But its not all doom and gloom, we can empower ourselves and those close to us to minimise the likelihood of being affected by it. In actual fact, there’s no one better equipped than ourselves to take those crucial steps.
One year ago, almost to the day, the results of this country’s latest crime and victim survey, conducted by the Justice Ministry, was released.1 A report described by experts as “the most comprehensive report ever undertaken into the true nature of crime in Aotearoa”.2 Without stating the obvious, the reality depicted by this survey was in stark contrast to the figures touted in various publications based on police statistics. This comprehensive survey indicated the actual number of crimes committed nationwide to be more than 7 times that reported to, and ultimately made public by police.
An analysis of the report concluded that, people living in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch had on average about a 30 percent chance of being a victim. And these figures excluded questions about manslaughter, homicide, crimes against children and drug offences; that is, 1 in 3 of every New Zealander, and doesn’t even include those crimes we find most abhorrent. It also doesn’t identify the flow-on effect of crime, and in particular violent crime. How many people reading this may not have been the immediate victim of a violence offence but have vicariously suffered in silence, or picked up the pieces when someone close to them has had their world turned upside down.
The latest crime statistics released by the NZ Police for the year ending August 2019 are already grave enough.3 This annual report shows an increase in overall crime, but significantly an increase of 36.4 percent in “crimes against people”. This can be looked at in conjunction with another independent report on sexual violence commissioned by Undersecretary for Justice, Jan Logie and published on November 1 2019. That report shows that less than 6% of reported cases of sexual violence end in imprisonment.4 A result Jan Logie says “isn’t good enough”…
Now there is no real way of knowing what the precise figures are, but it’s safe to say that based on the gross under-reporting revealed by the Ministry of Justices’ report (especially those relating to family violence) it is more than likely that violence related offences far exceed the figures released by the police.
In answer to our growing crime rate, our previous and our current Government have committed to recruiting more police. And in general, this decision has been received with quiet agreement by the public. But there’s a nasty reality about all this, the need for a growing and increasingly armed police presence is an acknowledgement that something is wrong. But many of those not outwardly critical of these changes still agree this growing presence is not the answer. Apart from other varying issues, an increase in armed police on our streets is more likely to make us less safe as it could result in what has been described as a “mutual escalation argument” by Professor Simon Mackenzie, Dr Trevor Bradley, and Master’s student Angus Lindsay from the Institute of Criminology at Victoria University of Wellington.5 They argue that when police carry guns, criminals will think they need to as well. This, coupled with what they refer to as “a simple multiplication effect” where more police weapons in society will result in greater likelihood that they will be used, leaves us with the realisation that the current trend in arming our police is more likely to put us all in harm’s way.
But regardless of these supposed solutions or counter arguments, more police are never going to stop people becoming victims of crime. And let’s face it, particularly concerning for all of us is the growing trend in violent crime. No matter the number, or good intentions of our protectors, they cannot be everywhere. They will not be there when someone decides that inflicting hurt and misery on another is a means to an end.
So, the responsibility lies with us. To arm ourselves and our children with the knowledge and skills to help stay safe. To equip ourselves and our loved ones to identify and avoid risk at the earliest opportunity, and to have the spirit to defend ourselves and those who need it when it is most critical.
And that is not as huge a step as it seems. The reality is that we are more likely to interrupt a burglar in our homes than have a fire or an earthquake. Yet most families I know have an action plan in place in the event of an emergency and not for the situation that is as complex and unpredictable as being confronted by a criminal. So, it’s a matter of prioritising and putting a little time aside to look at the basics of preparation. And a little training will go a really long way.
New Zealand Ministry of Justice, NZ Crime and Victims Survey March – September 2018. ↩
NZ Herald, 13 May 2019. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters seeks more from Ministry of Justice crime and victims survey (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12230544) ↩
Victimisations recorded by Police for the year ending August 2019 ↩
NZ Herald, 1 Nov 2019. Only 6 per cent of sexual violence cases reported to Police end in jail: Major Government study (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12281448) ↩
Newsroom/Ideasroom, Oct 24 2019. Cops with guns will make us less safe (https://www.newsroom.co.nz/@ideasroom/2019/10/24/874930/cops-with-guns-will-make-us-less-safe) ↩
Oz van Leeuwen is a personal trainer and self-defence instructor, the founding principal of NZKM Fitness.