3 Summary of results
Our study concludes that the estimated total cost of crime in New Zealand in 2003/04 is $9.1 billion, as a result of an estimated 1.8 million criminal acts in that year. The public sector’s share comprises about $2.1 billion and the private sector’s share about $7 billion.
Total and average (i.e. per offence) costs by major crime category and sub-category are shown in Table 1. Both total cost and average cost (per criminal act) measures are useful, for different reasons. The total cost shows the contribution and magnitude of the impact of different crime types on society. The average cost estimates are a potential input to decisions on policy initiatives that seek to reduce particular categories of crime.
The most costly crime category is offences against the person, contributing to 45 percent of the total cost of crime (but representing only 19 percent of all criminal acts).
The next most costly category is offences against property, contributing to 41 percent of the total cost. This is easily the most common category of crime, accounting for 74 percent of all criminal acts.
On a per criminal act basis, sexual offences are by far the most costly sub-category, primarily reflecting the impact on victims. Serious traffic offences (which on occasions result in injuries and/or fatalities) and robbery also have a relatively high average cost, again reflecting victim impact (intended or unintended).
|2003/04||Total cost ($ million)||Share (%)||Estimated number of actual criminal acts||Share (%)||Cost per criminal act ($)|
|Offences against the person||4,120||45%||334,300||19%||12,320|
|– Violent offences||2,771||30%||311,000||17%||8,910|
|– Sexual offences||1,192||13%||16,500||1%||72,130|
|Offences against private property||3,744||41%||1,334,600||74%||2,800|
|– Property damage||398||4%||184,300||10%||2,160|
|Offences with no direct or intended victim||1,273||14%||123,400||7%||10,310|
|– Drug offences||129||1%||22,200||1%||5,780|
|– Serious traffic||988||11%||31,700||2%||31,210|
|– All other||156||2%||69,500||4%||2,240|
Estimating an average cost per crime disguises the wide range of costs that occur within each category. Costs at the margin can be significantly different from average costs:
- violent offences have a relatively low average cost because more than two thirds of these are comparatively minor in nature; however, some violent offences have very high average costs – homicides, for example, average $3.9 million;
- conversely, serious traffic offences have a relatively high average cost because the costs associated with injuries and fatalities, on the 15% of occasions these occur, are very high (comparable to those for grievous assaults and homicides, respectively);
- similarly, the average cost for fraud is affected by a relatively small number of high-cost offences.