Property Damage, Vandalism, Arson

Vandalism is the deliberate, wilful damage or destruction of personal or household property. It includes graffiti, which is writing or drawing on your property without your permission. Arson is when someone deliberately sets fire to property. It can also potentially cause damage to neighbouring properties, and result in fatalities.

Even if no one is physically hurt, people have to cope with the loss of property and the costs of repair or replacement as a result of this crime. The vandalism and damage can take a lot of time and effort to clean-up. This can be hard to deal with and have far-reaching consequences.

Arson can be especially devastating. Recovering emotionally after a house fire, or at a place of work or business, isn’t easy. These are places where you have previously found security, comfort, and safety and after a fire these can be lost. Your normal daily life, and that of others affected, can be significantly disrupted. Evacuation, relocation, and rebuilding after a fire can be an enormous and demanding challenge.

You are not to blame for this crime, the perpetrator is.

Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.

Report the crime
Police can give you advice on how best to respond to this situation and keep safe. They will advise what they can do to investigate and find the perpetrator. Let them know if you continue to feel threatened by anyone you and your family or whānau suspect may have caused the damage, especially if it involved arson.

  • If the crime is underway or you feel in immediate threat or danger call police on 111.

  • Call the police non-emergency number on 105 or go online to report what has happened. 

  • Go to your local police station and talk with the person at the front counter. They will advise you about what to do. You may be able to speak to an officer straight away. You may be able to speak to an officer straight away.

Check in with neighbours
Let people living or working nearby know that the crime has happened. Ask if they saw anything suspicious. If they did, report this to police. Talking with neighbours also reminds them to check on the security of their own property.

Keep a record
Note down the dates, times, and location of any related incidents. If possible, try to safely take photos or videos of the damage which can be used as evidence. Share this with police.

Give a statement
The police may interview you and ask you to give a statement to assist their investigations. Your information could help in any criminal court case later.

  • A police officer will write down or record what happened. After a traumatic experience, people’s memories can be a bit foggy or uncertain. Things that happened can seem like a blur. Take your time and do your best.

  • What you say must be true. Giving police false information is a serious matter.

  • You’ll be asked to read it through to check it’s correct and sign to confirm it’s an accurate report of what happened to you.

  • Police will also take photos of the damage.

Support the investigation
Police may investigate the case. This can take some time and, depending on the circumstances, might involve a forensic investigation of the scene of the damage. They will keep you updated on progress of their investigation and may need to interview you again.

If there is a court case
Police will be in touch with you to talk about the court process and invite you to give a Victim Impact Statement. They will explain what giving evidence will involve if you are to be a court witness. Police will also let you know when and where you may be needed to give your evidence. Sometimes there can be delays in a court case, so they will let you know if that happens.

If the perpetrator is sent to prison, you may be entitled to be placed on the Victim Notification Register.  

Deal with graffiti as soon as possible
See Resene’s helpful advice about how to do this here. 

Make an insurance claim as soon as possible, if you have insurance
Your insurance company will explain what you need to do.

Find ways to increase confidence in your personal safety
Use the tips police suggest in their booklet Keep Safe, Feel Safe. Taking these actions can help increase confidence in your personal safety and security, and that of your family and whānau.

Give yourself time to recover after this traumatic experience
See below for some common reactions and ways to cope with them.

Everyone’s different and will react in their own way
Property crimes can vary. Some may not be very serious but can still cause victims stress and anger. Other property crimes can be very serious and have far-reaching consequences with people experiencing serious shock and distress. Situations where extreme vandalism or arson have happened can be deeply traumatic.

People often feel angry, frustrated, and resentful that a stranger has caused so much harm. Many victims will grieve for what has been lost or damaged if it was valuable and treasured.

Some people may blame themselves or others for a lack of security. Many feel anxious about leaving their property unguarded or being alone and unsafe. They may worry the perpetrator will come back and do more damage. This can leave people feeling on edge and jumpy.  Often people can become very focused on trying to find the person responsible for the damage.

You may find yourself preoccupied with what happened and unable to concentrate on other things. You might find yourself more forgetful. It can be harder to think clearly for a while. If you witnessed the incident, you may experience some disturbing memories about it.

Physically you may have difficulty sleeping or have changes in your appetite. Other common physical reactions can include being shaky, tight chest, a racing heart, difficulty breathing, body aches, nausea, upset stomach, or headaches. Existing health conditions may get worse because of the stress.

If this isn’t the first time you have experienced property damage, the world can seem very unfair and untrustworthy. You may find your reactions are especially strong.

These kinds of reactions are all normal
However, they might affect you more, and for longer, than you expect. See tips below for coping with the impact of what’s happened.

If children or young people have been affected by what’s happened
See our information sheet for parents and caregivers about Supporting your child or young person after a crime or traumatic event.

Looking after yourself is important
Encourage others who have been affected to do the same. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.

Talk about what happened
When you’re ready, talking to those you trust about what happened, such as a trusted member of your family, whānau, friend, your doctor, or a counsellor, a respected elder, rangatira, or a Victim Support worker. If any aspects of your story are particularly disturbing, speak to a professional. Talking honestly about how things are can help release some of the stress and emotional tension inside.

After a very traumatic experience, a flashback feels as though you’re back in the middle of what happened or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real. To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, see our information sheet  Dealing with Flashbacks.

More tips for coping with your reactions
To understand more about trauma and grief, and to find some ways to cope with your reactions, please see:

If anyone has died as a result of arson or property damage
Bereavement and grief can be challenging and hard to cope with. Our section on coping with a sudden death, or perhaps homicide if that is suspected, may be helpful. See these topics in our Get Support section.

If your reactions trouble you

  • Visit your doctor. They can do a health check and support you with any ongoing issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, or depression.

  • Consider talking with a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you work through your reactions and the consequences the crime has had.

  • If you need to find a local doctor, counsellor, or psychologist, please click here.

If children or young people have been affected by what’s happened
See our information sheet for parents and caregivers about Supporting your child or young person after a crime or traumatic event.

We are here for you 24/7
Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.

Our support is completely free and confidential, and available throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

What we can offer
Our Support Workers can support you with:

  • someone to listen, talk with, and support you to cope through trauma and loss

  • help to understand your rights and make informed choices

  • information and help to answer your questions

  • help to access local support services and counselling to suit your situation

  • someone to assist and support you at court trials, hearings, and dealing with police and other government agencies

  • help to prepare Victim Impact Statements and attend family group or restorative justice conferences

  • financial assistance for victims of serious crime.

We are committed to providing quality support to strengthen the mana and well-being of all those affected by property damage, vandalism, graffiti, or arson.

If English is your second language
If you require support in your first language, Victim Support can use Ezispeak to connect with an interpreter over the phone. Call us on 0800 842 846 and let us know. We will try to match you to a Support Worker who speaks your language.



Coping with Trauma
When you are grieving
Dealing with flashbacks