One of the most tedious and predictable right wing electoral tactics is to try and whip up a frenzy of fear about crime, especially violent crime. Mix in some “fear of youth” dog whistling for extra impact. Last election National were guilty as usual. The rhetoric:
Key: I am extremely worried about the youth crime problem, with senseless violence and killings seemingly occurring on a daily basis. Good, law-abiding Kiwis end up paying the price. We must act now to defuse these unexploded human time-bombs, who are on the fast-track to Paremoremo.
The Action Plan: National Party Leader John Key has today released his Action Plan for Violent Crime and declared that it is ready to go from the first day of a new National-led Government.
“This list by no means covers all the steps National will take to make our communities safer, but it does show how urgent the situation is and that we are prepared to take up the fight when our opponents haven’t.
“National’s Action Plan for Violent Crime will take the practical steps necessary to start addressing these failures and to squarely face the challenge of escalating violent crime..”
After the election: In particular, [my government] will address the frustrations shared by many New Zealanders who have conveyed to my Government their concerns at the high and climbing levels of violent crime throughout the country.
And so on. Goodness – however did we survive those dark times? Maybe because the reality is very different:
Most peaceful: New Zealand has been judged the most peaceful nation in the world. An Australian thinktank recognised our stable political situation, relatively low rate of violence and decrease in military spending.
The voices speaking out against National’s propaganda campaign were too few. Victoria University felt moved to debunk two of Key’s alarmist claims (“Violent youth crime is at an all-time high”, and “Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar?”). And naturally The Standard tried to keep the record straight:
SP: The latest Police statistics show crime is still dropping. Crime dropped from 1013 offences per 10,000 people in 2006 to 1008 in 2007. There was a dramatic reduction in homicides (down 10.1%, following a 10.2% drop in 2006), sex attacks were down 2.3%, and “Dishonesty” offences, including thefts and burglaries, fell 5.1%.
National’s scare-mongering was aided by an apparent rise in domestic violence, but this was as a result of the successful “It’s Not OK” advertising campaign:
3 News: The overall crime rate was down in the year ended June 30, but a surge in reported family violence offences meant violent crime was up 11 percent.
Annual crime statistics released today for the financial year to June 30 showed 107 more offences were recorded in the year than in the June 2007 year. Adjusted for the population increase in the same period, this was a 1 percent decrease, police said.
Violence offences rose 11.1 percent — with the family violence sub-category increasing 29 percent. Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls said the increase was due to the It’s Not OK campaign and mandatory police training on family violence which prompted an increase in reporting of family violence.
The truth was always there, but of course more complicated and less marketable than National’s lying sound bites:
The Herald: Police crime statistics released today showed a small increase in total recorded offences with 426,380 – 0.5 per cent more than 2006. However, with the population increasing this figure represented a drop of offences per 100,000 people. New Zealand recorded its lowest murder rate for a decade at 45, with 41 resolved before the end of the year. Robberies and kidnappings were also down by seven and two per cent respectively.
Given the reality, National’s rhetoric was a crime in itself.