The annual crime rate in Napier, Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay fell 6.6 per cent in the 12 months to the end of June, according to statistics released yesterday.
The figures, the first since the Eastern Police District's Napier and Hastings areas merged to create a new Hawke's Bay Area, show 15,850 offences recorded by police in the year, compared with 16,967 in the previous 12 months.
One of the biggest hits was in the number of property damage offences, down almost a quarter, from 2232 offences in 2010 to 1754 in the latest year.
This includes tagging, which has been a particular target of Judge Tony Adeane in Hawke's Bay courts.
In other major contributing categories, burglaries (including attempts to enter premises to commit any crime) totalled 2572, down 18 on the previous year, thefts (including those from motor vehicles) totalled 4425 (a drop of 7.9 per cent from the 4802 recorded in 2010-2011), and there were 1970 violent offences (excluding homicides and sexual offences), down from 2085.
The number of reported sex offences fell 17.4 per cent from 144 to 119, and there were two homicides, compared with four the previous year.
Drugs offences, mainly uncovered by police (as opposed to being reported by the public) increased 27 per cent from 671 to 852, with manufacturing and cultivating offences the major contributor.
That was seen as a positive result by new area commander Inspector Tania Kura, who said the Organised Crime Unit for the Eastern Police District, which includes Gisborne and the East Coast (Tairawhiti Area), had undertaken several major drug raids, breaking cannabis and methamphetamine drug rings across the region.
Ms Kura is pleased to see the drop in crime, but believes there is still room for improvement.
"We have much more opportunity now to be more proactive and to nip crime in the bud before it happens," she said. "New initiatives that were introduced late last year mean our staff have been freed up to spend more time preventing crime and being more visible in the community."
"We now need to make the most of those opportunities and make the best use of that extra time that is now available to us. We still have a way to go."
She said the establishment of a new file management centre for the Eastern District had taken a "huge paper workload" off frontline staff, while a criminal justice support unit had also taken over some of the administrative work. Ms Kura is hopeful more reductions in crime rates will be seen as the full benefits of the changes emerge.
The figures are part of a national crime tally of 394,522 recorded offences in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, 5.2 per cent down on the previous year's total of 416,324.
It's the lowest national total since 1988-1989, and the lowest crime rate per head of population for which electronically maintained records are available.
The biggest cut was in Canterbury, where recorded offences fell 11.7 per cent, although police attribute some of it to the public not wanting to bother police with minor matters after the earthquakes.
Other significant drops occurred in Southern (11.2 per cent), Counties Manukau (9.4 per cent) and Bay of Plenty (8.6 per cent).
The rate at which crimes are resolved in the Eastern Police District remains significantly higher than nationally.
From rates around 40 per cent two decades ago, police say about 53 per cent have been resolved in the region during the past year, which compared with the national rate of 47.6 per cent.
Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokesman Garth McVicar said the latest figures were pleasing, but warned against complacency.
"It's great to see, from our perspective; we were eternally hopeful last year was a blip," he said, referring to the increase Eastern District registered last year.
He said drug offences, which had a 27 per cent increase, required the same consistency in the justice system as other offences did.
"I don't think we can afford to be celebrating yet, we need to keep the foot on the accelerator.
"What we're seeing working in other crime I think indicates the direction we should be taking with drugs. We need to re-draw the line in the sand."
He attributed the decreases to initiatives such as the three strikes system and the offender levy, and the Sensible Sentencing Trust's message being picked up by the public and the Government.
"If you have justice reform and you have an emphasis on victims we always felt we were going to get a drop in crime. The biggest contributing factor would have been overcoming the public apathy. Lets hope we continue to see a drop."
He also congratulated the police on all their hard work.