Waitaki District councillors yesterday heard disturbing statistics from the Waitaki Safer Community Trust on the dramatic fall in diversion cases in the South Island.
Spokeswoman Elizabeth McCone presented her report at a council meeting.
"In December last year, I reported to our district council and thanked them for their support of Waitaki's highly successful police/community diversion scheme," she said.
"Project Turnaround is where police and community volunteers co-operated with the Ministry of Justice to give our young offenders a chance to turnaround (or change their ways), victims of crime were restored, reinstated and involved in the restorative justice process; punishment contracts fitted the crime; we had no unpaid fines; offenders learnt their lesson and did not reoffend; and taxpayers received value for money.
"Now, police/community diversion is seriously compromised; our volunteers are losing heart as they have few panel involvements; our courthouse sits closed in the centre of town; and our papers are full of the perceived drop in [reported] crime."
Mrs McCone asked whether people stopped offending.
"The public are not fooled," she said. "We are appalled at the attacks on police, the number of murders and killings over Christmas and the outbreaks of local vandalism.
"Charges can be replaced by an official warning."
Mrs McCone says, as an example, if an offender is caught, they can be warned.
If an offender is caught again, they can be warned again.
"I believe offenders can be warned three [or possibly] more times," she said.
"These warnings involve no victim restoration, no community involvement and no offender turnaround.
"The result is a dramatic fall in diversion cases in the South Island."
Mrs McCone said the community must demand a change in police policy to one official warning per person.
"Then, the normal diversion processes [begin] for subsequent offending," she said.
"Justice must be seen to be done and restorative justice is worth fighting for."