Examining the spatial and temporal patterns of crime in pre- and post-earthquake Christchurch.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Geographic Information Science
The 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquakes brought devastation to the city of Christchurch and has irrevocably affected the lives of the city’s residents. Years after the conclusion of these earthquakes, Christchurch and its residents are well on the path to recovery. Crime has proven an ongoing topic of discussion throughout this period, with news reports of increased burglary and arson in areas left largely abandoned by earthquake damage, and a rise in violent crime in suburban areas of Christchurch. Following the body of research that has considered the reaction of crime to natural disasters, this research has sought to comprehensively examine and understand the effects that the Canterbury Earthquakes had on crime. Examining Christchurch-wide offending, crime rates fell over the study period (July 2008 to June 2013), with the exception of domestic violence. Aside from a momentary increase in burglary in the days immediately following the Christchurch Earthquake, crime rates (as of 2013) have remained largely below pre-earthquake levels. Using Dual Kernel Density Estimation Analysis, a distinct spatial change in pre-earthquake crime hotspots was observed. These changes included an enormous decrease in central city offences, a rise in burglary in the eastern suburbs, and an increase in assault in areas outside of the central city. Logistic regression analysis, using a time-compensated dependent variable, identified a number of statistically-significant relationships between per CAU crime rate change and factors measuring socio-demographic characteristics, community cohesion, and the severity of disaster effects. The significance of these findings was discussed using elements of Social Disorganisation Theory, Routine Activity Theory, and Strain Theory. Consistent with past findings, social order was largely maintained following the Canterbury Earthquakes, with suggestion that increased collective efficacy and therapeutic communities had a negative influence on crime in the post-earthquake period. Areas of increased burglary and assault were associated with large population decreases, suggesting a link with the dissolution of communities and the removal of their inherent informal guardianship. Though observed, the increase in domestic violence was not associated with most neighbourhood-level variables. Trends in crime after the Canterbury Earthquakes were largely consistent with past research, and the media’s portrayal.