Fewer people are going through Tauranga's court system with new statistics showing a drop in criminal charges heard and convictions handed down.
Figures released by the Ministry of Justice show 5824 people appeared in courts in the Tauranga court cluster in 2012 - down from 6608 in 2011, and 8158 in 2010.
The Tauranga court cluster includes Waihi, Whakatane and Opotiki courts.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said the falling crime figures meant New Zealand was becoming a safer place to live.
Tauranga Sensible Sent-encing Trust spokesman Ken Evans acknowledged the drop in crime, but said there was still a lot of work to be done.
"We at Sensible Sentencing like to think we had something to do with that [the drop], with the three-strikes [rule]. That is really starting to happen now. We are at least getting some deterrent system but we have a huge way to go."
Judges were still handing down light sentences, he said.
"What happens is you get one judge giving a low sentence and it sets the benchmark. All other judges try to meet that and sentences get lighter and lighter."
In Tauranga last year, most charges (3831) related to low-level offences against justice procedures or Government security and operations - such as breaching bail conditions.
Traffic and vehicle offences were the second largest category, with 2764 charges heard last year, down from 3213 in 2011.
Drunk driving brought 1659 people before the courts and 931 were charged with driving licence offences.
Twelve people were charged for exceeding the speed limit.
The figures come as police embrace a pre-charge warning system for low-level offending. Bay of Plenty police issued 2283 pre-charge warnings in the 2011/12 financial year.
Western Bay of Plenty area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said the warnings allowed police to spend more time preventing serious offending.
Nationally, the number of people charged and appearing in court dropped 22 per cent since 2009.
In 2012, 98,783 people appeared in court, down 7 per cent from 2011.
Most cases related to low-level offences such as traffic and vehicle breaches and breach of bail.
-Additional reporting by Brendan Manning