NZ crime rates drop

The crime rate in New Zealand has steadily decreased over the past decade, contrary to media reports, show the results of a new study.

"This is contrary to popular perception," says Julia Tolmie, co-editor of Criminal Justice in New Zealand (published by Lexis Nexis) and associate professor of law at The University of Auckland.

"What has changed is that the amount of people who are being prosecuted and the sentences that they are getting have both increased. In other words, the numbers we are locking up for committing crimes have been rapidly increasing in recent years even though crime is not growing."

In 2006/2007 there were 102.5 recorded offences for every thousand people compared with 128.5 in 1996/1997.

"These figures do not suggest that crime rates have been ‘spiralling’ as suggested in media reports when the 2006/2007 figures were released," says Ms Tolmie.

"The punitive ‘sentencing creep’ which has occurred over the last decade appears to be largely unrelated to the incidence or seriousness of criminal offending.

"Sending yet more people to prison does not deter them from committing more crime. As well as being ineffective it is prohibitively expensive."

Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.