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Cause for concern? Not really…

December 28, 2010 2 comments

According to a new story on Christmas Eve, police are concerned over the number of armed robberies carried out in banks this year. 3 News report figures that show “the risk to staff and customers is soaring”.

The apparent cause of alarm is the fact that three quarters of robberies in 2010 involved arms, whereas in 2009 it was only half.

They also mention that the actual number of New Zealand bank robberies fell from 79 to 37. But never mind that, it’s still alarming: Insert scary graphic behind the newsreader, queue the footage of an armed robbery in East Auckland, and bring on the police spokesman to explain why people are becoming very desperate to obtain cash. According to reporter Jenny Suo, “it’s that desperation that has bank workers scared for their lives”. “Police say the likelihood of being caught is extremely high, but figures show more offenders are going ahead armed anyway”. OK, so we should all be terrified.

But is that really what the numbers say? In 2009, there were 79 bank robberies, of which half were armed – so that’s around 40 armed robberies. In 2010, there were 37 bank robberies, of which three quarters were armed. That’s around 28 armed robberies, and 9 unarmed. In other words, in the past year, the number of armed robberies has dropped by 30%. Even better, the number of unarmed robberies has dropped by a staggering 77%. So why the fear mongering? Why the alarmist headline “Increase in armed robberies a cause for concern”? There is no increase. Why not “Drop in armed robberies cause for celebration”? Shouldn’t we all be feeling more relaxed about being in banks?

There’s no doubt that armed robbery is a scary thing, particularly for the staff concerned. It’s also no secret that crime reporting often plays on public fear, and that statistics are frequently misrepresented. You just usually have to dig a little deeper than this to see that a headline is blatantly untrue.

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