The ‘Dark Figure’ of Crime Statistics – NZ Crime – Legal News NZ

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Auckland law professor Julia Tolmie refers to the need for caution

Auckland law professor Julia Tolmie says the crime statistics released by Police last week that show an increase in violent crime may conceal a ‘dark figure’ that needs to be taken into account when considering such statistics.

In her book, “Criminal Justice in New Zealand”, written with Professor Warren Brookbanks, pjrofessor Tolmie studied crime statistics over 10 years noting an increase in violent offending over the 10 year period from 1996/97 to 2006/07.

That is where the ‘dark figure’ is involved, she says.

In properly interpreting the latest crime stats and placing them in context professor Tolmie refers to ” a construction” of the crime statistics themselves, whereby crime is either not reported or not recorded. The current statistics relate to ‘recorded offences’.

She says there can be various reasons for the ‘dark figure’ effect including an increased propensity to report certain types of crime and changes in police practices or policies.

The increased crime count indicated in her book over the 10 year period until 2006/07, for instance, related to an increase in threats and intimidation offences being reported and/or recorded.

“When general population surveys on crime victimisation in the community were looked at for that same period, however, they do not appear to reflect the same increase in violent offending, suggesting that the increases shown in the police statistics to some degree reflect a change in public attitudes or police policies around certain forms of violence,” she says.

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