Data modelling to estimate crime

Data collating and modelling is being used to try to predict “how many New Zealanders are at risk of committing or being victim to crime – and estimate the total future burden of crime on society”.

NZ Herald: Crime ‘crystal ball’ maps NZers’ risk of committing and falling victim to crime

A crime “crystal ball” is using big data to estimate the probability of New Zealanders committing or being victims to crime.

Cutting-edge computer data modelling is tapping into a powerful IDI database of Government information, which provides data from the tax, education, benefit and justice systems.

It maps the probability of New Zealanders committing or experiencing crime over their lifetime.

They are then assigned to a group – “vulnerable adults”, “career criminals”, “petty criminals”, “at-risk young people”, “vulnerable children” and “not at risk”.

The data is anonymised – officials are not working out how likely certain individuals are to commit crime in their lifetime.

Rather, the work is useful because it can give some idea of how many New Zealanders are at risk of committing or being victim to crime – and estimate the total future burden of crime on society.

The actuarial-type model – developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers – can then be used to estimate how that burden would change if more money is put into certain initiatives or policy.

Is this why police numbers are set to increase by about a thousand over the next few years? If so that suggests the crystal ball foresees an increase in crime.

Early work has resulted in judges being told that in certain cases a fine could be a better option than community work, after analysts found criminals getting the latter were more likely to reoffend and rely on the dole.

Offenders given community work were found to be 4 to 7 percentage points more likely to be reconvicted within two years, compared with offenders who were fined.

It does make sense to analyse what works and what doesn’t.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the investment approach aimed to prevent people from being victimised in the first place.

Prime Minister Bill English has championed that work and has appointed Adams to the new role of Minister Responsible for Social Investment.

Labour’s justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said evidence-based policy-making was something to aspire to.

The Government is not just aspiring, they are doing.

How it works

  • A model has been built that taps into a powerful database of data from the tax, education, benefit and justice systems.
  • The model estimates the probability of New Zealanders committing or experiencing crime in their lifetime.
  • It separates the population into groups with different levels of risk, such as “vulnerable adults”, “career criminals”, “petty criminals” and “vulnerable children”, and estimates the “total future burden of crime” on society.
  • The model can simulate how the burden of crime might change if investment is made in certain initiatives or policies.

If it ends up reducing crime and reduces the costs associated with crime – and they are many – then it is worth doing.

Leave a comment


  1. BIGdata … I guess it has its place = BIGprofiling … I guess its inevitable …

    Model this … If we continue on the same economic pathway – essentially a corporate feudal oligarchy – allowing poverty and inequality to continue increasing, how many people at the bottom will commit crime against which other people down there, and against which people further up the hierarchy … those further up the ‘property’ ladder …?

    I wonder how much of this the BIG ‘I’ Insurance industry already knows …?
    Possibly BIG ‘F’ Finance too, since they’re often financing the replacement stolen ‘property’?

    First ‘results’ seem to be firmly embedded in the crime & punishment paradigm … essentially the same paradigm that shipped England’s excess working-class, poverty stricken ‘criminals’ to antipodean penal colonies … We’ll make a ‘social investment’ in more police, apprehend more criminals, fine them more often and use community work less because the BIGprofiling says so …

    Its a start I guess … Only its not a start at all towards reducing crime … or fixing the poverty and inequality inherent in the system …

    Should please National voters …

  2. Blazer

     /  17th March 2017

    sounds like a load of bollocks….legislation means …whats crime’ today,may become…passe.

    • True … If you enter the NZ crime figures correctly, surely Cannabis Crime will show up as a jinormous, glaring anomally? Might even fry a few circuit boards …?

      Like Patrick MacGoohan in ‘The Prisoner’ … Asked to challenge the [supercomputer] “Number One”(?) he simply asked it “Why?” … and it blew its old valve & resistor curcuitry …

      “A major theme of the series is individualism, as represented by Number Six, versus collectivism, as represented by Number Two and the others in the Village. McGoohan stated that the series aimed to demonstrate a balance between the two points.” – Wiki

      Nahhhhh … It was just ‘entertainment’ …

      • NOEL

         /  17th March 2017

        Last figures I saw put illicit drug offences as the reason for people in prisons at 10 percent.
        Sexual assaults at 21 percent
        Acts intended to cause injury 18 percent
        Unlawful entry burglary etc 24 percent
        Homicides 9 percent.

        • Blazer

           /  17th March 2017

          why do I find this hard to believe?’unlawful entry burglary etc 24 percent’…oh thats right the fact that 94% of burlaries are unsolved.Actually, imagine how many new prisons we would need…if they were…solved.

        • @ Noel … various percentage types of criminal people in prison …

          All very well, but we’re not only talking about prison populations in this topic … Its about profiling criminals and victims in the general population and “evidence-based policy-making initiatives” that might result …

          [Government] Police expenditure of $400 million per annum on cannabis enforcement lends credence to the idea that cannabis crime data will skew the overall analysis …

          This could also skew the resulting policies? For instance, a ‘model’ which promotes fines rather than community service could ‘favour’ the capture and prosecution of even more cannabis criminals …. like the old “revenue from speeding tickets” argument …

          If it doesn’t skew the policy initiatives … then they’re not actually using their own profiling tool properly because its reliant on human intervention … kinda ironic …?

      • PDB

         /  17th March 2017

        Cannabis convictions/prison terms have been going down for years as shown in this recent document from the ministry of justice…….

        Click to access Marijuana-imprisonments.pdf

        • So the massive expenditure on enforcing marijuana laws is even less ‘productive & efficient’ than we thought PDB … Neoliberal crime-busting at its best …

          We’re spending $400 million per year on getting fewer convictions … on NOT getting convictions …

          Far out man! Okay, I inhaled … but I only ever used it “medicinally” …

  3. someone in here (NNM) attacked me saying I was grossly overstating the amount of time & resources, Police use on Cannabis ‘offences’. I have been reliably informed that about 10% of all prison inmates at anytime, are incarcerated for cannabis. Whilst this may not line up with the 25%+ I stated, the majority of convictions often result in; fines, community work or discharge. I have read that about $300-400million/year is WASTED on this ‘activity’, inc. use of RNZAF helicopters(whilst most other OECD countries now allow decrim./regulation).

    Some now say, ‘surely this would be better spent on Education, treatment/rehab’ (outside prison) BUT ‘old habits die hard’ esp. when those in the ‘prohibition industry’ (Police, courts, corrections)are hell-bent on maintaining the status quo (Job protection) & have the ear of several Govt, MPs, who also see things this way. (ex-cops in Natz party)

    btw; recent polls show; >75% support some level of Cannabis law reform; Med-use or personal, adults only. BUT it is just falling on ‘DEAF ears’.. MPs running scared or actually supporting the status quo ! 😦

    another rant on this issue.. from I&I 😀

    • Ae & Aye …

    • patupaiarehe

       /  17th March 2017

      I hear you Zedd. What a complete fucking joke, our so called justice system is…I enjoyed a very nice ‘joint’, with a couple of friends, earlier on. And I’m not planning on killing anyone (until I get Blazer’s address) FYI Bazer, I WASN’T BEING SERIOUS

      • @P_Z & Patu

        ‘All praises in the name of the most high.. HIM Haile Selassie I.. RasTafarI’ 😀

  1. Data modelling to estimate crime – NZ Conservative Coalition

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