Figures expected to show declining trend

Crime continues to drop in the South, with district commander Superintendent Andrew Coster expecting the downward trend to continue.

Total reported crime across Otago and Southland was down 6.6% for the year ending December 31 compared with the previous year.

That reduction, coupled with a 5.2% drop in 2012, meant the district was one of the safest places in the country in which to live and visit, Supt Coster said.

Of the 12 police districts, Southern recorded the fourth biggest reduction behind Auckland, Wellington (both 9.9%) and Bay of Plenty (7.4%).

Supt Coster said recent changes across the district meant ''I have got every expectation that those reductions will continue''.

Crime reduction was important to police and so was public perception and ''that is why when we get results we want to talk about them''.

Supt Coster was particularly pleased with district-wide reductions in theft (down 8.2%), fraud (down 19%), damage (down 12.6%), disorder (down 14.3%) and assaults (down 7%), ''all of which are matters of interest to the community''.

When asked why sexual assault and related offences had doubled during 2013, he replied the figure was skewed by a Dunedin case where 90 charges of sexually offending were laid late last year.

Burglaries also recorded a double digit increase (up 15.8%) across the district, with Supt Coster attributing this to a change in recording practices.

Police did not wait for year-end statistics to ascertain where to focus staff, ''but on a daily, weekly, monthly basis ... we take that information and use it to inform the way we are deploying staff in areas and the district''.

''Our aim is if we are getting an emerging crime trend is to intervene early, stop offenders from offending before we get more.''

The district had recorded a steady reduction in reported crime since 2009, mirroring a national trend. Nationwide, reported crime dropped 4.1% in the last calendar year, with the 2013 result the lowest crime figure in 29 years, Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush said.

''We are deploying staff more efficiently and proactively to ensure police are in the right place at the right time to prevent crime from occurring.''

Only three police districts had an increase in recorded crime Eastern (up 3.4%), Central (up 1.6%) and Northland (up 1.5%).

Police Minister Anne Tolley congratulated police on the falling crime rate.

''I'm confident our police are totally focused on doing even better for the New Zealand public.''

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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