If you follow the news, it would appear that crime is an ever-increasing problem, particularly in cities, but how true is this?
Is crime really increasing, or could it actually be on a downward trend? The increased coverage of crime in the media could be a result of increasing crime statistics, or it could be due to a higher level of reporting and awareness.
Figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) indicate that violent crime as a whole has experienced a long-term decline in NSW over the last ten years.
The statistics show that violent crime in Sydney has gone down by 3% since 2008, and property crime has reduced by 3.4% on average during the same time period.
The only region showing an increase in crime over the past four years has been northern NSW, which showed a 2.7% increase in property crime between 2008 and 2012.
According to a number of recent media reports, the serious crime rate in Sydney is the lowest it has been since 1990.
Although the general trend throughout NSW is towards a reduction in crime, there are certain types of offences that experience spikes, or that are actually on the increase.
For example, non-fatal shootings remain a problem in south-west Sydney, although they appear to be averaging out more recently. The BOCSAR statistics also show that domestic violence incidents increased by 1.7% between 2008 and 2012, along with sexual assault, which increased by 2.6% over the same time period.
Whether or not this increase is due to an increase in offences being committed, or an increase in reporting of sexual offences and domestic violence, is unclear.
Have alcohol-related assaults in Sydney increased?
Assaults in the Kings Cross area of Sydney are one type of crime that has had a lot of publicity in recent months.
With the media attention on alcohol-fuelled violent attacks, many people have been led to believe that one-punch and other assaults are on the increase in this particular area of inner Sydney, particularly on or around licensed premises.
The NSW Government has recently passed a controversial set of ‘one-punch’ laws, along with a number of other measures specifically intended to curb this trend in and around Kings Cross, and respond to perceived community outrage at recent events.
Many of the laws relate to curbing the level of alcohol consumption in the area in a move to reduce the number of alcohol-related crimes, particularly assault and violence.
In a recent media release, BOCSAR figures show that the rate of non-domestic assaults in Kings Cross that are committed off licensed premises are stable, and assaults committed on licensed premises are actually in decline.
The figures look at the trend over two and five years, and demonstrate that compared to the NSW average, the rate of assaults committed on licensed premises has been declining in Kings Cross at a faster rate than the rest of NSW, and that the rate of assaults committed off licensed premises in the area remains stable and in line with the rest of the state.
What about cyber crime?
Fraud as a criminal offence is an area which has shown significant increases in recent years. According to reports from the ABC, the majority of fraud offences occur in relation to fraudulent credit card use.
With our increasing reliance on technology to perform more day-to-day tasks, including banking, Australians are more vulnerable than ever to high tech crime. It would also seem that many of us are aware of the risks.
Cyber crime can be against individuals, and also against large organisations, particularly financial and credit card institutions.
Cyber crime can be difficult to monitor, as it is not often detected and reported, particularly where it involves multiple transactions of very small amounts. Many organisations including the Australian Federal Police believe cyber crime to be an increasing threat to businesses and individuals.
According to figures from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), in 2008 – 2009 there was an estimated loss of $6 billion in Australia due to credit card fraud, much of which was committed through obtaining and accessing details online.
Technology is responsible for a large number of fraud offences, not just through unauthorised access of information and computer hacking, but also through other devices such as credit card skimming and forgery. As technology evolves it’s likely that fraud and cyber crime will also evolve to keep up with it.
Although there has been a spike in certain types of crime, in general, crime would appear to be on the decrease in NSW. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research spokesman Dr Don Weatherburn described the state as “a far, far safer place than it was in 1990 or 2000.”