What we know about assault in New Zealand – in graphs

What do deprivation, bar location and time of day all have in common? They all affect the rate of assault in New Zealand. 

It’s safe to say that when it comes to assaults, alcohol matters. In 2009, the New Zealand police estimated that approximately 31% of all recorded crime (including assault) was perpetrated by an individual who had consumed alcohol prior to offending. And while things like proximity to pubs/bars, time of day and levels of deprivation have frequently been linked to rates of assault, the combined effect of these three factors have largely been left statistically unproven in a New Zealand context.

To ameliorate this gap in knowledge, Wellington data company, Dot Loves Data, decided to look at the numbers and expose the reality of assault rates in New Zealand. To do this, Dot investigated data provided by the New Zealand police in conjunction with its Dynamic Deprivation Index (a tool developed by Dot to measure socio-economic deprivation on a monthly basis), population data from Statistics New Zealand, and pub/bar locations.

These are some of the key insights it found:

Proximity to a location serving alcohol is a big deal

Instead of low lit alleyways and deserted streets, 31% of peak time assaults (Friday 11:00pm – Saturday 3:00am / Saturday 11:00pm – Sunday 3:00am) were found to occur within 100 metres of a bar or pub. The link between peak-time assaults occurring within a close proximity of bars and clubs indicates that alcohol is likely to be involved.

However, during off-peak times, assaults are more likely to occur in areas with a high density of traffic generators (fast food restaurants, shopping centres, supermarkets, petrol stations) than in areas with a high density of bar or pubs. This finding suggests that assaults in highly deprived areas are less likely to be alcohol-related as they’re occurring in off-peak times (when people are less likely to be consuming alcohol) and closer to traffic generators than taverns.

Based off 2016 data (Adam D. Ward, Paul J. Bracewell & Ying Cui (2018): Tavern proximity, tavern density and socio-economic status as predictors of assault occurrence within New Zealand: a temporal comparison, Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online)

You’re most likely to get assaulted on a Saturday/Sunday night out

Between the hours of 12:00am and 1:00am on Sunday, you’re five times more likely to be assaulted than during any other hour outside of weekend evenings.

Based off 2016 data (Adam D. Ward, Paul J. Bracewell & Ying Cui (2018): Tavern proximity, tavern density and socio-economic status as predictors of assault occurrence within New Zealand: a temporal comparison, Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online)

The economic prosperity of a location matters

In New Zealand, the highest density of taverns is found in moderate to highly deprived areas (deciles 7 and 8) and the number of assaults follow suit. You’re also twelve times more likely to be assaulted in the most deprived areas in New Zealand (decile 10) where there’s a high density of taverns, than the least deprived areas of New Zealand (decile 1).

Based off 2016 data (Adam D. Ward, Paul J. Bracewell & Ying Cui (2018): Tavern proximity, tavern density and socio-economic status as predictors of assault occurrence within New Zealand: a temporal comparison, Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online)

The number of overall assaults is growing

According to data from the New Zealand Police, 21,861 assaults occurred in New Zealand last year. This is a sizeable increase from the year before when 20,602 assaults were recorded. In 2015 and 2014, there were just over 20,000 assaults per year.

Assaults in NZ per year & per capita (Dot Loves Data)

Serious assaults resulting in injury are increasing at the fastest rate

Out of those 21,861 assaults last year, 3,292 of those were reported to be serious assaults resulting in injury. This is a significant increase from the 2,646 assaults which resulted in injury in 2016, and 2,421 and 2,456 in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Between 2014 and 2017, there was a total of 10,915 assaults of this kind.

For serious assaults that did not result in injury, there were 5,823 reported in 2017 – a slight decrease from 2016 which had 5,944 non-injury assaults. In 2015, that number was significantly less with 5,073 and even less so in 2014 (4916). Between 2014 and 2017, there was a total of 21,756 assaults of this kind.

Common assaults are the most, well, common

The most basic form of assault is common assault, a category 2 offence that has a maximum punishment of up to two years imprisonment or community based sentence. Therefore it’s the most frequent form of assault that occurs in New Zealand, making up 12,746 of the 21,861 cases in 2017.

Types of assaults (Dot Loves Data)


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