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  • rmacculloch

Did the NZ Herald mislead the public when it stated youth crime was falling?

In a series of prominent articles featured in the NZ Herald, it was argued that the public had been duped into thinking that youth crime was rising when it fact it was not. The implication is that many of the recent stories about crime are part of a right-wing political beat-up, trying to create a false perception, when the reality is different.

Emeritus Professor Peter Davis, former PM Helen Clark's husband, wrote in the Herald:

"With the surge in ram raids and other high-profile crimes reported in the media it would be easy to fear that we have a crime wave on our hands, particularly affecting young people.

Yet, to the great credit of the Herald and Open Justice, we find a contrary narrative: the number of children before the courts has actually declined in recent years".

To back up his view, Davis refers to another article the Herald ran under the blaring head-line, "Despite ram-raid rhetoric, youth crime is dropping year on year". That article states:

"But rather than being out of control, youth crime now is much lower now than it has been for decades. The number of children under 16 being charged is just a quarter of those facing the courts 20 years ago".

It turns out that the Herald's own "narrative" was misleading, maybe even "fake news". Why? An Official Information Request made by Newshub has discovered the following:

"New data shows the extent of NZ's youth crime problems with over half of juvenile offenders arrested for retail burglaries in a 10-month period last year not facing court time".

In other words, the number of children "before the courts" & "facing the courts", statistics used by the Herald to argue youth crime has been falling, actually tell one little about the true level of youth crime. The Herald should apologize for stating in headlines that "youth crime is dropping year on year", when in fact it may well be rising, at least to the extent that the proportion of youth being brought before the courts has been sharply dropping.



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