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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

SocietyJuly 19, 2022

How much has crime actually increased?

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

If you live in Auckland, it’s likely you believe the city has experienced the worst increase in crime since the pandemic began. But is that actually true? Emma Vitz digs into the numbers.

As an Aucklander, I’m used to being met with pitying looks when people from around New Zealand find out where I live. Usually that’s because of the traffic and the house prices, but now it’s often due to the perceived increase in crime in our biggest city. News articles about crime in Auckland are a daily occurrence, so I wanted to find out: where has crime really increased in New Zealand? And by how much?

The short answer is that crime has increased in Auckland since before the pandemic. But it has also increased in almost every other part of the country, and Auckland doesn’t (quite) come first.

While the number of monthly crimes recorded in Auckland has increased by 19.1% when comparing 2021-2022 to 2017-2019 (I removed 2020 due to the lockdowns decreasing crime), the Waikato and Nelson regions both increased by even more. The frequency of crime in Waikato increased by 20.5%, and in Nelson by 19.9%.

A few of the more remote parts of the country actually saw a decrease in crime since before the pandemic, with the West Coast seeing a drop of 22.1%, Gisborne a decrease of 10.2%, and Otago a decline of 4.8%. Overall, the number of crimes recorded in New Zealand has increased by 15.4%.

So what kind of crimes make up these numbers?

Theft has always been the most commonly reported crime, and it has driven the increase in the number of crimes since before the pandemic as well. For New Zealand as a whole, theft has increased by 25.2% compared to before the pandemic, while acts intended to cause injury (i.e. assault) have increased by 19.7%.

Abduction and harassment has decreased by 20.6%, but this has always made up a very small percentage of crime overall.

(For reference, robbery involves the use of force against a person, while theft does not. Burglary involves unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit a crime inside, whether or not that crime is carried out.)

Any crime is harmful for the victims, and we should work to eliminate it. But the idea that Auckland is experiencing a unique wave of crime is not borne out by the data. Almost every part of the country has experienced double digit increases in the frequency of crime compared to before the pandemic. If you associate Auckland with gunshots but Nelson with great beaches, perhaps it’s time to reconsider.

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