This is part 1 of my series on trying to find the root cause of rising crime in NZ.
Income inequality is often given as a reason for crime.
At Te Porongo Oranga Tangata (a name presumably familiar to us or they wouldn't have given it a Maori name) they say:
The degree of income inequality is often regarded as an important aspect of the fairness of the society we live in. A high level of income inequality may also be detrimental to the level of social connectedness across society.
And for those of you not steeped in the language of sociology, I found these definitions on the site.
...refers to the relationships people have with others and the benefits these bring to individuals and society.
...requires that “power, wealth and opportunity will be [in] the hands of the many not the few”
So it looks like a likely culprit. Let's run it through shall we?
Punter sees his neighbour Boris getting rich while he still is poor. Said punter is upset at the decreasing social connectedness of Boris, and the lack of fairness, since Boris got rich from a freak oil find in the back yard. Punter gets annoyed, steels Boris's car, shoots his dog, punches his daughter and kidnaps his wife. During a period of home detention he burns down Boris' garage, eats his pet rabbit and attempts to murder the daughter. While on parole a few years later he finishes off the daughter and strangles Boris' milkman (by mistake). Some 8 years later, on parole he finally manages to kill off Boris and spends the second jail term sharpening his axe for the wife...
Couldn't be simpler, case closed. If only Boris had been a bit more considerate with his oil find - you know, shouted fish and chips for the lads a few more times, or not bought that brand new Alfa Romeo. Or kept it a secret.
Except...except that the rise in income equality happened only from 1986, rather than the start of our crime wave in 1955. This is hard to find stats for on the web, but here is Dr Cullen talking about it a year ago:
For the last quarter of a century in most developed countries, unlike the previous three quarters of a century, inequalities of income rose and inequalities of wealth rose even more. Contrary to some claims, this was not either an inevitable consequence, nor necessary driver, of economic growth. It was the result of a sharp shift in public policies.
[Presumably the sharp shift was that everyone got fired from the railways in 1986]
So, we have to discount income inequality sorry. Much as it feels right, it started 30 years too late to be the cause of the crime wave.