Crime on the rise? Check the evidence.

crime-sceneIf you live in Sydney you’re probably concerned by the rising crime rate. After all, the nightly news is full of home invasions, car thefts, drive-by shootings, rape and myriad other crimes. And if that’s not enough evidence, then what about the reality shows such as The Force: Behind the Line and Highway Patrol?

But is this really evidence? Maybe crime is just more in the media than it used to be. So where can we go to get some good data on crime?

Well, the internet of course, and a reputable web site like the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research headed by Don Weatherburn, Australia’s most prominent criminologist.

Don has a PhD in mathematical psychology, and has been collecting and reporting on crime statistics for perhaps a decade or more. But he doesn’t just report the data; he interprets it, giving insight into why rates are going up or down, or why the public perception is sometimes at odds with the evidence.

Each quarter the Bureau releases a report called the NSW Recorded Crime Statistics, and the latest was yesterday. And as usual, Don was invited to talk about it on Richard Glover’s afternoon radio program on 702 Sydney.

So what is the headline news in the latest report? In the past two years:

  • Only three of 17 crime categories have risen
  • Seven have dropped significantly
  • Seven are unchanged

Don then talked about the crime that has risen.

  1. Assault related to domestic violence is up 2.5%. This may be partly due to an increased willingness to report this offence.
  2. Indecent assault and acts of indecency and other sexual offences are up 12.1%. A large proportion of this is due to increased reporting by child victims.
  3. Fraud in up 8.6%. Most of this is related to unauthorised use of credit cards.

So if you’re worried about break-ins, someone stealing your car or being assaulted in the street then the good news is that these and many other crimes are not going up. In fact many categories are going down.

In summary, NSW and Sydney are becoming safer places to live, not more dangerous. So the next time the nightly news suggests otherwise, or some politician wants to crack down on crime with harsher penalties, just let it wash over you, and wait for the next quarterly NSW Recorded Crime Statistics.

Like to know about the crime in your suburb? Have a look at the interactive map here.

Full report – NSW Recorded Crime Statistics: March 2014 quarterly report (pdf 573Kb)

If you want to know even more about the mismatch between perception and reality, have a look at this book: Law and Order in Australia: Rhetoric and Reality by Don Weatherburn.

 

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