Specialist police teams and new courts aimed at dealing specifically with sexual violence in Northland could help with victims reporting the crime after a survey revealed 94 per cent of sexual violence crimes were not reported to police nationally.

The second annual New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey, which was released yesterday and based on interviews with 8038 people over the age of 15, revealed 94 per cent of sexual assaults were not reported to New Zealand police.

It found only 25 per cent of all crime incidents were reported to police.

The survey included 363 interviews held in Northland. But the report writers said regional statistics were not available because the sample size would be too small, and the margin of error too high.

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Detective Inspector Northland police district crime manager Dene Begbie said what was concerning was the crime not being reported to police, in particular sexual crimes.

Police would work through the survey results and see how they could best utilise them as part of their evidence based approach.

Detective Inspector Dene Begbie. Photo / File
Detective Inspector Dene Begbie. Photo / File

Begbie said police could understand the reasons for not reporting sexual violence and those included shame, embarrassment and fear of retribution.

"These factors will challenge people when it comes to reporting. Any matters reported to us will be treated in a professional matter, I encourage any victims of a sexual assault to report it to police.

"We have staff specifically trained who are very good at investigating these matters, professionally and thoroughly."

Begbie said the addition of sexual violence courts being piloted in Whangārei District Court could help victims. Cases had reached trial about a third faster on average than previously.

"Sometimes these matters take a long time to investigate and proceed through the courts. The new courts means cases go through court quicker and lessens the time the victim has to wait for resolution."

During the pilot period, it has found a reduction in anxiety for victims and the average time to trial from case review was 10 months for Whangārei, compared with 17 months before.

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Begbie said reporting sexual violence crimes was not easy to do and police recognised the importance of understanding and supporting victims.

"We have that support for victims when they come to see us. We understand it's a difficult subject to talk about and that's why we have specialised staff and people who can support them through the process."

With the boost in police numbers it meant two teams specifically trained to deal with sexual violence were now based in the district - one in the Far North and one in Whangārei/Kaipara. The additional staff were also used to strengthen the child protection team.

Police had also linked with partner agencies to get the message out to the community about reporting sexual violence and how that could be done in Northland.

He encouraged anyone who had been a victim of sexual assault to report it to police either by phone or at a station.

Crime statistics for Northland police showed between January 1 and December 31 last year there was a total of 9227 crimes reported.

That included 79 sexual assaults, 886 assaults and 3110 burglaries.

Overall, nationally about 1,713,000 incidents of crime occurred over the past 12 months, including 1,139,000 personal offences and 574,000 household offences.

The most common offences over the past 12 months were burglary, 16 incidents per 100 households, and fraud and deception, eight incidents per 100 adults.

The survey found motor vehicle thefts had the highest likelihood of being reported at 94 per cent.

It was found 94 per cent of car crime was reported to police. Photo / File
It was found 94 per cent of car crime was reported to police. Photo / File

The most common reasons for not reporting an incident were because people considered it was too trivial, there was no loss or damage or they considered it not worth reporting - 48 per cent; or there was a perception that police couldn't have done anything - 27 per cent.

There is a higher level of victimisation for those under financial pressure, living in more deprived areas, unemployed and not actively seeking employment, and those in single parent households.

The survey also reinforced the 2018 findings that a small proportion of the population experiences the majority of crime.

"Just 2 per cent of victims experienced 33 per cent of all offences."

Victim Support researcher Dr Petrina Hargrave said the survey highlighted a sad reality for thousands of victims.

"If we want to address victimisation and give victims the confidence to report crime, victims must be able to know that they'll be supported, heard, and that our justice system genuinely cares about them," Hargrave said.

"Past victimisation is one of the best predictors of future victimisation, so how we treat victims after a crime may affect their participation in the justice system and their likelihood of reporting future crime."


Where to get help:
• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334.
• Alternatively contact your local police station.
• If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.