Robbery and violence
Robberies differ from burglaries in that they are thefts that involve the use or threat of violence. Robberies are divided into two principal types: simple robbery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment; and aggravated robbery, which carries 14 years. Aggravated robbery is robbery committed by more than one person, or with a weapon, or where a victim is grievously injured.
Since the 1950s the incidence of robbery has grown exponentially. Robberies jumped sharply after 1970, reaching 1,954 in 1996 – 68 times more than the 1950 total and 12 times more than in 1970. After this robbery numbers fell, but they began to rise again from 2004. The figure of 2,916 robberies for 2006 was 73% greater than that of 1999. The number of annual reported robberies then fell, stabilising at around 2,000 offences per year between 2012 and 2014. The new police statistical reports indicate that between 2015 and 2016 victimisations for robbery and related offences grew from 3,108 to 3,588.
Increasing use of EFTPOS and credit cards has made robbery far less profitable than it was, and much-improved security – including security guards outside banks – has sharply reduced the chances of getaway. The majority of robberies involve minor heists. Large-scale robberies are vigorously investigated, with the perpetrators usually identified and sent to prison for lengthy periods. As a result, in the 1990s the professional robber began to disappear. Robbers were younger and less sophisticated, and the big hauls of the past – such as the $295,000 security van hold-up at an Auckland Foodtown supermarket in 1984 – were rare in the 21st century.
Rates of aggravated robbery
As with other forms of violence, New Zealand has seen an increase not only in the incidence of robbery, but also in its seriousness. In the early 1960s, for example, robbery figures were less than 4% of the robbery rate in the early 21st century, and only about 10% were aggravated robberies. By 2000 approximately 91% of all robberies were aggravated.
Desperate for a smoke
A woman encountered a man waving a handgun at her when he entered her home in the Hamilton suburb of Nawton in October 2009, demanding cigarettes and cash. He then fled the property and she phoned the police. Her children remained asleep throughout the incident.
Grievous and serious assaults
Increasing assault rates
Like other forms of violent crime, non-sexual assaults increased considerably after 1950. The number of recorded assaults in 1970 was more than seven times that of 1950. Between 1970 and 1980 recorded assaults increased by 70%, and they grew another 55% by 1990.
Like homicides, recorded assaults peaked in the mid-1990s. They reached 36,000, then stabilised and fell. After 1999, however, assault figures steadily increased, reaching an all-time high of 45,275 in 2009. In 2014 numbers of offences in this category had dropped to 39,944.
The seriousness of assaults has also increased. In 1978 police figures for non-sexual assaults were divided into three categories: minor (generally with a maximum of one year’s imprisonment or less), serious (with a maximum of three years or less) and grievous (with a maximum of up to 14 years).
In 1978 a third of all assaults were identified as ‘serious’ or ‘grievous’. By 2008 nearly two-thirds were listed under these headings. Serious assaults grew tenfold in that 30-year period; grievous assaults grew 44-fold. Changes in police recording methods make long-term comparisons difficult, but annual 'serious assaults resulting in injury' increased from about 8,000 in the late 1990s to a peak of almost 12,000 ten years later. By 2014 they had dropped to around 10,000. From this point the picture is unclear. According to police data, assault victimisations grew from 45,894 in 2015 to 50,031 in 2016. In the year ending May 2018, of the 49,920 assault victimisations recorded, 50% were common assaults, 27% were serious assaults without injury and 23% were serious assaults with injury. But due to the recording change in 2014 these figures are not comparable with previous data.