Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

NZ crime figures fall, but Canterbury rises

Cantabrians are seeing an increase in criminal activity, bucking the national trend. File photo / APN
Cantabrians are seeing an increase in criminal activity, bucking the national trend. File photo / APN

Police are lauding low national crime figures for last year, despite the resolution time for solving crimes remaining static with under half of crimes solved and Cantabrians seeing an increase in criminal activity.

Crime statistics for last year, released today, show falls in burglary, serious assaults, robbery and vehicle theft.

But there was a nearly 40 per cent rise in drug dealing offences and an increase in sexual assaults.

There were 376,013 recorded offences in 2012, compared with 406,056 the previous year - representing a decrease of 7.4 per cent or 30,043 offences on the 2011 calendar year.

The overall national resolution rate remained the same in 2012, at 47 per cent.

Acting Commissioner Viv Rickard said it was the lowest crime figure in 24 years.

While many regions enjoyed a drop in the crime rate last year, Canterbury bucked the trend with a 5.6 per cent increase on 2011.

"Canterbury's statistics need to be seen in the context of the 2011 earthquake,'' Mr Rickard said.

"After the earthquake there was a sudden large decrease in recorded crime, in particular theft and property damage. Offences at the less serious end of the spectrum reduced the most, reflecting the major changes to the city's infrastructure.

"Since February 2011, there has been a gradual rise in recorded offences in Canterbury but overall offence volumes are still below what they were before the quakes.''

The number of murders rose by three with 42 last year, up on 2011 where there were 39 murders.

Of the murders recorded last year, 19 were family violence related.

But last year saw a decline in the number of recorded assaults, both in public places and private homes.

Sexual offending increased by 1.3 per cent, but the crime was known to be significantly under-reported, so it was difficult to know to what extent the increase was a result of increased reporting rather than increased offending, police said.

Mr Rickard said police now had the ability to issue PSOs - Police Safety Orders.

Last year police issued 10,064 PSOs - up more than 40 per cent on the 7133 PSOs issued in 2011.

"Most people are respecting these orders. The reduction in dwelling assaults is an encouraging sign that PSOs may be helping.''

Police Minister Anne Tolley said the operational changes made by police were having a huge impact.

"These statistics show that our police are getting it right, and I want to congratulate the commissioner and all Police staff for their efforts in preventing crime and making communities safer'' Mrs Tolley said.

The Government had delivered 600 additional frontline officers, and police foot patrols were up 70 per cent last year, she said.

However, Labour Party police spokesman Kris Faafoi said the crime figures were achieved despite having to work within strict financial constraints.

"They've done good work to do more with less,'' he said.

"We've highlighted station closures, non-sworn staff being laid off and training budgets being cut and I think that is going to start causing some issues to long term success in bringing crime rates down.''

The 2012 recorded crime figures show:

* Illicit drug offences rose 0.3 per cent nationally with a marked increase in drug dealing offences (+39.8 per cent) and drops in drug use and possession.

* Sexual assault and related offences rose by 1.3 per cent (46 offences).

* Acts intended to cause injury, which are mainly assault-related offences,

dropped by 3.4 per cent (down by 1427 offences).

* Abduction, harassment and other related offences - dominated by threatening behaviour - dropped by 3.6 per cent (471 offences).

* Robbery, extortion and related offences were down by 10.1 per cent.

* Unlawful entry with intent / burglary / break and enter offences reduced by 11.1 per cent.

* Theft and related offences dropped by 11.8 per cent (15,966 offences). Nationally, there were 2917 fewer stolen vehicles than the previous year (-14.1%).

* Property damage and environmental pollution offences fell by 5.9 per cent.

* Public order offences decreased by 1 per cent.


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