Rate of assaults in Wellington 10 times higher than nation’s average

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Wellington’s nightlife district has the highest proportion of assault and sexual assault crimes in New Zealand.

Summer in Wellington, Cuba Street. A man seeks shelter from the sun.

Reported assaults in Wellington were centred around the Cuba-Courtenay precinct, according to analysis by Dot Loves Data. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

An analysis of the country’s crime statistics by Dot Loves Data shows the rate of assaults in Wellington is 10 times higher than the national average.

It considered all reported crimes over a five-year period, and found in the capital there were 2056 counts of assault and 176 counts of sexual assault reported.

Those crimes were centred around the Cuba-Courtenay precinct, comprising most of the city’s nightlife and bars.

“[In] Wellington, assaults and sexual assaults stick out,” said Dot Loves Data’s government director Justin Lester.

“It does make a bit of sense, it’s probably the densest place where you see a lot of drinking and a lot of young people hanging out in a space, so it’s kind of ripe for people to target, but it’s not good.”

The data analysis will be uploaded to a crimes dashboard where it can then be used by organisations and authorities.

It also showed that assaults and sexual assaults spiked between 12am to 3am on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Generally for the city, it’s not something people want to see,” Lester said. “They want to feel safe if they’re going out. They want to have fun. Parents want to know their teenagers or young adults are going to be safe.

“It’s something you want to see some analysis on, and to implement some initiatives to improve the situation.”

Courtenay Place – Wellington’s stretch of bars, clubs and restaurants, and fast food outlets – has been on police’s radar particularly since the beginning of lockdown.

They have warned on several occasions of the behaviour of people there, and have noted an increase in serious violence.

Initiatives are being used to try to stop the violence erupting in the early hours of the weekend. Take 10 – a late night safe zone – has been granted extra funding to extend their work to both Fridays and Saturday nights.

In addition, a night-time forum has been re-established to conduct a co-ordinated campaign between police, volunteers and hospitality to curb the violence.

While Wellington has more assaults and sexual assaults, other cities have higher numbers of crime.

Hamilton Central had the highest total number of offences, on 9921, while Auckland CBD’s Queen Street precinct was on 9521.

For both cities, the most prevalent crimes were theft and shoplifting.

The data also showed there is a strong correlation between crime rates and the deprivation levels of communities, with 10 times more homicides in New Zealand’s most economically deprived suburbs compared to affluent areas.

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