Comment on release of 2011 crime statistics
In an interview on 2 April 2012, Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush indicated that 2011 crime statistics show a “levelling off” of family violence reports (listen here).
If this in fact reflects a reduced level of family violence in the community, it would absolutely be something to be celebrated.
We recognise the work of New Zealand Police, who have had a strong focus of activity on family violence for many years.
We also agree with Deputy Police Commissioner Bush that campaigns to change the culture of acceptance of family violence are key initiatives and that a continuing, sustained focus on the issue is required.
As the core business of Police is responding effectively to crime, there are a range of reasons why Police data may not be the most appropriate to use in monitoring levels of family violence over time. Some of the limitations New Zealand Police acknowledge include the following:
Changes have occurred in the way NZ Police record family violence data over time, which makes comparisons difficult. The New Zealand Police ‘Questions and Answers’ on the 2011 crime statistics note that due to changes in the way data is recorded, “comparisons over time in Police family violence statistics are ambiguous and not meaningful for official purposes” (see here).
New Zealand Police also warn against year on year comparisons of the figures produced as they can be impacted by changes in education and awareness (see here).
In general, recorded crime provides an indication of police activity. Where there is a police or government policy to focus on a specific type of crime, this may result in increases in the recording of this type of crime because the police are concentrating more time and effort in this area.
Other issues include that there is under-reporting for many types of crime, especially family violence, sexual assault and other violence-related crime. Therefore, police crime figures should not be relied upon as a measure of the trends in these types of crime in the community.
We note that New Zealand Police will release figures on family violence later this year.
We also note the substantial increase in reported levels of sexual assault in the data released yesterday: 14.9% nationally. 67% of reported sexual assaults occurred in ‘dwellings’. Police attribute the increase to people reporting more sexual assault rather than increases in the incidence of sexual assault. However sexual assault agencies highlight the lack of focus on sexual assault in the last two decades (see here).
Access the data on the New Zealand Statistics website here.
Read Crime drops in most regions, but sex assaults up, Radio New Zealand, 2/4/12
Listen to Crime down to its lowest level in 15 years, Radio New Zealand, 2/4/12
Listen to Reaction from a domestic violence agency, Radio New Zealand, 2/4/12
Read Sex attacks increase but overall crime down, NZ Herald, 3/4/12
Read Auckland bucks decline in crime, NZ Herald, 3/4/12
Read Sex crimes increase, with quakes blamed, The Press, 3/4/12
Read Assaults on children increase by 31 percent, NewsWire.co.nz, 13/4/12
Read Crime stats to drop family violence, NZ Herald, 17/4/12
Read Police enhance understanding of family violence, NZ Police, 17/4/12