14 Nov 2022

Family harm incidents continue to dominate police callouts

10:54 am on 14 November 2022
Auckland, New Zealand - December 24, 2020: Close up of a New Zealand police officer's uniform and badge

Police attended more emergency events but also took longer to respond to crimes in the last year, new data shows. Photo: 123RF

More people have reported being victims of crime, and emergency calls increased by 40,000 in the last year, new police data shows.

New Zealand Police has released its annual report, which covers the year from June 2021 to June 2022.

It detailed that for every 10,000 people in New Zealand, 603 had been victims of crime in the last year, equating to about 6 percent.

That was up slightly from the previous year - when 558 people per 10,000 were victims of crime.

Police also attended almost 10,000 more emergency events than previously, and 111 calls increased by just over 40,000, the report said.

In addition, they attended 73,006 events involving a person having a mental health crisis, in distress, or threatening suicide, which was an increase of 55 percent in the last five years.

Police estimated that the increase in mental health calls would rise due to the ongoing impacts of Covid-19.

Family harm remains the police's single-largest demand, with such an event being attended every three minutes, on average.

Assault on a person in a family relationship now represents around 66 percent of reported serious assaults and family harm calls for service are increasing at greater rates than others.

In the last year, police investigated 175,573 reported family harm incidents - an increase of about 10,000.

The percentage of family violence reoffending, at a same or greater level of seriousness, was also up 3 percent to 67 percent.

Victoria University of Wellington criminology senior lecturer Trevor Bradley said the rise in emergency callouts for police was likely in part due to increased domestic violence.

"We've known across the world that those incidents have increased quite significantly over the pandemic, so I suspect that's part of the explanation."

Stats tell more about what police do than about crime itself

Bradley said it was likely the police data only scratched the surface and that its crime data "never has been and never will be" an accurate measurement of the actual volume of crime in Aotearoa,

"There is such a large dark figure surrounding it - that is the volume of crime that is never reported [to] or detected by police, and therefore something the police never get to know about," Bradley said.

Recent New Zealand crime and victim surveys found only about 25 percent of people who had been victims of crime reported it to police, he said.

The police data for people being victims of crime - which has seen an increase - included both first-time and repeat victimisations.

Bradley said there was also some crime that was reported to police but not recorded in its own statistics.

Reasons for that, Bradley said, could be if the crime reported was considered too minor, or if there was not enough evidence.

"Police crime statistics tell us more about what police do and how police have responded than what [it tells us] about crime per say," he said.

Victimisation rates went hand-in-hand with trust and confidence, police deputy commissioner Jevon McSkimming told Morning Report.

"New Zealanders trust police significantly more than other countries trust their police so our reporting rates are trending up."

Online reporting and 105 call centres were increasing capabilities, he said.

"When we set that up, we believed that we'd be taking about 300 online victimisations a day, we're trending up to 700 so certainly that new capability is adding to the number of reports that we can take in real time."

Police taking longer to respond to crime

The average police response time for urban areas was up to almost nine minutes, one short of the standard, and for rural areas it took 16 and a half minutes.

That was an increase on last year's rural call-out time of 15 minutes, 11 seconds.

Police said the delays were influenced by a rise in the number of calls, more vehicles being on the road and the general population growth.

However police were also falling short when it came to attending homes where burglaries had taken place within 48 hours of reporting.

Only 83 percent of police were doing so, which was down from last year's 89 percent and further from the standard of at least 98 percent.

Police said this was mainly because officers were completing higher-priority responses, or because the victim did not want police to attend.

People were booking police to attend to a burglary scene when it suited them, sometimes outside the 48-hour period, McSkimming said.

"Really it's about suiting those victims needs so that we can turn up when it suits them and capture the information that we need, it's certainly not ideal but we can only attend when there's someone there with us."

Calls to 105 had a big drop, down from over a million to 743,319 in the year, and police responded to 929,000 non-emergency events.

Where to get help:

Women's Refuge:(0800 733 843

It's Not OK 0800 456 450

Shine: 0508 744 633

Victim Support: 0800 842 846

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 - push 0 at the menu

The National Network of Family Violence Services NZ has information on specialist family violence agencies.

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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