategy incorporating both public and private sector agencies.
The report is the outcome of a review of Police investigative practices in relation to fraud, which was initiated following receipt of a number of complaints about the way Police handled fraud complaints.
The number of fraud offences is increasing and more New Zealanders are now victims of fraud and deception offences than of any other crime. Moreover, the prevalence of cyber-enabled fraud has significantly increased its complexity and sophistication.
"The Authority has found that the Police response to fraud falls well short of victims’ expectations and is failing to meet the challenges that the present fraud landscape poses ”, said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty. “Frauds are too often being regarded as civil disputes or minor offences. They are not receiving the priority they deserve, and the needs of victims are too often not being met.”
The Authority has upheld each of the seven specific complaints outlined in the report. Those cases exposed a number of fundamental inter-related problems which derive from the fact that Police wrongly view fraud, both systemically and culturally, as having low importance and little impact. This has resulted in:
“It is clear to us that Police need a fundamental overhaul of their processes for recording and investigating fraud”, said Judge Doherty. “We have made a number of proposals for change to that end.”
Some Districts are endeavouring to redress the deficiencies with changes in their processes, but more must be done. The report makes a number of recommendations, including that Police:
“Fraud often has a devastating and enduring impact on people’s lives. It is time for New Zealand Police to treat this crime type with the seriousness it deserves”, said Judge Doherty. “However, better Police responses to fraud will not be enough to address the problem. The improvements that are required can only be effected by a coordinated effort by a range of agencies and private sector institutions to develop an integrated prevention plan. Police should take a national leadership role in developing such a plan”.