In a report released in November 2022, the Independent Police Conduct Authority found major deficiencies in the way in which Police respond to fraud complaints. It recommends the development of a fraud prevention strategy incorporating both public and private sector agencies led by Police.
The 45 page report provides a comprehensive assessment of fraud and police fraud management within New Zealand.
According to the report:
‘More New Zealanders are victims of fraud and deception offences than of any other crime. Yet the complaints outlined in this report, combined with very low rates of recording, charging and prosecution of these offences, show that in relation to fraud there are significant opportunities for Police to lead across the public and private sectors to achieve their stated mission “to prevent crime and harm through exceptional policing”. ‘
While there are a number of agencies with fraud-related responsibilities, they operate within narrow parameters. The Serious Fraud Office, for example, focuses on a small number of cases which have a disproportionately high impact on the economy and financial wellbeing of New Zealanders. The police end up being the lead agency for the vast majority of fraud investigations, even though their investigative staff are not generally qualified.
The study finds that fraud is perceived by the Police, both systemically and culturally, as having low importance and little impact. This is backed up by the categorisation of fraud as a ‘volume crime’ offence, regardless of the seriousness of the offending in financial terms or its impact on the victim.
“The Police response typically underestimates the toll that the crime, and the subsequent poor quality of their investigation into it, can have on individuals.“
The report notes that “Fundamental improvements can only be effected by a coordinated effort by a range of agencies and private sector institutions to develop an integrated prevention plan.” It concludes that this effort is best led by the Police and outlines how to significantly improve New Zealand’s fraud prosecution and prevention.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority is an independent body set up by Parliament to provide civilian oversight of Police conduct. The report is available on their website.