New Zealand has its fair share of serious crime and according to 1990 statistics, the murder rate, per every 100,000 people in New Zealand, was double that of England and Wales.
It has a few ‘no go’ areas after dark in the main cities, with a certain amount of trouble with gangs. Although until comparatively recently people left their doors unlocked, all that has changed and burglary is certainly on the increase. In fact there were 61,000 cases of burglary reported in 2003.
Trust is still alive here. I have written out a cheque, and been given cash change despite that fact that there are no cheque guarantee cards. You just write your name and address on the back of the cheque and show ID - remember those days? No doubt it will only be a matter of time before it is phased out.
There is no glass partition between you and the bank teller, although a recent spate of bank robberies might well change all that.
When looking at property to rent I have been told where the key is hidden and have shown ourselves around. When renting a holiday cottage for the weekend the Estate Agent told me where the key was hidden and where to leave the money.
I am sure those days are numbered however, as different crimes make people tighten up on security. I am astounded to see women leave their handbags unattended whilst shopping in the supermarket, the trusting nature of many is refreshing, but I feel, slightly naive.
Our daughter had her netball stolen when she left it unattended to have a quick go on the park swing and I have lost count of the boys who have had their bicycles taken.
Domestic violence is high and much work needs to be done in that area. Both the ‘macho man’ image and the high consumption of alcohol play their part and need to be addressed. The film “Once Were Warriors” is a sad testimonial of what life is still like today for a lot of women in the community.
The recent introduction of the Domestic Violence Act goes some way towards protecting people from intimidation and covers not just spouses, but neighbours as well.
New Zealand has a reputation for being a safe country which unfortunately lulls many into a false sense of security.
Tourists believing the crime rate to be low and leaving cars unlocked or baggage unattended, have in recent years had a rude awakening. Asian tourists, who make up a large percentage of visitors, are increasingly being targeted particularly as they often have expensive cameras and equipment. It would be disastrous for New Zealand to lose this tourist dollar and steps are slowly being taken to prevent the few spoiling it for everyone. Hitch-hiking is not to be recommended, as a number of backpackers have been victims of foul play.
The abuse of drugs and alcohol has resulted in the high incidence of burglaries and theft. In 2003 there were 134,000 cases of theft. (remember there is only a population of 4 million)
Cannabis growing is a multi million dollar industry and anyone stumbling upon a plantation when out in the deep countryside (bush), would be well advised to make a speedy departure from the scene. You can recognise a plantation by the netting that is erected and car tracks in the middle of nowhere.
In most cases of serious crime, such as homicide, the assailant appears to be caught quite quickly. This is, I believe, due in no small part to citizens having a great sense of public duty. The other factor that goes against the criminal is that New Zealand is a difficult place to hide out in, as the population is so small.
Escaping either from prison, or while in police custody, seems to be a noticeably regular occurrence, although prisoners are normally caught quite quickly.