I have in the past bemoaned the reliance on recorded crime statistics for getting a picture of what is happening in the criminal justice domain. I have urged the creation of survey-based research as a more accurate way of seeing what is happening in crime.
Little did I know it was already happening. On Tuesday the Ministry of Justice released the latest (2006) Crime Safety Survey results. These are online here. The survey data is for 2005 and it provides, at last, an international best practice survey to get, over time, a consistent picture of what people's experience of crime is.
Some of the key findings?
“The NZCASS concludes that personal crime,* including violent crime, has not risen since the last survey in 2000,” says Deputy Chief Executive of the Ministry of Justice, Sandi Beatie. “This is consistent with the Police’s view that despite the latest Police Crime Statistics showing an increase in sexual offences and domestic violence recorded by the Police, there may not have been any underlying increase in real crimes of this nature.”
The NZCASS survey shows an increase in household offences* over the same period, but this was not large.
The survey showed that 40 per cent of offences were not considered by the victim to be a crime, despite meeting the legal definition.
As with previous surveys, victimisation was highly concentrated. “While 39 per cent of New Zealand adults experienced crime in 2005, the risk of victimisation was not evenly spread. But six percent of adults experienced half of all offences measured in the survey,” says Ms Beatie.
“Two percent of adults, for example, experienced 76 per cent of all partner threats and assaults to themselves or to their personal property,” she says. “This information will continue to guide the delivery of services to victims of domestic violence.”
Around 18 per cent of adults experienced a personal offence in 2005 and around 30 per cent of households experienced a household offence.
In 2005, the risks of experiencing crime were consistently high for sole parents, students, people aged 15-24, those unemployed or on a benefit, people renting properties, living in the most deprived areas*, Mąori and Pacific peoples, and people whose marital status was single, de facto, divorced or separated.
Groups least less likely to be victimised were people who were retired, widowed, aged over 60, living alone, couples without children, and home owners (rather than renters). There were also low risks for people in rural and small urban areas. Some people in these areas have low socioeconomic status based on occupational status (New Zealand Socioeconomic Index)* - rural workers for instance.
The survey also asked people for their views of justice sector agencies, including the Police and the Judiciary. Victims’ levels of satisfaction with the Police were similar to those reported in the last survey and New Zealanders’ confidence in justice-sector agencies and groups was significantly higher than in a comparable survey conducted in England and Wales.
An interesting report indeed.