The Cost of Crime in New Zealand: What does the evidence tell us?
To date, the best estimate we have on the overall cost of crime in New Zealand comes from a 2006 report by the New Zealand Treasury. Using figures from the 2003/2004 financial year (and borrowing some data from the UK and Australia), they estimated the total cost per year to be $9.1 billion dollars. Treasury stresses that this is just an estimate and is likely to be an underestimate at best.
Since then, there have been no further attempts to measure the overall cost of crime in New Zealand. However we can expect this figure to have grown. In a 2009 report, Treasury highlighted that the cost of the Justice sector had risen to $3.1 billion. This equated to 4.8% of core Crown spending and 1.7% of GDP. Since then, the cost of the Justice sector as risen further, to $3.7 billion.
Treasury noted that "this increase in spending has not been linked to recorded crime rates, which have been broadly stable over the same period. Rather, cost growth has been driven primarily by the decisions of governments."
Graph of Justice sector spending (1996 - 2010)
How do these costs break down?
By Treasury's (2006) calculations, the greatest proportion ($7 billion) of the cost of crime falls on the private sector and the general public. This figure includes the cost of preventative expenditure (e.g. burglar alarms), lost property and income and productivity losses. It also includes Treasury's estimate of the intangible costs to the public, e.g. the physical and emotional impacts of victimisation.
Government expenditure ($2.1 billion) accounted for a much smaller proportion of the total cost. Costs to the Justice sector accounted for the largest proportion of government's spending on crime. After taking into account the revenue collected from fines, Treasury puts the cost to the Justice sector at $1.6 billion. In the non-Justice sectors, the cost of crime falls largely on the Health sector, at an estimated $400 million per year.
Click here for a breakdown of public vs private cost for each type of crime
Click here to view the cost to the private sector by crime type
Click here to view the cost to the Justice sector by crime type
Click here to view the cost to other public sector agencies by crime type
Which crimes cost us the most?
Although offences against private property were the most common crimes, offences against the person were the most costly. Although this type of crime accounts for about 19% of all crime, such offences account for 45% of the total estimated costs of crime. According to the Treasury, the average homicide costs New Zealand about $3.9 million.
Click here to see Treasury's breakdown of the cost per crime
However, a 2011 report from the New Zealand Women's Refuge estimates the cost of domestic violence alone to be about $8 billion per year. This figure is based on the findings of an earlier report on the cost of family violence in New Zealand and is roughly in line with estimates from Australia, and the UK. The Women’s Refuge estimates that domestic violence accounts for 38% of all homicides, 42% of all kidnappings and abductions, 44% of all grievous assaults, 64% of all serious assaults and 34% of all minor assaults.