A national survery shows community concern over crime in Northland is holding steady even as Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai sat down with a crime-focused Facebook page administrator to hear claims of rising violence.
The New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey shows concern by Northland adult crime victims is in the middle range of national findings with 31 per cent feeling safe while 24 per cent felt least safe.
The nationwide, face-to-face annual survey carried out by the Ministry of Justice, interviewed about 23,500 randomly selected New Zealanders aged 15 years and over about their experiences of crime. It includes both reported and unreported incidents to police.
It found no statistically-significant difference in the percentage of households victimised once or more in Northland between 2018 and 2020, or in the number of household offences per 100 houses.
The ministry estimated about 47,000 adults in Northland had been victims of one or more offences in the one year to the end of 2020.
According to the survey, the most common types of offences were fraud and deception, followed by harassment and threatening behaviour, and burglary. The ministry said the survey was the only source of information about unreported crime and victimisation because only 25 per cent of crime is reported to police.
Cop stops-Whangārei facebook page moderator Jayden Jameson met with mayor Sheryl Mai yesterday to discuss what he says is an increase in serious violent offences committed by those under 18.
"Facebook is a really powerful tool because it shows the reality of what's happening on the ground so that people can take steps to prevent themselves from becoming victims of crimes themselves."
University of Canterbury criminologist and New Zealand gangs expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert said public perception of crime could be significantly out of kilter with the reality on the ground.
He said "wild west" of social media added to the prominence given to dishonesty crimes which could have an "echo chamber" effect that entrenched a distorted view of people about the issue.
"Social media is largely unregulated and it's utterly ludicrous that anyone can go to certain online forums and post stuff that distorts people's belief and understanding of crime."
A case in point, he said, was the publicity given to murders which elicited public safety concerns but data showed the number of murder cases nationwide was falling.
He said another example was anti Covid vaccine advocates getting on to social media to influence people's view on whether or not they should be vaccinated.
"While free speech needs to be valued and protected, what needs to happen is for people to be educated on how to follow fact-based or credible information rather than focus on what is utter nonsense," Gilbert said.
Mai said statistics showed crime was not increasing in Northland and people felt generally safe. She also said those facts were no comfort to victims of crime.
Social media, as with other media, focused on the unusual, dramatic or awful, she said, which could create the feeling that there was more crime.
"The upside of social media is that word can also spread quickly when a crime occurs and we have had a number of examples where people have been reunited with stolen vehicles through the use of social media," Mai said.
Martin Kaipo, a driving force behind challenging harmful behaviours in Ōtangarei, said a multitude of problems pervaded the community but they could be kept in check if all stakeholders stood up to the criminal elements.
From petty crimes such as burglary to serious violent offences like sexual offending, Kaipo supported more resources for the police and a vigilant public.
The survey did not cover manslaughter and homicide, abduction, crimes against children (14 years old and under), victimless crimes such as drug offences, commercial crime/white-collar crime/crimes against businesses, public-sector agencies, people who do not live in permanent homes, and crimes against people living in institutions.