Kimbrian Van Loggerenberg felt disrespected and shocked when police failed to investigate the crime he reported because it did not meet the criteria for action. Photo / Provided
When Kimbrian Van Loggerenberg bought a TV online that never arrived, he turned himself in to the police with all the information about the person who scammed him, including a name, address and account number banking.
But, instead of looking into his case, he was told there would be no police investigation as the crime was simply not a priority.
Sadly, it’s a story playing out in many parts of the country as police struggle to keep up with the number of online scams.
A police media spokesperson told Open Justice that online fraud is rampant in New Zealand and police should wait for victims to stock up before taking action.
“Police are receiving far more complaints than we can reasonably investigate,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“Police must assess each complaint against certain criteria to help prioritize offenses for investigation, which includes targeting prolific offenders.
“As part of this process, the police assess what information is available and whether the offender’s details, bank accounts or phone numbers are linked to other offences.”
Van Loggerenberg bought the TV from Facebook Marketplace in July.
The seller had asked $350 for the TV, plus $47 for shipping, but the Aucklander only paid $250, with the balance to be paid when it arrived. This has never been the case.
Although he was able to provide police with the offender’s Facebook profile, pick-up address, bank account and phone number, police said they could not help him.
The lack of action left Loggerenberg frustrated.
“Criminals are having a royal time, I pay a $30 speeding fine because of the tone of the letter I get from the police regarding debt collection and prosecution, but they steal $250 and they’re also free as a bird.”
A senior constable explained, in an email to Van Loggerenberg, that online fraud was prolific and complaints were complex and time-consuming to investigate, and officers had to prioritize cases.
“Your complaint has been assessed and has not reached the threshold for investigation.”
Van Loggerenberg was told that if the bank account number he provided matched another crime in the future, the police “may well” review his complaint, but it had been “filed” in the meantime.
“The case will therefore be inactivated unless there are no more reports citing the same account number.
“If the breach is ongoing, then we assign the matter for investigation.”
When contacted by Open Justice, the officer declined to comment on why the crimes were not being investigated and what issues the police were facing.
However, a day later, Van Loggerenberg received some welcome news.
“A detective contacted me and said, ‘we have decided to reopen the case’.”
When asked to explain why, the officer was unable to answer, leaving Van Loggerenberg to believe it was only because Open Justice was involved.
Van Loggerenberg, a South African immigrant, believes thousands of Kiwis could be denied justice as cases are dropped without investigation. And, he has a dire warning about what the police’s lack of resources and inability to investigate could mean in the future.
“When there’s no police presence, you’re going to have crime and the criminals are going to push the envelope.
“Presently that line will move and a higher level of crimes will not be investigated due to their checklist and the need to prioritize.”
He said the recent situation reminded him of the time just before he left South Africa 14 years ago and his house was stripped bare by thieves while he was on his honeymoon and the police did not respond.
“The police said there was too much crime and there was too much violence.”
Despite knowing that cybercrime was on the rise, police did not have the data “at hand” to provide details on trends over the past 12 months.
New Labor Policing Minister Chris Hipkins, who replaced Poto Williams in June after the Prime Minister said she had lost her ‘focus’ amid rising gang tensions, did not respond to requests of comments.
National Police spokesman Mark Mitchell said that in an ideal world police would investigate all crime, but they are currently struggling to deal with a sharp rise in serious violent crime.
“Police simply don’t have the staff or resources available to respond to every report and need to prioritize,” Mitchell said.
He did not specify what National would do differently if elected next year.
Police said they would continue to warn the public about the dangers of using social media to buy and sell goods given the lack of consumer protections.
If Facebook Marketplace or other social media sites were used, there were a number of options people should use to protect themselves, including meeting the other party in person, never handing over money until you haven’t seen the merchandise and if you can’t, walk away.