The release of figures by the Police Crime and Problem Analysis (CAPA) Branch has allowed conclusions both about progress the authorities are keen to report and about the standstill in law enforcement capacity that frustrates everyone else. The released data do not indicate the extent to which the police are solving crimes committed, and the criminal justice system is effectively prosecuting and deterring wrongdoers.
In the spirit of Christmas, top officers such as deputy Commissioner Mervyn Richardson projected, a friendly face of the local police inside hot-spot neighbourhoods such as Sea Lots. Doing this in the media spotlight does, or should, translate into crime-fighting gains.
Still, the question of whether the police are getting better at what they do remains without adequate or any answers. Are officers being motivated to apply smart new approaches, with the assistance of today's technology and know-how?
This is in part a matter of leadership, which has remained in crisis, reflected in the reality that acting Commissioner Stephen Williams is likely to keep holding on indefinitely. Meanwhile, the initiatives and the ideas associated with the foreshortened term of last substantive commissioner Dwayne Gibbs remain in a no-man's landóneither formally repudiated nor actively pursued.
It is not clear, for example, how extensively long-touted CCTV cameras have been deployed and maintained. Again, the GPS technology to keep police vehicles under constant monitoring by a central command may well have fallen into disuse, with Dr Gibbs no longer available to drive his 21st Century Policing.†
Even earlier, a chapter had been closed without any known evaluation and application of what had been achieved by the now disbanded Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT). Certainly, the record shows that, in the heyday of the operations of the much-vaunted, specialised SAUTT, the murder toll reached unsurpassed heights, with little observable advance in detection and prosecution.
Sequels to the troubling December 29 death of Defence Force Lance Corporal Curtis Marshall sadly confirmed the difficulties affecting forensic investigations. As successive autopsies threw up different explanations of death, what became clear is the degree to which criminal investigations may be handicapped on account of insufficiency of technical know-how.
From all reports, the criminal justice system as a whole is nowhere near to such a state of readiness as would support a thorough-going "war on crime". The anti-gang legislation, on which much hope had been pinned, was in late 2011 grievously found wanting, but not since amended as necessary.
Moreover, the prospects for clearing court system backlogs and speeding up trials only darkened with the postponement of implementation of applicable provisions of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings Act). With so many enabling factors for advancing the fight against crime proving to be fraught with delays or missteps, there appears less and less to celebrate the harder the public looks at the 2012 CAPA crime figures.