Crime and police in Port Moresby

Criminology Research Council grant ; (9/74)

This report of 165 pages contains the detailed results of analyses of the geographical distribution of crime in Port Moresby, the ethnic origins of offenders, and the workloads of the courts. Police practices are also reviewed. The author's summary is as follows:

In 1975 Port Moresby had a serious crime problem. The nature of the crimes committed within the city was generally not serious, for such offences as murder, rape and robbery were rare. What made the problem serious was the vast number of individually trivial offences which collectively produced a case loading so great that the established police and court resources could not cope with it, and while the courts were clogged with trivial cases, the more worrying offences of car theft and housebreaking largely went unsolved. Whilst misdirection of police effort to a considerable extent aggravated the crime problem in Port Moresby, the citizens themselves contributed to it in their own way by failing in many instances to take even the simplest and most basic precautions. While some residents of the city had repeatedly been victims of crime throughout that year, there were others who had never ever had any offences committed against them, and the probability of becoming a victim of crime was not evenly distributed throughout the city. There were high crime suburbs and low crime suburbs and while some were dangerous to live in, others were safe. Likewise there were high crime times and low crime times, and most offences tended to be committed during weekends.

Neither the declining efficiency in the police force nor the corresponding chaos in the administration of the courts can be attributed to the localisation process. Both police and courts were degenerating under the previous Australian Administration which had introduced legal procedures and processes which even then were inappropriate to the circumstances of Papua New Guinea. At Independence in 1975, the incoming Independent Government inherited a decayed criminal justice system. However, although the crime problem is serious, the remedies are simple. All that IS necessary is for the police to adopt the simple tactics of beat, blitz, check-point, saturation, trojan horse and target and team, and for the residents to take a few simple precautions like keeping their doors locked. All this can be accomplished at no extra cost and can be implemented immediately. Costing nothing, would be a greater simplification of the process and procedures in the existing lower courts, with a corresponding innovation which would require some funding, of the expansion of village courts into all suburbs of Port Moresby. Further innovations which would require funding could be work release programmes for prisoners, weekend jail, community work schemes, probation and parole.

Port Moresby is a small city by world standards. It could easily be converted into a low crime community and a good place in which to live.