A large number of Bay of Plenty first-time offenders acted out in violence post-lockdown with one social agency leader saying anger often came as a result of increased fear.
Police figures provided to NZME under the Official Information Act revealed Bay of Plenty first-time offenders in the four-month period post-lockdown were mostly charged for acts intended to cause injury or dangerous or negligent acts endangering other people.
There were also a high number of traffic and regulatory charges for first-time offenders.
Despite this, there was a decrease in offending as a whole post-lockdown when compared to the first three months of the year.
The data shows 732 people were caught breaking the law for their first time in the Bay of Plenty between May and August last year, with 304 offenders prosecuted. Of those caught, 127 were children under 16.
Offending across the board in the Bay of Plenty peaked in the first three months of the year.
The most common offences at that time were unlawful entry with intent and burglary with 1313 Bay of Plenty people caught, and 3853 people caught for theft and related offences.
This was higher than June, July and August when 949 people were caught for unlawful entry with intent and burglary and 2651 were caught in relation to theft and related offences.
Billy Macfarlane, a former criminal who runs the Pūwhakamua tikanga programme in Rotorua to help offenders change their ways, said many people had gone into "fight or flight" mode in lockdown and afterwards as a result of the "uncertainty".
He said it was "human nature" to go into panic mode and this presented differently in everyone.
"People don't like critical change."
Things like theft could be a result of "desperation" under pressure, he said.
"Good people can do bad things. It's important to look at the circumstances as to why they do it."
In his opinion, the region's crime rate was better than expected through lockdown with "the criminals actually listening".
Te Tuinga Whanau Support Service director Tommy Wilson said violent behaviour more often than not came as a result of fear.
"Fear of the unknown" and "fear of disconnection" were all things faced by many during and after lockdown and in some, it manifested in anger and lashing out, he said.
In response to the theft figures, Wilson said it was "easy pickings" over lockdown and there likely would have been more desperate "opportunistic" thieves than ever.
"When people are hungry - they go looking for food. Some people were really just struggling."
Former chief executive of New Zealand's Women's Refuge, Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chairwoman and Lakes District Health Board member Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said tempers got away on some people in lockdown and the circumstances brought "bad behaviours to the surface".
She said the figures showing some post-lockdown offending was violent were "not surprising" and her experience had taught her women and children often fell victim.
Immense pressure combined with uncertain job security and being with family in a small space with no "respite" was a bad concoction for violent behaviour, she said.
The figures showed men were more than twice as likely to first-time offend than women at that time.
Acting director of the Evidence-Based Policing Centre Simon Williams said the pandemic was a "unique event" and they had not been sure what was going to happen to offending during and after.
He said police, as an organisation, had remained "agile and responsive" to any behaviours which would be indicative of a crime trend.
Upon reaching alert level 1, Bay of Plenty police reported they did not see a significant rise in crime but, instead, levels had evened out to what had been reported prior to alert level 4.
"Police staff were returned to their substantive roles."