New Zealand's crime rate has dropped to an all-time low, latest figures reveal.

The annual crime statistics released by the police today showed recorded crime dropped 5.2 per cent on the previous year.

There were 394,522 recorded offences in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, compared with 416,324 the previous year - a decrease of 21,802 offences.

New Zealand's population increased by 0.7 per cent during the period, resulting in a 5.9 per cent decrease in the number of offences recorded per 10,000 of population.


This was the lowest number of offences in any fiscal year since 1988-1989, and the lowest crime rate per head of population since before electronic records were maintained, police said.

Deputy Police Commissioner Viv Rickard says the results were very pleasing.

"These figures indicate that New Zealand is becoming a safer place to live. They will act as further motivation to keep our focus firmly on preventing crime before it happens,'' he said.

The largest decrease was in Canterbury, where recorded crime fell by 11.7 per cent.

Following the earthquakes there was a sudden large decrease in recorded theft and property damage offences.

Less serious offences reduced the most. Although small by value, these offences are large by volume.

"This decrease appears to be partly due to the public not wanting to bother us with minor matters when they knew we were dealing with the earthquake,'' Mr Rickard said.

Other significant drops occurred in Southern (11.2 per cent); Counties Manukau (9.4 per cent) and Bay of Plenty (8.6 per cent).

The overall national resolution rate rose slightly, from 47.3 per cent in 2010-11 to 47.6 per cent in 2011-12.

Although homicide and related offending dropped by 20 offences (21.5 per cent), the number of murders rose by nine - to 43 this year from 34 the year before.

This is still lower than in most years since electronic records began in 1995 but within that figure, there were 20 family violence murders - the same number as the previous year.

The latest figures also showed:

* Acts intended to cause injury, which are mainly assault-related offences, dropped by 6.8 per cent (down 2948 offences).

* Sexual assault and related offences increased by 3.6 per cent (121 offences). Sexual offending is known to be significantly under-reported, so it is difficult to know to what extent this increase is a result of increased reporting rather than increased offending.

* Abduction, harassment and other related offences against a person - dominated by threatening behaviour - dropped by 10.2 per cent (1408 offences). These offences are often at the less serious end of the spectrum. The decrease may reflect proactive policing of disorder or changing public tolerance of violent behaviour.

* Robbery, extortion and related offences were down by 8 per cent.

* Unlawful entry with intent / burglary / break and enter offences reduced by 3.4 per cent. This included a 1.6 per cent reduction in dwelling burglaries. Much of the drop in Canterbury is consistent with the population shifting out of the CBD and eastern areas and police focusing on prevention.

* Theft and related offences dropped by 5.2 per cent (7146 offences). This category makes up approximately one third of all recorded offences. Canterbury contributed a 14.3 per cent reduction (2187 offences) in minor thefts for the reasons outlined above. Nationally, there were fewer stolen vehicles than the previous year (3.5 per cent from 20,345 to 19,642). Thefts from cars reduced even more (5.2 per cent from 37,954 to 35,976).

* Illicit drug offences rose 5.1 per cent, from 20,973 to 22,052 offences. Within this figure, recorded offences for drug use and possession actually fell 5.6 per cent. The increases in this category was driven by a 72.2 per cent increase in offences for dealing and trafficking, which reflects proactive targeting of drug dealers. There were 798 more recorded offences for supply/administer/deal cannabis (10.2 per cent) and 532 more recorded offences for supply/administer/deal methamphetamine and amphetamine (100.6 per cent).

* Property damage and environmental pollution offences fell by 9.4 per cent. Most of these offences relate to wilful damage (down 5.8 per cent). However, recorded graffiti offences fell 30 per cent from 7238 to 5069. It's likely that preventative policing is contributing to these reductions.

* Public order offences decreased by 3.5 per cent. Auckland City increased 46.3 per cent due to increased enforcement of liquor bans.