Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 1:07pm |

Report shows crime rates returning to normal after earthquake

3 min read

A police report on crime trends following the 4 September Canterbury earthquake indicates crime rates are predicted to return to normal levels over the next three months.

The report has shown that overall crime reduced by 15 percent in the immediate aftermath of the quake, although some categories of offending, including burglary and family violence, showed increased activity.

The report, Canterbury earthquake: key points and forecasting, has been prepared by police for internal planning purposes, and has also been distributed to other agencies involved in the earthquake recovery phase.

District Commander Superintendent Dave Cliff said the report was a useful tool for police and other agencies in planning for continued community support during the recovery phase.

"This is a useful snapshot of what happened immediately following the earthquake," he said.

"It draws on existing information and data, and also looks at overseas experiences, to give us an indication of the crime trends we might see over the coming months.

"What we've seen is very much in line with international experience following similar natural disasters.

"While crime was down overall in the short term, there are some trends that we will watch carefully in the coming months.

"We're only looking at the possibility of small or moderate increases in a few categories of offending - and police and other agencies are already well placed to cope with these trends."

The report draws on a variety of data sources, including emergency calls. Superintendent Cliff said it was important to note that the data is provisional and covers only a short time frame, and should not be compared to official crime statistics and indicators.

Findings in the report include:

• Overall total recorded offences decreased by 15 percent in the three-week post-quake period. Some of this may be attributable to delayed reporting.

• There was a 28 percent increase in calls for service to Police, the majority of these coming on the day of the earthquake (1286 calls on 4 September, compared to a daily average of 500)

• Increases were recorded in domestic disputes and family violence calls, with some callers referring to the stresses of the earthquake. (Note that family violence statistics have been trending upwards for several years, due to factors such as societal changes and improved reporting, which may also have contributed to the increase).

• Significant reduction in theft from cars and car conversions

• Theft offences decreased by 35 percent, while recorded burglary offences increased by 18 percent, the majority of these from dwellings. Note that some suburbs targeted for burglary were already high risk areas.

• Suburbs which suffered significant housing damage were particularly at risk, especially in relation to theft of hot water cylinders and scrap metal.

• Violence offences decreased by 10 percent compared to similar periods in previous years.

• Decreases in reporting were also noted in arson, fraud and sexual offending.

• The number of attempted suicide reports increased in the post-earthquake period. However the total number was relatively low and given the short time frame this is not considered a significant increase.

Looking ahead the report notes that overall crime levels are likely to return to pre-earthquake levels. Research suggests ongoing stress may contribute to increases in some categories of offending, including violence and family violence.

Other risks remain during the reconstruction phase, with burglary from construction sites an area the police will monitor closely.

Superintendent Cliff said Police, along with other agencies, had moved quickly to respond to the changing patterns of criminal activity and to provide reassurance to local communities.

"For example, Police are continuing to maintain high visibility in earthquake-affected areas of the city, with increased patrols and an ongoing presence.

"We are already seeing decreases in burglary rates in some affected areas as the police visibility remains high."

Police would continue to update their forecasting as additional data became available over the coming months.


Media enquiries: Stephen Hill, 027 4363701

The full report may be accessed via: