Crime up, police data shows

National is blaming a rise in the number of crime victims on the Government's "soft on crime attitude". 

But the Government says that's not the full picture.

Police figures show there were 278,644 "total victimisations" in the 12 months to November 30, up 7.1 percent on the year before. 

Of those, 77 were against property and 23 against people. Assaults were up 7.9 percent and thefts up 7.6 percent.

"The increase is a result of this Government’s soft on crime attitude," said National police spokesperson Brett Hudson. "Under it the number of gang members is on the rise, and every week New Zealanders are hearing about more and more incidents involving gangs."

Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell said it was "unacceptable that there are more victims of crime, especially victims of serious assault, occurring under this Government. Serious assault not resulting in injury is also up."

He called the increase "staggering", but police said the rise in serious assault victimisations - up almost 40 percent - was actually linked to the "introduction of the new family violence offences in December 2018", and was offset by a fall in common assault victimisations. 

Police data shows in the year to October 2018, there were 24,564 common assaults and a similar number of serious assaults. Over the following 12 months, common assaults dropped about 5000, while serious assaults rose by slightly more than that. 

But victimisations rose through the second half of last year, police data also shows. There were more than 25,000 in October, the most of any month in the last five years.

Victimisations, month by month.
Victimisations, month by month. Photo credit: Police

"The Government has taken its eye off reducing crime and is focusing on just getting numbers in prison down," said Mitchell. "Without having a plan to reduce crime in our communities first, this is only going to result in more victims."

As of September, there were just over 10,000 people being kept in prison, about a third of those on remand. This is down from about 10,800 in 2018. 

Data released by Police Minister Stuart Nash last year showed there had been a 26 percent rise in the number of patched gang members since October 2017, when Labour and NZ First took power.

The Government has boosted police numbers by 900 since then.

Police said most burglaries happen in the early afternoon, and three-quarters of them at residential addresses. A survey last year found more than three-quarters of crimes don't even get reported to police.

Nash told Newshub it would "take time" to turn the crime figures around, after inheriting "a justice system that wasn't working for either victims or doing anything to break the cycle of offending, especially for recidivist youth offenders".

"These figures demonstrate why the old ways have failed us. Transforming our criminal justice system will take time. Thirty years of just locking people up and ignoring the factors that cause offending in the first place have failed to make a difference.

"Complex areas like family harm, mental health and drug addictions all have a bearing on the offending figures. They require a lot of resources from police and the wider network of government and community agencies working to make a difference. We are slowly building up these services again after inheriting a run-down system."

He said the overall rise in assault victimisations was also down to the family violence changes in 2018.