Juking the stats?

Written By: - Date published: 11:50 am, April 3rd, 2012 - 18 comments
Categories: crime, police - Tags:

The recorded crime rate has been dropping for two decades now mostly due to changing demographics. More good news this year with a 4.8% drop, mostly attributable to a 21% fall in Canterbury. But something’s a little off in these numbers. The number of offences recorded has fallen, yet the percentage solved has fallen even more. Shouldn’t less crime mean more resources to solve the ones that do happen?

For the past 20 years, the number of recorded offences has bounced around between 400,000 and 450,000 – the rate trending down as the population grows.

With police resources growing and the crime rate falling, a higher proportion of crimes were resolved, rising from 38% in 1994 to 48% in 2009.

But something strange happened in the last two years – recorded crime drop about 10% but the number of resolved crimes fell by 12%.

What’s going on here? Why is a drop in the number of offences tied with a proportionally larger fall in resolutions when we would expect fewer crimes mean more of the crimes that do happen get solved?

Well, a quarter of crimes are in categories that are only really detected by police action – drugs offences, weapons offences, environmental pollution, and administrative offences.

Because no crime gets recorded most of the time unless it’s due to an arrest these offences have very high resolution rates – unlike burglaries, for instance, drug offences don’t tend to get reported by the public but, rather, detected by police action.

It’s very simple to cut the number of recorded drug or weapons offences – stop doing raids on gangs and drug dealers. Likewise, move resources away from administrative offences and, ta da, the number recorded falls. Despite making up 24% of recorded offences in 2009, these classes of offence accounted for a disproportionate 42% of the fall in recorded crimes over the next two years.

Did the number of these crimes really fall or did the police stop looking?

The other out-size fall in crime numbers is in Canterbury with recorded thefts, robberies, burglaries, property damage, public order and fraud offences down 9,250 in the past two years. Just those offence classes in only Canterbury account for 20% of the nationwide fall. Well, I would submit that there are thousands of deserted houses and areas nearly devoid of residents in Christchurch – plenty to steal and places to do your dirt out of the eye of neighbours and PC Plod. Or maybe all the crims joined the exodus from the garden city to Australia.

Just as police devoting fewer resources to certain types of crime would cause recorded offence and resolution numbers to drop regardless of what was happening in the real world, so criminal activity moving out of sight in Christchurch would decrease recorded offenses.

I think that crime rates is trending down due to the falling proportion of young men in society but the explanation for the sudden drop in both recorded crimes and solved crimes in the past two years might not be good news.

18 comments on “Juking the stats?”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    A falling proportion of young men in society ? You would need a fall in total numbers of young men to account for a fall in numbers of crimes. These figures are not crime rates, but actual numbers of crimes.

    You would expect the lower numbers in Christchurch to rise fairly soon and quickly. But I have a suspicion the police will massage the numbers like they do in New York City- where a reported armed robbery becomes a ‘lost property’ offence.

  2. muzza 2

    NZ – “Perceived” , least corrupt country in the world!

  3. Rob 3

    Whatever Muzza, you obviously have never conducted business anywhere else in the world.

    • muzza 3.1

      Cool Rob – Big pile of garbage, slightly smaller pile of garbage…

      Whatever makes you sleep better at night champ!

  4. Descendant Of Smith 4

    Is it also possible that the change in offenses charged that I mentioned yesterday would have an effect in both results.

    If a six cheque fraud case is now a one fraud case instead of six would there not be both 5 cases less reported and 5 cases less solved.

  5. Balanced View 5

    This article is laughable. Are you really going to try to find a negative spin out of reduced crime rates?

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Hey “Balanced” how come the rate of crime resolution by the cops is dropping rapidly? Aren’t you interested or concerned about this?

      • Balanced View 5.1.1

        Not ideal is it, but surely the better stat is that there is less crime to begin with? Or would you be happy with higher crime rates but exceptional resolution?
        Despite the assertions in the article, if you have a look at the breakdowns, almost every major category of crime has reduced. Let’s drop the political flags we hold for once and feel proud the New Zealand is becoming a safer place to live!

        • Colonial Viper

          Balanced view = zero logic

          Here’s a clue dude: you can have lower crime rates AND improved resolution!!! Just don’t limit yourself to stupidity and it can happen.

          • Balanced View

            True. Let’s hope they can do it! But doesn’t it feel good to see some positive news for once?

            • Colonial Viper

              I see – ignore the stats which don’t suit you, and feign complete disinterest in what is happening there.

              While cheerleading the stats which do happen to suit.

              Wow another dumbass narrow vision National cadet.

    • felix 5.2

      This article is about reduced resolution rates.

      Surely you’re not trying to spin that as a positive, are you?

      • Balanced View 5.2.1

        So long as crime is reducing, I don’t really care if resolution decreases. Prevention is the best form of resolution.

        • Colonial Viper


          Sucks to be a victim of crime then: “Balanced View’ “doesn’t really care” if the perps who did wrong against you are caught or not.

          What a tool

        • Balanced View

          I can see how you draw that conclusion – even though I am a tool.
          But on a broader perspective, of the two stats, if they don’t both improve, I would select the one that is improving every single time!

          • Colonial Viper

            But on a broader perspective, of the two stats, if they don’t both improve, I would select the one that is improving every single time!

            I know you would, because you’ve already stated that you don’t care if victims of crime have their crimes resolved or not!!! Tool.

  6. tracey 6

    If the earthquake is responsible for the economy then it must also be responsible for the 22% drop in crime in CHCHCH. This government surely can’t have it both ways?

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