NSW Police Crime Detection Targets encourage unnecessary searches, arrests

The NSW Police Force has set a target to detect almost 300,000 crimes this year, focusing on categories such as drug possession, theft and sexual assault.

NSW Police plan to execute 18,000 search warrants in NSW in 2020, with a disproportionate amount of these searches conducted in the Kings Cross area.

The targets have been named by NSW Police as “Community Safety Indicators” with a NSW Police spokesperson saying that this reflects evidence of a correlation between policing and the reduction of crime.

However, despite detection quotas having increased by 5 per cent over the previous four years, the detection of crimes has actually fallen by 5 per cent in that time. 

Is there a danger that setting targets will encourage use of police powers in situations where there isn’t a reasonable suspicion?

Detection targets are exactly what they claim to be – targets. They are something for the police to aspire to, to achieve. Because of this, police may exercise their powers to reach these targets in circumstances where they perhaps should not.

Certain police powers prescribed by the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act, require that police first have a “reasonable suspicion” before exercising the power.

These powers include:

  • Power to require identity to be disclosed
  • Power to carry out searches
  • Power to conduct strip searches
  • Power to arrest without warrant

The use of detection quotas may see police exercising the above powers unlawfully in order to achieve the requisite number of crime detections.

The issue is that these are all invasive practices with some of them amounting to assault and battery, where they are found to be unlawful. Having detection quotas is likely to give police an ulterior improper purpose to exercise such practises, instead of only doing so when police have formed a reasonable suspicion.

Undue pressure on police

Despite a NSW Police Spokesperson saying that no punitive action is taken where targets are not met, targets may place undue pressure on police to record minor transgressions that would otherwise be disregarded.

Pressure to achieve quotas may result in officers targeting certain areas, therefore disproportionately policing these areas for certain offences.

This is made clear by the extreme differences in targets for drug detection across areas of NSW. 

Information from NSW Police shows the Northern Beaches has a target set of 1.2 detections per 10,000 people as opposed to Kings Cross with an extraordinary 132 per 10,000 people, 110 times that of the Northern Beaches.

The effect of this is that police may try to achieve detection quotas by going after “easy” targets such as the homeless, disadvantaged or indigenous people.

According to statistics recorded by the ABS, in 2016 the electorate of Sydney was the highest ranked for homelessness numbers, with 3,308 identified homeless people. This electorate includes the suburbs of Kings Cross and Surry Hills, all of which had much higher drug detection targets than other suburbs.

The NSW Police Website states:

“Police patrols are extensive and focus on hot spots for poor driving, crime and antisocial behaviour”

However, where these hotspots are home to some of the most disadvantaged people in society, it is cause for concern when their disadvantage is entrenched by also being targeted by police.

If you believe you have been unfairly targeted by police, or have been unreasonably apprehended, contact Sydney-Lawyers.com for a free first consultation.

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