Crime against Māori as bad as it was 15 years ago - report

Māori are more likely to be victims of crimes than Kiwis of any other ethnic group, new research has found.

And a tiny fraction of them - just one in 20 - bear the brunt of 81 percent of violent offences against Māori and more than half the burglaries, according to the Ministry of Justice's new study, Māori and Victimisation in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

More than 16,000 people were interviewed as part of the New Zealand Crime and Victims Surveys in 2018 and 2019, just over a quarter of them Māori.

Thirty-eight percent of Māori reported being a victim of crime each year, the study found, compared to 30 percent across the wider population. The reasons are multiple, including deprivation, age, disability, sexuality and financial stability.

"This means that any response to reduce victimisation of Māori needs to take these factors into account," said Ministry of Justice deputy secretary Tim Hampton. "These findings are important for the Government and the community in seeking to improve support for Māori victims of crime."

Little has improved for tangata whenua since 2006, when a similar study came to an "almost identical" conclusion - the only major difference being the new report "was able to identify some additional groups within Māori who were also more vulnerable to victimisation, including bisexual people and people with a disability".

"These trends will continue unless changes are made," said Hampton. "Clearly change must not be cosmetic for Māori, it must be large scale and practical." 

Higher rates of victimisation were found in younger Māori (aged 15-29), those in a relationship but not married/de facto/in a civil union, bisexuals and the disabled. Nearly one-in-five said they'd experienced multiple offences. 

"Almost all of the factors found to increase or decrease the likelihood of victimisation for Māori are the same as those found for the general population," the report said. "However, the Māori population is overrepresented in many of the high-risk areas for victimisation and underrepresented in many of the low-risk areas, leaving Māori to bear a disproportionate level of victimisation overall."

Other findings from the report include: 

  • burglary (16 percent) and interpersonal violence (12 percent) are the most common offences experienced by Māori adults, compared with the New Zealand average of 12 percent and 7 percent respectively
  • Māori living anywhere in the North Island, apart from Wellington, are less likely to experience crime compared with Māori living in the South Island
  • Māori adults living in high-deprivation areas, and places with noisy neighbours and frequent incidents of dangerous driving are more likely to be victims of crime, as are people living alone, single parents and members of multi-family households
  • 36 percent of Māori adults have experienced some form of intimate partner or sexual violence during their lifetime, particularly women and LGBTQ+
  • Māori who are unemployed, under financial pressure and rent from public housing providers are more likely to be targeted than wealthy Māori owner-occupiers. 
  • there was almost one crime against Māori  for every Māori adult in the country (97/100)
  • 2 percent of Māori victims of fraud and cybercrime account for 40 percent of all recorded offences
  • half of Māori adults with a disability experience crime each year 
  • rural Māori households are up to 50 percent less likely to experience crime each year
  • households with four or more children are significantly more likely to be targeted by criminals.

"This information and other data in this report will be vital in the development of any new Māori led services for victims, or for improving services to support Māori victims and their whānau," said Hampton.

Previous data extracted from the 2019 survey found Māori, Pasifika and bisexual people were more likley to hold negative views about the justice system than others, for example being treated unfairly

Māori make up half of New Zealand's prison population, more than three times their share of the population - a Ministry of Justice report in 2018 finding they're 11 times more likely to face prison once convicted than others

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi told Newshub the Government "acknowledges Māori are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system".

"Part of the objectives of the work we are doing to address victimisation of Māori is to reduce victimisation in the first place. Much of this key work takes place outside the criminal justice system in the economic and social sectors.

"For example, child poverty and sexual violence are already key priorities for the government, and work is underway under the Child Wellbeing and Poverty Reduction Group and the Family Violence and Sexual Violence Joint Venture.

"The Government is working to reduce the prison population through prevention, reducing reoffending rates, and reducing the number of people on remand (who make up just over one third of the prison population).

"As Minister of Justice, I am overseeing the strategic priorities for the Ministry of Justice, which include honouring responsibilities to Māori, leading transformation of the criminal justice system, building capability to engage and partner with Māori, addressing family and sexual violence, and using evidence and insights to deliver better services."