The rash of violent crime that has cast a dark cloud over the new year masks a relatively steady rate of murder in New Zealand, according to long-term police figures.
Experts have blamed "mad January" for the 10 murders since the start of the year - with the finger being pointed at everything from Christmas stress to alcohol to a full moon.
That figure is up from seven in January last year and four the previous year - and is more than double the monthly average for the whole of 2006, according to Statistics New Zealand.
The last time there were 10 murders in one month was October 2005.
Prime Minister Helen Clark and National leader John Key have concentrated on youth issues in their opening speeches of election year.
But figures for the past decade suggest the January rate of murder is unlikely to continue.
Canterbury University criminologist Dr Greg Newbold said the 10 murders in 30 days of 2008 were "a blip" and there was no indication of a trend of increasing killings.
Progressives leader Jim Anderton said five-year figures were a better indicator of trends - and they continued to show fewer violent deaths.
"In the five years to 2004, 279 people died as a result of assault or intentional injury," Mr Anderton said.
"That was down from 293 in the previous five years and well down from the 347 people who died in the five years 1990 to 1994."
The proportion of deaths compared to the growing population has also dropped since 1990, Mr Anderton said.
However, Dr Newbold said long-term figures were difficult to confirm.
Police statistics do not break down crime by month and have one category of homicide, which includes attempted murder, manslaughter, aiding suicide and illegal abortion.
Despite that, Dr Newbold agreed there was no indication of a trend of more murders yet.
"One thing that may be emerging as a trend is the increasing likelihood of young people becoming involved in serious crimes, and carrying knives."
Of the 10 murders so far this year, at least three have involved stabbings.
"If youths believe their potential enemies or groups that challenge them will be tooled up, then they will get tooled up - it's something that needs to be nipped in the bud."
What police statistics do show is that incidents of violent crime shot up by 350 from January 2006 to the following January - from 4398 to 4748.
The figures for this January will not be known until later in the year, but they will include four North Shore bashings where couples were allegedly attacked by youths with baseball bats, and a gunfight on Tuesday night which left two men in hospital.
Police Minister Annette King yesterday visited the scene of the shoot-out in Flat Bush, south Auckland.
She said the hot summer and full moon were to blame for the recent "unusual events" that had created mad January in south Auckland.
"It's well documented within the police - and we've had a long hot summer - and the view is that we often get things happen in this month that we wouldn't have happening in winter."
Family and economic stresses of the festive season added to the strain.
"Over the holiday Christmas period we traditionally have an increase in family violence, people are at home, and there are the stresses and strains of having your relatives staying and financial pressures. They are not easy to address issues unless we ban Christmas and January."
- additional reporting Elizabeth Binning