Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Crime statistics: Property-owners hold key to crime cuts

With offending nationally at a 29-year low police say tackling alcohol-fuelled incidents is the next step.

With offending nationally at a 29-year low police say tackling alcohol-fuelled incidents is the next step.
With offending nationally at a 29-year low police say tackling alcohol-fuelled incidents is the next step.

Police believe residents could do more to protect themselves from theft and property break-ins, which remain Auckland's most commonly reported crime.

Overall, crime in Auckland has dropped to its lowest level in 20 years and nationally the figures are the lowest in 29 years.

The Statistics New Zealand data, released yesterday, show that 60.07 per cent of reported crime in the Auckland district last year was due to unlawful entry - intent/burglary at 14.4 per cent and theft and related offences 45.63 per cent.

While figures for both offence categories were down on the previous year, police and Neighbourhood Support believe residents could do more to reduce the numbers.

District Commander Superintendent Mike Clement said monitoring and preventing property crime in Auckland took a large amount of police resources.

"Property crime is a significantly higher feature of what happens here as opposed to some other districts.

"That's why we target it and I'm pretty confident that's the reason why we've seen in the financial year that ended June 30 last year - and the continuation through the calendar year - such great results in terms of crime reduction," he said.

Appealing to residents and "the would-be victims" of theft was a large part of the police effort, he said.

"For instance, theft from cars only occurs really because people leave valuable items within sight."

Avon Lines, chairwoman of Neighbourhood Support in central Auckland, said many people believed they were immune to theft.

"The attitude is it's never going to happen to us.

"We tell them to take care of things. To ... put their cars in their garage, putting the door down on the garage and leaving out the world.

"The idea is to be aware at all times," Ms Lines said.

Residents needed to watch out for each other and the best way to do that was to form a community neighbourhood support group that alerted the organisation and authorities to suspicious behaviour.

Mr Clement agreed and said reporting of such behaviour helped to reduce crime.

Graphics - NZ crime rates:

Figures for Auckland showed there were a total of 43,734 recorded offences last year, down 4788 from the previous year.

There were 977 crimes per 10,000 people in Auckland in 2013 compared to 1098 in 2012, an 11 per cent reduction.

Despite a drop in assaults of 5.4 per cent in 2013 - totalling 3289 recorded for the year - sexual assaults and related offences were up by 82 recorded offences to total 372.

Mr Clement said addressing alcohol-related harm would help in reducing assaults, as well as the city's overall crime rate.

"We've got some legislation now that is a really good framework to start from in terms of reducing public place assaults, which can lead to fatalities."

He referred to the death of 25-year-old Tarun Asthana in November.

Mr Asthana suffered a fatal head injury after being punched by Grenville David McFarland and hitting his head on the footpath outside McDonald's near Britomart. McFarland had been drinking before the incident.

"That came as a result of harm caused by alcohol. We've got a great opportunity on the back of legislation for this council to develop a local alcohol plan that changes the drinking environment and that's absolutely what needs to happen to keep people safe."

The Auckland district recorded four murders last year, all of which have been "resolved". Police define a resolved offence as one in which they have made an arrest and decided on the correct course of action in dealing with the accused. There were a total of six homicides in Auckland.

Nationally, 83 homicide and related offences were recorded last year, 15 more than the previous year.

Seventy of the homicide and related offence crimes last year have been resolved, figures show.

Police said recorded crime across the country hit a 29-year-low last year, figures showing 15,602 fewer recorded crimes compared to the previous year. This was a 4.1 per cent drop in recorded crimes between years, Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush said.

Nine of the country's 12 police districts recorded decreases in recorded crime but three were up.

Auckland and Wellington recorded the biggest reductions at 9.9 per cent, followed by Bay of Plenty at 7.4 per cent and Southern at 6.6 per cent.

Recorded crime in Canterbury fell by 5.6 per cent, reversing increases that occurred when the Christchurch rebuild began.

"The significant drop in recorded crime in the [Canterbury] district shows we've maintained the positive gains we made in the post-earthquake environment through proactive policing and a strong focus on crime prevention," Mr Bush said.

Three districts had a rise in recorded crime. Eastern recorded a 3.4 per cent rise, Central's crime rate rose by 1.6 per cent and Northland's grew by 1.5 per cent.

In terms of criminal categories, dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons dropped by 23 per cent nationally, public order offences fell by 15.7 per cent and property damage and environmental pollution offences were down by 6.8 per cent.

Sexual assault offences around the country rose by 11.6 per cent last year but Mr Bush believed that was likely to be due to increased reporting.

"We know that sexual violence is under-reported, and we are heartened that more victims of this type of crime are coming forward," Mr Bush said.

There was also a 22.7 per cent drop in illicit drug offences in the 2013 calendar year, mostly in cannabis cultivation and possession.

Police and Customs said a 59 per cent increase in the import or export illicit drugs offence category was due to targeting of crime groups that controlled large parts of New Zealand's methamphetamine drug trade.

"Disrupting importations of methamphetamine [and its precursors] is our number one focus for our drug intervention," Customs manager of investigations Maurice O'Brien said.

Stolen laptop wake-up call for security

Lawyer Emma Riddell fell victim to a midnight burglar at the end of last year.

The 27-year-old was asleep in her Panorama Drive flat in Nelson when someone broke into the house and took several items.

Emma Riddell.

"There were four of us [flatmates] there plus our partners and stuff, so there were heaps of people there.

"Our security at the time wasn't flash - we had a cat and the window was left open in the flat for thecat."

In the morning the front door was open and Ms Riddell's laptop and four food containers full of salad had been stolen.

"We were pretty gutted. You do feel a bit weird when someone has come into the house in the middle of the night - a bit violated," she said.

Police said the offenders, who have not been caught, also broke into several cars on the street and burgled nearby homes with unlocked doors.

"They just did a spree of the top end of the street basically."

Since the burglary, all the flatmates were adhering to tighter security rules, Ms Riddell said.

"We even lock the door when we're at home, and let the cat out during the day so she doesn't come in at night."

The four flatmates had also relocated to a new property, where a cat door had been installed.

All windows were also locked during the day, Ms Riddell added.

- NZ Herald

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