New Zealand’s most violent spots have been revealed in detail by never-before-seen crime data.
Readers can explore the Herald Insights interactive map of assaults, sexual assaults and robberies to see how their neighbourhood compares with the rest of the country.
This is the first time the data has been released in such detail, breaking down “victimisations” in public places to meshblock level – the smallest geographic unit by which government agencies collect data. It covers a 20-month period from July 2014 to February this year.
The data set released by Statistics New Zealand is the total of assault, sexual assault and robberies – not broken down by the individual offence categories – and does not include crimes committed inside dwellings, such as residential homes, in order to protect privacy.
A common pattern in most cities is greater victimisations in areas around bars and pubs, prisons, as well as hospitals and shopping malls, according to Herald analysis.
In Auckland, the data showed a high number of crimes in public places on either side of Queen St leading down to the waterfront.
Superintendent Richard Chambers, the district commander for Auckland City, says much of this can be attributed to alcohol-fuelled violence.
“Which is why we are appealing the LAP,” said Mr Chambers, referring to the Local Alcohol Policy proposed by Auckland Council. Under this, city bars would close at 4am, with a 3am curfew for suburban bars.
Police want suburban bars shut by 1am and city bars close by 3am – with a 1am one-way door policy.
While prisons are an obvious location for violence, the data shows greater numbers of victimisations in areas surrounding shopping malls and hospitals. There were 60 victimisations near Auckland City Hospital and 86 around Middlemore Hospital, with 58 incidents at Sylvia Park and 78 around the Westfield Mall in Manukau.
“Any assault on staff is untenable,” said Dr Vanessa Thornton, Clinical Head of Emergency Care at Middlemore. “These people work hard to save lives and to help people and we have absolutely zero tolerance for violence. ”
Similar patterns emerge in other cities around the country. While Mr Chambers can only comment directly on Auckland City, he said the results were not surprising and referred to the “Crime Triangle” of victim, offender and location. “Wherever you get people congregating, there’s an increased chance of something happening,” said Mr Chambers.
“Then there is the sort of place it might be. Patients at a hospital may be intoxicated, or unwell for other reasons, so there is greater potential for something to go wrong.
“Likewise we have a dedicated team in Sylvia Park. Sylvia Park is a big mall. Lots of people go there. Lots of cars. Lots of potential for crime to be committed.”
Police use the data to set strategic priorities in each district, as well as decision making around deployment of staff to particular places, at particular times, to prevent particular crimes.
This can also be done in real time through the District Command Centres, where police watching a network of cameras and digital can deploy staff as trouble is unfolding – or before it starts.
“We can’t be everywhere all at once. But we’re trying to be where we’re needed most,” said Mr Chambers. Around the country, the Herald Insights data map reveals the spots where greatest numbers of assaults, sexual assaults and robberies in public places.
Readers can explore their own neighbourhoods but some of the most dangerous spots in each centre include:
Auckland CBD – The area bordered by Victoria St West and Wellesley St West, Queen St and Elliot St (107 victimisations).
North Shore – The area around the Albany Westfield Mall (42).
West Auckland – The area around the Waitakere District Court and surrounding retailers (62).
Counties Manukau – The area around Middlemore Hospital (86).
Hamilton – The area around Hood St (91).
Tauranga – The area between Cameron Rd and The Strand, between Harrington St and McClean St (43).
Wellington – The area around Courtenay Place (158).
Christchurch – The area between St Asaph St and Moorhouse Ave (73), bordering the city’s central police station.
Queenstown – The area between Marine Parade and Camp St (100).
Dunedin – The south-eastern quarter of the Octagon precinct (79).
There are some caveats to bear in mind when searching the map and comparing neighbourhoods.
The meshblocks are not comparable to each other and can vary in size, as well as population.
The Herald has chosen to not standardise the data using a resident population measure – so there is no ‘national rate’ to compare each meshblock against.
This is because the assault, sexual assault and robbery crime categories are linked with individuals who might not live in that area. Also, using the resident population as a measure does not take tourists into account.