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Waikato crime up 1.9 per cent

2 Oct 2014, 2:30 PM

Story/ article: Waikato Times

Recorded crime in the Waikato District has risen slightly in the last year up 1.9 per cent with the most alarming of increases in sexual assaults, with almost 100 more cases this year. 

Statistics New Zealand figures released by police today showed a 32 per cent rise in the number of recorded sexual assaults in the Waikato in the last year.

A total of 395 sexual assault offences were recorded in the region - up from 299 in the  2012/13 fiscal year. 

Waikato Police District Commander Superintendent Bruce Bird said police were initially surprised by the increase in sexual assaults in the Waikato.

''We interrogated our data and discovered that a significant portion of this increase relates to alleged offences against children." 

"It's an uncomfortable reality but we need to recognise that lifting the lid on this sort of offending, which has historically been shrouded in secrecy, is a positive step. The more people who come forward to report sexual offending against the youngest members of our communities, most of whom are incapable of protecting themselves or reporting it, the more that can be done to help them."

Breaking it down further 216 of these assaults occurred in Hamilton City, while 81 occurred in the eastern Waikato, and 98 occurred in Waikato west.

 He said the increase can be largely attributed to the early intervention work of Waikato Police's specialised Child Protection Teams, comprising 11 staff, established in the last year. 

''These teams are co-located with Child, Youth and Family in several locations around the Waikato and are getting involved with more families at the earliest possible opportunity."

Yet less than half of recorded sexual assaults were resolved, with figures showing a year-on-year drop in resolution rates from 57.5 per cent solved in the year to October 2012 to 50.8 percent last year to 43 per cent in 2013-14. 

Overall crime rose 1.9 per cent across the district in the last fiscal year. A total of 31,385 offences were recorded in 2013/14, of which 13, 240 were resolved, less than half at 42.2 per cent. This was down slightly on last year's resolution rate of 45.7 per cent. 

A matter is classified as resolved when police apprehend an offender and decide how they are dealt with.Waikato Police District Commander Superintendent Bruce Bird said although the results were disappointing overall crime was trending in the right direction. 

"Obviously it's not the picture we'd like to see - we're committed to reducing crime further every year. This level of victimisation is unacceptable and not something we can get complacent about."He said the rise came after a 12 per cent reduction in the district in the 2012/2013 year. 

"However, it is important to recognise that as a district we set the bar exceptionally high - in 20012/13 Waikato experienced a reduction in crime by 12 per cent. This reduction followed some major changes to the District to better align to Prevention First, which was launched in December 2011 as the new national operating strategy for New Zealand Police."

In the Western Waikato crime rose 9.7 per cent overall, while in the eastern Waikato it dropped 3.1 per cent. In Hamilton City itself crime was up 1.2 per cent. 

Area Commander for West Waikato Inspector Chris Page said it was largely a result of theft offences mainly in the Huntly area.

 ''It is a challenging area for us and we have a Neighbourhood Policing Team working proactively with that community, focusing on the issues that drive crime.  This is a longer term plan designed to achieve a sustainable reduction in crime."

Homicide and related offences in the Waikato dropped 16.7 per cent this year, while public order offences decreased 34 per cent. Bird said police were continuing inroads reducing crime considerably in the last 10 to 15 years.

In 1995 there were 40,627 total recorded crimes in the Waikato. This past year there were 31,385 recorded crimes despite there being 60,000 more people living here, he said. 

"Despite the slight increase in several crime types this year, I feel 100 percent confident in saying that Waikato is just as safe a place to live as it was a year ago. We know we need to continue to innovate to make sustained reductions in crime and that is exactly what we are doing, along with our partner agencies and organisations who are just as committed."

He said it was a combined effort and police couldn't do it alone.  "Some of our rural communities are recognising this and really stepping up. Te Kuiti and Paeroa for example, are leading some fantastic preventative initiatives to keep their residents engaged and safe.

 ''Similarly, it is heartening to see the Mayor of Hamilton Julie Hardaker throwing a lot of support around the Citysafe initiatives and Morrinsville fashion designer Annah Stretton leading the Reclaim another Woman (RAW) initiative to support victims of domestic violence.  Maori Wardens, Community Patrols New Zealand and Neighbourhood Support Groups too continue to play an extremely valuable role in the Waikato.

"On an Individual level, it is imperative that Waikato residents take some personal responsibility to reduce opportunities for criminals.Bird said dishonesty offences continue to make up a large portion of crime in the Waikato. 

''This sort of crime is largely opportunistic and can often be prevented by simply remembering to lock up a bicycle for example, or refraining from showcasing a new motorbike or lawnmover on the front lawn in full view of passersby.  

''And if you don't already, get to know your neighbours and record the serial numbers and images of your valuables on the Operation SNAP database."

Overall crime continued its trend downwards with a 3.2  per cent drop in crime in New Zealand the last financial year.

There were 353,564 recorded offences from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 compared to 365,185 in the 2012/13 financial year.

When adjusted for population growth this means criminal offences per head of population dropped by 4.1 per cent. Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls said results continue a positive trend in crime reduction.

"Since the 2008/2009 fiscal year we have seen a 20 per cent drop in recorded criminal offences,'' said Nicholls. 

"In real terms this means there are far fewer victims of crime than there were five years ago."

- Waikato Times