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Overall offence rate
The recorded offence rate rose steadily from 55 per 1,000 population in 1970 to an all-time peak of 132 per 1,000 population in 1992. This rise may be due to a real change in the volume of crime in New Zealand, to changes in recording practises, or to a combination of the two. The offence rate remained fairly steady between 1992 and 1996, before decreasing to 111 per 1,000 population in 2000. However, it remained higher than it was at any stage prior to 1984.
A real increase in the crime rate may be due to a range of factors, including increasing opportunities for crime in a consumer society and changes to the demographic structure of New Zealand society. One factor that may have influenced the increase in the offence rate between 1970 and 1992 is that many of the baby boomers reached the age group where most offending occurs (15 to 30 years). The baby boomers are those born in the two decades after the Second World War. The last of this group moved into their thirties in the mid-90s.

When looking at long-term trends in the offence rate, it is also important to note that the definition of an offence can change over time. Two examples of this include the indecent videos offence class, which came into existence when the Video Recordings Act was passed in 1987, and drinking of alcohol by 18 and 19-year-olds which ceased to be an offence when the drinking age was lowered to 18 in December 1999.

Socio-economic factors may also affect offence rates. There was a significant increase in income inequality in New Zealand between 1982 and 1996 (Statistics New Zealand, 1999, New Zealand Now: Incomes). This increase occurred for both pre- and post-tax income at both personal and household levels and may have contributed to some of the increases in the recorded offence rate over the period. Other factors that can affect the number of crimes recorded include changing social attitudes (for example, a less tolerant public reporting more crimes), changes in the recording practices of the police, a larger police force with more resources, and legislative changes.

Figure 1:

In 1992/1993, police introduced a new policy of community policing. Having constables in the community may have increased reporting of some types of crime, for example wilful damage to property. Each of the 12 police districts has a central police station from which subsidiary and suburban police stations are managed. Local area management strategies can impact on the types of offences recorded, for example local police checking minor disturbances earlier in the evening can curb more serious offending later on.

Next related article: Forward to Resolution rateResolution rate
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Back to Crime in NZ Report - Released July 2001 Index

The recorded offence rate rose steadily from 55 per 1,000 population in 1970 to an all-time peak of 132 per 1,000 population in 1992

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