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Something odd in crime stats

Written By: - Date published: 12:02 am, October 2nd, 2010 - 51 comments
Categories: crime - Tags:

The crime stats are not good news. Homicides are up, violent offences are up, sex offences are up, harassment and related offences are up, drug offences are up, public order offences are up. Oddly, though, the total number of offences is down (by 0.1%). The decrease is entirely due to a 25.6% decrease in recorded fraud offences. What’s up with that?

All the other categories of offences have small movements of a few percent (except homicide, which has large annual fluctuations because of the small number of offences) but we’re supposed to believe that there’s been 3,000 fewer fraud offences, a quarter less in one year for no apparent reason?

I suspect that the result has been caused by some change in policing practice, not Kiwis suddenly becoming 25% less fraudulent. maybe the government cut funding to the people who detect frauds (hey, they cut Customs funding eh? I bet false import declarations are a major source of fraud offences)

So, lets put fraud to one side and look at the rest of the crime stats. They’re up from 427,775 last year to 430,971, just a touch below population increase.

Whether you count fraud offences or not, crime is up since National took power. All their tough on crime showboating hasn’t changed a thing because the driver of changes in the crime rate is unemployment.

51 comments on “Something odd in crime stats ”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    There were decreases in 9 out of 15 categories. In other words, in nearly 60% of crime categories crime is decreasing. But you didn’t want to mention that apparently.

    • Marty G 1.1

      The downward movements in some other categories are all very small in percentage and absolute terms. Then there is fraud – down 25.6%.

      Like I say, even if you count all the other downward categories, then the total number of crimes went up. It’s only that remarkable and unexplained quarter reduction in recorded fraud offences that makes the overall total go down.

  2. tsmithfield 2

    Further to my post above, 306298 of the 441960 reported crimes (nearly 70%) are in categories that are decreasing. That’s against an increasing population trend as well, BTW. So, clearly, in most areas the police are winning the battle.

    • Tigger 2.1

      Yes that ought to console the family of a homicide victim. Sorry your loved one was killed but hey, fraud is dropping (apparently).

      Police aren’t winning anything. Their budget is being squeezed and there are rumpled of National gerrymandering policing methods.

  3. tsmithfield 3

    Tigger, as per the figures I have quoted above, the fact is that the figures clearly demonstrate that NZers are less likely to experience a crime against them now than they were before. Check the figures out yourself and prove otherwise.

    • Tigger 3.1

      And the fact is I’m more likely to be murdered now than I was in the past…I’m not arguing overall figures with you since I too suspect they’re shonky. But happy for you to defend National’s crime record with the family of a slain person…

      Because I’d so rather be murdered than have someone litter on the footpath…

  4. ‘less likely to experience A CRIME”…but more likely to be murdered…or raped or attacked….tsmithfield thanks for those comforting words

  5. RedLogix 5

    Obtuse not ts? You know perfectly well what Marty’s getting at.

    Rising inequaltity and economic stress between the classes results in more violent crime… as it always does.

    At the same time the numbers show that under a Tory govt the police are quietly encouraged to turn a blind eye to that preferred Tory crime….fraud.

    Now why are you defending this?

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Well they have ‘changed to a new method of recording offences’, something used in Australia called ASOC

    But wait theres more

    Meanwhile, Ms Collins has asked police to collect different crime statistics to show a picture that rewards proactive policing, rather then penalising it.
    “The crime statistics as published by the Department of Statistics don’t give any indication of what’s really going on.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10659934

    That could explain it , Collins has decided to ignore the Statisticians and have happy crime statistics from the Police instead.
    TS is singing the same tune counting a 0.2% drop in robberies as a’ drop’ when its just part of the normal fluctuations.

  7. tsmithfield 7

    The increase in violence offences is probably not surprising given that NZ is affected by the world-wide recession like many other countries. The fact that crime has decreased overall during this type of environment is probably very good.

    Also, the population has increased by 1.2% during the time frame. So, the raw crime figures need to be adjusted for the increase in population, meaning that overall crime has decreased by 1.3%.

    • Kevin Welsh 7.1

      Holy shit, did you just agree that unemployment is a key driver of crime TS?

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        SNAP!

        With National driving societal inequality up and up and up and up I guess TS isn’t too surprised at the violent crime results.

        Thankfully at the bottom of the cliff NACT have passed three strikes and is on track to make Corrections the biggest department in the land.

    • RedLogix 7.2

      The fact that crime has decreased overall during this type of environment is probably very good.

      Pay attention. If you take out the fraud category, then all other crimes have increased. Not good news.

      Next question….why have the fraud numbers suddenly become such an ‘outlier’ data point? It’s the sort of thing you usually get quite excited about ts.

      • tsmithfield 7.2.1

        Wrong. Read my first and second posts.

        • RedLogix 7.2.1.1

          Wrong… the most serious violent categories have increased substantially. Very bad news.

          Most other categories have more or less stayed the same, within the margin of noise. Hardly good news.

          Only fraud, that preferred white collar crime, has decreased against all expectation. Outlier data point not?

    • The Voice of Reason 7.3

      “Also, the population has increased by 1.2% during the time frame. So, the raw crime figures need to be adjusted for the increase in population, meaning that overall crime has decreased by 1.3%.”

      Now, maths wasn’t my strongest subject at school, but I’m picking you’ve ballsed that up, TS. I would have thought the increase in population of 1.2% would require an adjustment to the difference, not the total. So 1.2 times 0.1, not 1.2 added to 0.1.

      I stand to be corrected though. Any stats geek out there able to give a definitive opinion?

  8. ghostwhowalksnz 8

    So when Murder is up its a ‘random fluctuation’ but when only one of many categories shows a significant drop ( random fluctuation?) that means overall crime is decreasing ?
    Well the people killed in police chases is well up, is this an increase in crime or a drop in unsolved cases of going through red lights

  9. Nick C 9

    “But we’re supposed to believe that there’s been 3,000 fewer fraud offences, a quarter less in one year for no apparent reason?”

    No of course not Marty. No one would ever expect a standard author to ever believe that anything good ever happens in NZ when National is in power. Ever.

    “maybe the government cut funding to the people who detect frauds”

    Yes, that must be it! You’re just guessing, but hey, it cant be because anything good has happened, right?

    • Marty G 9.1

      No Nick. I just don’t believe in magic.

      I can understand normal fluctuations. I can understand homicide varying by 20% year to year because the absolute number is so small.

      But I don’t believe that Kiwis, for no apparent reason, committed 25%, 3000, fewer fraud offences last year. There has to be a cause for the change in the stats.

      Either, fewer frauds are being committed or fewer are being detected.

      I’m unaware of any social or economic development that would result in frauds going down by that much (quite the opposite, in fact).

      I am aware that Customs’ budget has been cut and I would have thought that the offences they detect fall under this category – so that’s a possible cause. Do you have any explanation of your own for the 25.6% fall in the fraud category?

      • Nick C 9.1.1

        No I have absolutely no idea, niether of us really do. I would have to look at what actually makes up the majority of fraud cases in more detail, and where the decreases have occured. You talk about customs budgets being cut but really have no idea whether the fraud has occured in that area.

        The point is im not presuming anything about what caused it, you are presuming that its something bad the government did to conveniently slot the explanation in with the rest of your anti national prejudices. I dont think theres any reason at least some of it couldnt be explained by govt policy – the bulk of legislation passed in 2009 by National was in the law and order area.

        • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1.1

          That’s because that’s the most logical reason as to why one very specific type of crime suddenly dropped. It’s the type of crime this government is most likely to engage in i.e. Blinglish’s housing rort.

        • Marty G 9.1.1.2

          two possible causes:

          actual crime in this category dropped by 25.6%

          or

          detection of crime in this category dropped 25.6%

          I’m far more likely to believe that detection practices change that much in a year than the population’s behaviour does.

          It’s like how the ‘It’s not OK’ family violence campaign has been associated with a rise in recorded domestic violence. Only a fool would assume that the rise is due to the population’s behaviour changing for no apparent reason when there’s been a change that affects the odds a given crime will be recorded.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    Anyway, Marty, you are being highly selective in just removing fraud offences as a special case. What happens to the overall figures if I am equally selective and remove public disorder figures for example?

    The point being that public disorder crimes hardly count as crimes. So we should take those out of the overall figures. If we do that, it pretty well balances out the fraud figures you have pointed to.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      None of the others are outliers, just that one.

      • tsmithfield 10.1.1

        Nah. There needs to be a rational as well. In this case, public order offences are nuisance crime rather than serious intentional crime. It is right and proper that they are not considered in the same category as intentional and serious crime. There is more of an argument for excluding public disorder offences than fraud ones.

        • Marty G 10.1.1.1

          i don’t buy the argument that we should pick and choose which categories of crime matter.

          My only point is that it is the fraud category alone that accounts for the small decrease in recorded crimes and that is odd – the question that needs to be answered is ‘why did this category reduce 25.6% in one year when nothing else did?’

          • Marty G 10.1.1.1.1

            I’m not ‘removing fraud’ or saying let’s ignore it. In fact, I’m saying ‘what the hell’s going on with that one massive outlier’?

        • felix 10.1.1.2

          ts,

          As you know I’m not very well versed in stats, but on the thread about the Spirit Level you recommended to ignore the U.S. and the U.K from certain groups of stats because they were outliers.

          Are you saying you had some other rationale for this now?

    • bbfloyd 10.2

      TS… i didn’t know you were a criminal lawyer! your expertise with “definitions” of crime are obviously the work of a legal mastermind.

      or are we just wasting time trying to talk sense into a numbnuts? do you have any idea what constitutes the range of “public disorder”… i can see you have no idea what you talk about when you pontificate on this.

      easy lesson in “reality” for the masses, (which you obviously don’t consider yourself part of) is that public disorder is nearly always the precurser to physical assaults carried out on the targets of the “disorder”. indeed “pubic disorder” is a catchphrase that encompasses a very wide range of anti social and aggressive/violent behavior.

      to be charged with said crime usually means that the police have been called in early enough to stop anyone getting hurt,or killed.

      i know you will ignore this advice, but that is as irrelevant as your “opinions” on this topic. i can tell you as a person who, by dint of their job(musician) alone, has witnessed dozens of incidents of”public disorder” that were heading for serious confrontation situations but for the intervention of police. and that is just in the pubs i have played at. where i live, the incidence of highly stressed people harassing passersby has become an ongoing aggravation. every one of those “minor” incidents of harassment has the potential to turn ugly, depending on the reaction of said passersby.

      i would be interested to know what your logic would be that enables you to, at least pretend to be able to classify what should, and shouldn’t be classified as “crime”.. i would hate to think you are just blowing it out your arse simply because you love stanley(key) so much you havn’t figured out that your relationship is yet another co-dependency.

  11. Draco T Bastard 11

    Job losses at IRD as pressures grow

    The loss of 250 jobs represented a 4 per cent cut in staff numbers, said PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff The cuts came at a time when the department was increasing its work load.

    “One million workers have joined KiwiSaver in just 21 months.

    “That’s more than 2000 people joining every working day and yet IRD is cutting jobs because the government is cutting its budget.”

    Can’t detect tax fraud if you don’t have the people there to police it.

  12. ianmac 12

    The figures published are for 2009/2010. Therefore the increase/decrease has been compared to the previous year. The previous year was pretty grim too. Perhaps the comparison should be with 2007/8?
    It seems to me that a small improvement over the previous year may not be an improvement at all, overall.

    Draco’s point about the IRD drastic loss of staff may explain the drop in fraud crime. And Customs.

    • bbfloyd 12.1

      correct me please if i’m wrong, but isn’t the serious fraud office being, or has been downgraded/closed.

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.1

        it was being collapsed into some other organisation, yes? Organised crime or something. People were complaining there would be a loss of specialised capabilities to deal with white collar crime. Can’t remember exactly.

        • Supermaorifella 12.1.1.1

          Can’t remember exactly either Viper, but yeah it was being subsumed into another entity, and I think losing a couple of it’s statutory powers as well if my memory is correct. But the serious fraud office doesn’t deal with a huge volume anyway, so that can’t be a substantial influence on the stats. IRD as pointed out above is more relevant, perhaps they’ve diverted staff to smoothing out the GST transition over the last period.
          As for the policing numbers, the police have been asking for more staff for…as long as I can remember, due to ever-increasing need (cue social injustice rant here please). Differing policies have shifted policing resources around during the last couple of terms of government, but the end results are the same. At the moment a continuing focus on problem areas like South Auckland and national communications means areas like the Hawkes Bay and Northland are well under-resourced, but, much like the police chases someone was commenting on earlier , it’s a catch-22, with no optimal solution, just tactical adjustments to staff and policy as necessary.
          Violent crime has been increasing, both world-wide and in NZ, for much longer than the current governments term.

          • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.1.1

            Violent crime has been increasing, both world-wide and in NZ, for much longer than the current governments term.

            Yeah, it seems to track along with increasing societal inequality.

      • Draco T Bastard 12.1.2

        All I can find for that is that the bill to disestablish the SFO has gone to it’s second reading. Can’t find anything else about the changes to the SFO.

        • Rex Widerstrom 12.1.2.1

          It was an issue that was being pursued as part of Winston’s personal vendetta against the SFO and Charles Sturt.

          When we got rid of Winston (something frequently lamented by some commenters here) the pressing need to get rid of the SFO evaporated and it’s not been something Labour has called for in opposition… so clearly didn’t really believe in whilst in government.

          So the disestablishment of the SFO and the potential rise in fraud as a result was yet another price Clark was prepared to pay to keep her power trip going.

          • Draco T Bastard 12.1.2.1.1

            You’d have to connect the two. ATM it’s only circumstantial evidence that the changes made to the SFO have resulted in unreported/prosecuted fraud.

          • lprent 12.1.2.1.2

            Most of the lamentation wasn’t about getting rid of Winston. It was about the manner that it was done, that made sure he’d stay around the political landscape. Quite simply it was idiotic short-term political tactic that didn’t particularly winnow away the support of NZF except temporarily. It’d have been far more effective to actually drive the party down below 5% permanently.

            It virtually ensures that he will be back on the back of the story about the underhand methods used to knock the NZF party support down. I mean all that he has to do is to start pointing at the perk-luster Rodney and the Act party and their performance in government. The narrative that he now possesses about those evil pricks shown in the Hollow Men driving a good man out of parliament just has to be good for a few percent for the next few elections.

            Quite simply the morons making up the lynchmob with their trumped up unproved accusations did the country a major disservice.

  13. Blue 13

    The supposed drop in fraud is very interesting, especially in light of this article from July this year that indicated that fraud was going up (as you would expect in a recession).

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10656590

    There’s something very dodgy going on with those crime stats. Mind you, this isn’t the first time there’s been some wonky stats released by the government this year. Remember the miraculous 1% drop in unemployment in one month that suddenly reversed and got worse the next?

  14. Lazy Susan 14

    The SFO have been re-organised, completed in June this year although many of the changes happened during the previous year.

    Some clues for the huge reduction in fraud are to be found in this story.

    The idea of easing off on the small frauds and chasing the big fish seems like code for “lighten up on the white collar crime fellas”. Former head of the SFO Bradshaw seems less than impressed.

    As for Collins, she says

    I would not want [the SFO] to take cases that might be better left to other agencies. I want them to be stretching themselves.

    And what other agencies are those Judith?

  15. sean14 15

    the driver of changes in the crime rate is unemployment.

    I just don’t buy that, it’s far too simplistic an answer. It assumes that crime is a rational way to get money if you don’t have a job. How many criminals are making real money out of their enterprises? There’s no cash incentive for beating your wife (and plenty of men with jobs are doing it).

    Furthermore, a quick look at the employment statistics on the Statistics New Zealand website shows, for example, that in June 2007 80,000 people were unemployed. In June 2010 155,000 people were unemployed. Has the crime rate double between June 2007 and June 2010?

  16. Mac1 16

    Sean14,
    I am out of work, no money, time on my hands, bored, angry, frustrated so I start to do drugs or get on the booze or get depressed. Nothing here about taking a rational decision to do something criminal whch could range from theft to violent crime to driving offences. But a reasonable person would recognise the seed bed of crime in these scenarios. A lot of crime has little to do with people’s rationality, after all.

    Can you not see this situation writ large in our nation as unemployment rises?

    The crime rate might not have doubled as you say in your figures, but has it increased? What figure did you find in your quick look? What causal factor could you ascribe increase in crime to if not unemployment?

    • ianmac 16.1

      Not sure that being poor is in itself a reason for people to turn to crime. More to do with the bitterness of being cheated and the flaunting of wealth by rich people who claim the ground as “elite” which might turn some into crims.
      During the Great Depression many very poor unemployed were scrupulously honest and socially generous with their tiny resources. I was a guest of a very poor Sri Lankan family early this year, and their resources were so little in material terms, but their cheerful generosity was very very humbling.
      Poor not equal criminality.

      • Mac1 16.1.1

        Agreed, ianmac, which is why I hoped that I was indicating factors other than poverty. Of course, if I am poor and bored I could go to the library etc. If I am angry and poor, I could dig the garden. If I am frustrated and poor, I could etc etc etc.

        My scenario works for someone out of work but not poor. They could just as well be angry, frustrated, bored, depressed, and getting in to the substances.

        A lot of crime is done in poor neighbourhoods by the poor to the poor. The flaunting of wealth and feelings of being cheated I acknowledge under my headings of frustration and anger. They do not seem to relate to wealth-flaunting, cheating rich people as a the cause of that crime, but then I did say that a lot of crime is not rationally driven.

        But I’m not a criminologist. Neither was the Great Helmsman, Jim Bolger, but I seem to remember him acknowledging the link between unemployment and crime. I could be wrong, there too, though.

      • Draco T Bastard 16.1.2

        Poor not equal criminality.

        No it doesn’t but it is a driver for those that are stressed and angry due to not having enough to get by.

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