How to talk about crime and justice: a guide

Crime prevention Crime reduction Victims of crimes Crime New Zealand

This guide draws on evidence-led communications theory to provide practical guidance and resources for people who communicate about justice. This research provides new insights into communication strategies that will:

  • improve the New Zealand public’s understanding of the causes of crime
  • improve understanding of the effectiveness of various policy responses to crime
  • influence attitudes about punishment, rehabilitation and forgiveness; and
  • increase support for evidence-based policy and legal responses to crime.


  1. Start with a vision about preventing crime and restoring community wellbeing. People take a number of cognitive shortcuts that make it difficult for them to conceptualise systems and structural change and think change is possible
  2. Use collective values like pragmatism, benevolence and solving shared problems
  3. A growing body of research shows we need to engage all people with our shared, helpful values. Pragmatic problem solving and benevolence were the values that moved people’s attitudes in this research
  4. Use a small set of facts about racial inequity to help explain systemic racism. Make it clear that people in politics are responsible for prevention of crime 
  5. Include an explanatory chain (a + b = c) about what causes crime, the impacts and the best solutions in New Zealand. This helps people think more productively about the causes of crime. Such explanations should come after the values and vision.
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