Crime and Victims Survey: 1.2m victims a year, but only a quarter bother going to police

Nearly a third of all adults became victims of crime last year – but only a quarter of all crimes were ever reported to the police.

People said the most common reason for not reporting offences was that it was too trivial, there was no loss or damage, or it was not worth reporting, followed by the feeling that “police couldn’t have done anything” anyway.

Victims of violent, physical and sexual crimes said shame, embarrassment, further humiliation and fear of reprisals or making things were are among the reasons they didn’t go to police.

Those are the findings from the third annual New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey released today by the Ministry of Justice.

The 2020 study found 1.2 million people became a victim of crime in the previous 12 months – a number that hasn’t really changed in the past few years.

Burglary, fraud and deception, harassment and threatening behaviour were the most common crimes, making up more than half of all offending the victims suffered.

However, very few people ever bothered going to police.

The Ministry of Justice’s Deputy Secretary Tim Hampton said the survey was important as it gave a real picture of what was really happening in New Zealand.

“If you just look at crime stats going to police, we are missing 75 per cent of the picture.”

Victim Support spokeswoman Dr Petrina Hargrave said the findings reflected a “sad reality” for Kiwi victims-crime is under-reported and those under extra social and economic pressures often lack the financial, social, practical and emotional support they need to protect themselves.

She said there were many reasons crimes weren’t reported, but fear was a big one.

“However, there are some good reasons to report crime including being able to access financial support and counselling you may be eligible for, to help yourself heal and move forward, and to prevent future crime happening to yourself and others.”

Hargrave said crime can have long-lasting emotional, physical, psychological, and financial impacts on victims.

“That’s why seeking help is so important because you don’t have to cope alone.”

Chris de Wattignar, Assistant Police Commissioner: Iwi and Communities, said the findings were consistent with the police’s own experiences.

“Our main message to anyone who has been the victim of a crime is: please tell us about it ­- your experience matters.”

“While you may think something is not significant enough to let police know about, your information may help us to identify trends and prevent it happening to others.”

The survey found 76,000 adults were sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months but only 8 per cent reported it.

Kathryn McPhillips, Executive Director of HELP, a charity that supports survivors of sexual violence, said the number of victims hasn’t really changed but there was a very small improvement on the number who were going to police.

“There’s a lot more talk in society about it and a lot more talk about consent … so I think there is more motivation to claim justice because in the past I think this area has been shrouded in shame for so many people.”

However, she warned it was far too early to celebrate given the vast majority of victims don’t come forward.

More than half of sexual assaults were committed by someone the victim knew and half of them happened in residential locations.

However, McPhillips said it was important to note that knowing the offender didn’t always mean it was someone who was well known.

“People often take that to mean it was your partner, and sometimes it was, but also it’s somebody you knew because you hooked up that night with him and went back to his place.

“There is a lot of predator offending that occurs in the hookup scene. It can also be someone like an employer or, for people with disabilities or that are older it can be caregivers. There are so many ways it can happen in a domestic situation that isn’t your partner.”

In good news the survey found fewer people had their homes broken into, something Hampton said appears to be a trend, rather than a blip caused by Covid lockdowns.

He said 18 in every 100 homes were broken into in 2018 but that had fallen to 16 in every 100 in 2019 and 14 in every 100 last year.

“It is particularly encouraging to see that some of the biggest declines in burglaries has been for those that have historically been the most likely to be burgled, such as Māori and low-income households.”

Burglary victim: 'There's not much you can do as a victim besides ring the police'

Matthew Law and his flatmates are extra vigilant these days about making sure the doors are locked and windows are closed when leave their flat.

Earlier this year the 23-year-old and his five flatmates were asleep when an opportunistic thief broke in and helped himself to car keys, a laptop, phone, wallet and large speaker.

Law said there had been a BBQ at the Wellington flat the night before and people were coming and going all night.

It was only when a friend went to grab his keys in the morning that they realised something was wrong.

“He said ‘are my car keys around’ and we said ‘they are probably over there’. He said ‘nah, seriously, my car’s not here and we all ran outside.”

Back inside they realised other items from the entrance and living room were also missing.

“Then we started asking people staying at the flat if they saw anything and it turns out a friend who left early for work said the door was actually ajar.”

Working backwards they think some other friends didn’t close the door properly when they left at 4am and the thief snuck in sometime between 5-6am.

“All of us were in the house when he robbed us. I do remember hearing a few noises and waking up to them but you just don’t think anything of it.”

“Once we all realised in the morning we had been robbed we just felt a little bit helpless, especially for Basil, our friend who had driven down from Auckland and had his car stolen. There’s not much you can do as a victim besides ring the police.”

A man was eventually caught after using cards taken during the burglary. While a few items were recovered the car and laptop were never found.

Law said the flatmates are very security conscious now and have installed a lock on the front gate.

“As students…you don’t often think to lock the door, especially if people are coming and going – but it’s made us all take our keys and lockup.”

“We are a lot more cautious now.”


• 1.2 million victims in the past year

• 280,000 adults were the victim of a violent crime

• 76,000 adults were sexually assaulted

• 1 in 11 females aged 15-19 were sexually assaulted

• 9 per cent of offences resulted in injury

• 15 per cent of offences resulted in victims needing time off work

• 25 per cent of crime reported to police

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