Police priority puzzles

Senior police officer Bill Bishop tells us the police won't put a case of online credit card theft at a high enough priority to bother investigating it, because "there is very little public sympathy for victims of such a crime where they've given their credit card details to a porn site".

Senior police officer Bill Bishop tells us (Police e-crime lab to expand) the police won’t put a case of online credit card theft at a high enough priority to bother investigating it, because “there is very little public sympathy for victims of such a crime where they’ve given their credit card details to a porn site”.

I’m not sure whether it’s the misguidedness of giving details to an unrecognised merchant on the internet that brings a priority downgrade, or the police and community view of the “immorality” of trying to access a porn website. Most such sites are probably legal in New Zealand, as they show nothing worse than people could hire on a typical R18-classified video.

I was once naive enough to believe all people were equal before the law and entitled to the same protection or condemnation in similar situations. The New Zealand police and justice system have repeatedly but quietly demonstrated this is not so. Bishop’s statement is the most open expression of this view I have seen yet. Perhaps he would care to tell us, for comparison, how many police priority “points” we lose through other legal but undesirable activities.

How about:

  • Someone who repeatedly hires revoltingly violent videos and has his/her wallet lifted in the video shop?
  • Someone having money stolen because he/she has been stupid enough to give his/her bank account number in response to an email in the hope of benefitting from the ill-gotten gains of a disgraced central African government?
And, turning from protection of victims to condemnation of criminals, would he please compare:
  • An ordinary member of the public in possession of cannabis versus an American billionaire committing the same offence?
  • Someone who kills an able-bodied citizen, as against one who kills her own severely disabled daughter?
  • A town dweller bringing disease organisms into the country deliberately, as against a farmer with a rabbit problem doing it?
All these well-known cases to my mind show differential application of the law in New Zealand, according to the social status of (or degree of “public sympathy” with) the perpetrator or victim. Now we’ve been notified that porn consumers are also “on the outer”.

Perhaps we could apply the same principle to health services.

If on admission to hospital you are found to possess a copy of Penthouse, or you turn out not to have been wearing your seat-belt/lifejacket before the accident, or you gamble, eat unhealthy foods or, above all, smoke, then you go to the bottom of the priority list for treatment. No decent clean-living New Zealander would any longer make a fuss about those on the waiting list because they obviously deserve to wait. That would solve a big problem.

Thank you Mr Bishop for showing us the way.

Stephen Bell (as a disquieted private citizen, not as Computerworld journalist) can be contacted at stephen_bell@idg.co.nz.

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