A senior New Zealand police officer's claims that media coverage is to blame for an increase in burglaries last month has been labelled "scapegoating" by Labour and baseless by crime experts.
Counties Manukau Police Inspector Dave Glossop told the Herald in an interview on Friday that a larger than expected spike in burglaries in the district was because of increased media coverage on the issue.
"We have seen an increase in burglaries since there has been all this reporting on resolution rates," he said. "The media around burglaries has been one of the contributing factors to the increase of burglaries because people think it's a crime they can get away with."
The Herald's Hitting Home series on the subject - that revealed 164 burglaries went unsolved each day in 2015 - ran in the week starting March 7.
"March saw an increase in burglaries, in particular around the time all the media coverage came out around burglaries and resolution rates.
"We were looking at the factors that were behind it ... the things that we have identified that were different, that were out of the norm, and that was the media focus on burglaries."
Labour's police spokesman Stuart Nash said Mr Glossop's comments were out of line.
"The media had highlighted the need for people to report burglaries. Blaming the media is looking for a scapegoat for what is an abysmal track record that the police have to take responsibility for.
"They need to accept responsibility and come up with solutions to address these issues."
Victoria University Criminologist Dr Trevor Bradley said it was very unlikely that media coverage caused such a rise.
"Those are comments that are very easily made but very difficult, if not impossible, to support. I really can't imagine someone reading an article in the newspaper or online that highlights low resolutions rates for burglary ... and then deciding on the basis of that article that the time is ripe to go and commit burglary."
University of Canterbury Criminologist Dr Jarrod Gilbert said while certainty of being caught was a deterrence for criminals, only in-depth research could determine what was behind a spike in numbers.
"Just because two things happen simultaneously ... doesn't necessarily mean they are related. That's not to say we can't know what happened, but only in-depth research would give us the answers."
Police Association President Greg O'Connor said when an area of crime was highlighted in the media, it was more common that police would allocate more resources to that and rates would improve.
"It has resulted in bad publicity around burglaries and more emphasis is being placed on investigations. Smarter criminals would know that by the time publicity started around police not ... enforcing burglary resolution rates they would be tasked with more resources to improve that."
Since the Herald campaign, there has been a renewed focus on solving burglaries by police with Operation Resolve launched in Auckland City as well as other initiatives around the country.
Police National Headquarters stood by Mr Glossop's comments on Friday, but made a statement yesterday after the Herald approached Police Minister Judith Collins for comment.
"I am advised that one police district has anecdotally observed a recent increase in burglary crimes," said the statement. "However there has been no formal statistical analysis or research done on this issue and it would take a few months for any crime trends to become visible."