Counting Crime is a Herald series looking at where and when offending is happening in the community - and who the victims are. Each day we will look at a different category of crime and examine the numbers, meet the people affected the most and reveal the times, days and places you are more likely to fall victim. Today we look at which suburbs have the most reported crime across the country.

Where were people hit hardest by crime over the last few years - and why?

And what can police, and the community, do to prevent further innocent Kiwis becoming victims of opportunist, violent, wiley, sneaky or career criminals.

This week the Herald series Counting Crime has delved into where, when and how people are falling victim to offending in New Zealand.

Today we can reveal the neighbourhoods that recorded the most victimisations - effectivley how many people reported crimes against their person or property - from July 2014 to end of 2016.

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During that period nationally, more than 400,000 people became victims of crime at least once.

Counting Crime: check out your neighbourhood at Herald Insights here.

The neighbourhood with the most victims of crime was Auckland central west (the western side of the CBD).

That area, according to official police data analysed by Herald data editor Harkanwal Singh, recorded 5967 incidents from mid-2014 to December 31 2016.

Auckland central east (the eastern CBD) had 5245 victimisations.

Third on the list was Hamilton central with 5187 victims; the area from Willis St to Cambridge Tce in Wellington came in fourth with 5132 victims and Manukau central in Auckland took the number five spot with 4616 reported incidents involving victims.

Acting District Commander for the Auckland City District Inspector Gary Davey was not surprised his patch topped the high-crime list.

He said the district had the biggest CDB area in New Zealand and "would be the busiest area of Auckland City on a daily basis".

"It has a high density of licensed premises, a casino, two universities and numerous learning institutes as well as frequent events bringing visitors from Auckland, New Zealand and abroad," he told the Herald.

"This can come with challenges for police to ensure people in the area are safe and feel safe. However we have a number of police teams working in the CBD.

"This includes our frontline officers, CIB staff, team policing units, alcohol harm prevention units, beat staff who do regular foot patrols, road policing teams and our community prevention staff who you will often see out on bicycles."

Davey said his district - one of three in the wider Auckland area alongside Waitemata and Counties Manukau - had seen a decline in total crime over the last 12 months.

That trend was mirrored speficially in the CBD.

"This includes a 20 per cent reduction in vehicles being stolen, 10 per cent reduction in car break-ins and 10 per cent reduction in aggravated robbery," he said.

Davey commended the Herald on the Counting Crime series, saying he hoped it would assist police further in their primary job - reducing and preventing the number of victimisations in the community.

"It is a positive to see that the police data is being used by media outlets to continue to educate the public on where crime is occurring and we hope this will contribute to our efforts to prevent crime before it occurs," he said.

"We continue to ask our public to be vigilant when they are out and about when it comes to their personal safety.

"We also ask that people call 111 if they see anything suspicious - police would rather attend a job and find out it was nothing, than have missed the opportunity to prevent a crime."

Acting Assistant Commissioner Sam Hoyle who oversees the country's 12 police districts, said there were a number of reasons that crime was higher in some areas than others.

"If you overlay any given community with crime data, education data, health data you start to see a pattern," he said.

But in general, New Zealand was not a dangerous place to live.

"It is a case of being vigilant but doing it in a way that's healthy - there's little point in being anxious," he said.

Hoyle said the key to avoiding becoming a victim of crime was common sense.

In some cases, victims could do little to protect themselves against willing offenders, but simple steps could prevent many crimes.

"We live in a safe country, but having said that, when you go out lock up," he advised.

"Don't leave attractive items in cars or where thieves could see them; shut your garage door, even when you're home - all of these are really simple, basic things.

"It's about common sense really."

He welcomed the public accessing crime data as it raised awareness and education around public and personal safety.

Counting Crime - what do police do with their data?

Police collect data every day on victims, offenders, offences, trends, patterns - and every scrap is used to form how they do their jobs.

In 2014 they changed the way they collate data, moving from an offence-based system to one that focusses more on victims.

Last year police launched a new website where their stats are published and updated monthly, giving a clear snapshot of crime in New Zealand.

Their data allows the public to see recorded victimisations by time and place - showing where crimes occur, to whom and who is behind them.

The data includes information on gender, ethnicity and age of victims as well as detailed geographical data.

When the site Policedata.nz was launched, the aim was to "make it easier for people to explore, access, and analyse data that police holds about crime in ways not possible before".

Police said it also reflected their "commitment to transparency and accessibility of information about their communities".

Acting Assistant Commissioner Sam Hoyle said data was used to inform all police deployment.

Every officer who was sent out on patrol either on foot or by car was dispatched to areas that data showed needed a police presence.

Hot spots, peak crime times and places where specific offending was known to happen governed where officers walked the beat.

Hoyle said information from victims and arrested offenders also helped police work out where to be and when to have the biggest impact on crime.

"Through all of that, we make deployment decisions about where our police are, whether that's on foot or in cars," Hoyle said.

Statistics are sourced from the Police national data page and are for July 2014 to December 2016 with an outcome of investigation of 30 days.

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