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The high proportion of offending by Maori is rated "a significant concern" by the Ministry of Justice.

It noted in its annual report today that though Maori form just 14.5 per cent of New Zealand's population, half the prison population and 45 per cent of offenders serving community-based sentences identify themselves as Maori.

The ministry said it was working with communities and iwi on initiatives to reduce Maori offending.

Dealing with crime generally, the ministry reported that recorded crime continued a downward trend in the 12 months to June this year.

There was a 7 per cent reduction across all offences, while police resolutions remained relatively stable at 44 per cent.

It said young offenders had the highest rates of repeat offending of all groups.

"It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of young offenders will continue to be persistent offenders during adulthood," the report said.

After property offences, violent offending was the most prevalent offence of repeat conviction and re-imprisonment.

"The proportion of violent crimes has increased from 10.3 per cent of all recorded offences in 2002/03 to 11.6 per cent in 2004/05," the report said.

"Violent offenders, including those who commit sexual offences, form around 40 per cent of the prison population."

Other areas of crime dealt with in the report were:

* Family violence reduced marginally in 2004/05 but the estimated level of incidents not reported was "a key concern".

* Dishonesty offences formed the largest category of recorded crime, making up almost 60 per cent of all crime recorded since 2001. Of those offences, about half involved theft and burglary.

* Organised crime was "a priority area" because of the ripple effects of operations which included intimidation, drug dependency and recruitment of young people to gangs.

* Vehicle crime made up nearly 18 per cent of all recorded offences, high by comparison with other countries.

Theft of and from cars was significantly under-reported in New Zealand, the report said.

- NZPA