Recent figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) show that most of the main offence types have remained steady or decreased in number throughout the state over the previous three months.
There have been a number of marked decreases across NSW as a whole, especially in some of the less common offences, including robbery without a weapon, which is down 20%, and break and enter non-dwelling, which is down 16.4% over recent months.
Outside the main offences, there has also been a substantial decrease in the number of shooting offences across the state, with offences covering shooting with intent other than to murder down 35.7%, and unlawfully discharging a firearm decreasing by 23.6%.
The only offence category which has increased across the state as a whole is drugs, with an increase in arrests of up to 25.9% for amphetamine possession and use, and 12.7% for cannabis possession and use.
In Sydney, the general trend towards a decrease has continued, although a few offences did see an increase in certain areas of Sydney, but this hasn’t affected the state’s overall trend.
Blacktown saw an increase in break and enter (non-dwelling) of 13.2%; while in North Sydney and Hornsby there was a 23.9% increase in stealing from a dwelling recorded.
The areas with the most reductions in crime were the Central Coast, and Sydney’s city and inner south areas.
Crime rates high in rural areas
Although there may have been a decrease in crime within the greater Sydney area, NSW criminal court results showed that there were a few regional areas with an alarmingly high crime rate.
The far west and Orana had crime rates more than twice the average state rate for eight out of the 17 major offences.
In a number of regional areas, there has been a reported surge in crime over recent times believed to be due to a combination of different factors.
These include reduced employment, increased dependence on welfare, and the spread of drugs out of urban areas into the country.
Dubbo has also experienced a big spike in crime, mainly break-ins, which have increased by 96.2% over the previous two years.
The number of break and enters to non dwellings was more than twice the state average in Dubbo, and even more in the neighbouring area of Wellington.
Theft from motor vehicles also saw a major increase in Dubbo, up 36.1% from previous years.
It has been widely suggested that increased services and access to employment opportunities could make a significant difference to the high rates of crime in some rural areas.
Much of the increase in crime is attributed to boredom among youth, as well as social problems like alcohol dependence and mental health problems.
Are crime rates really decreasing in Sydney?
Although the figures would appear to show that crime rates are decreasing for the top 17 offences, there are other offences which don’t fall into that category, and that are more difficult to monitor.
These include cybercrime and fraud, and other newer, emerging offences, which there may not yet be a lot of available data on, but which could prove to be significant in the future.
The issue of cybercrime and identity fraud is of concern to NSW Police.
A new online reporting system has been set up, so people can report cybercrime, and warnings have recently been issued to apartment dwellers across Sydney to be aware of the potential for mail theft to lead to identity fraud.
The overall crime rate may be decreasing, but the increase in drugs offences, especially amphetamine offences, was raised by BOCSAR director Don Weatherburn as concerning.
Dr Weatherburn stated that figures show that the use of methamphetamine has been increasing.
He said national survey data shows the proportion of people using the drug daily or weekly has increased from 9.3% in 2010 to 15.5% in 2013, and the higher arrest rate is consistent with the increased use of the drug.
The stabilisation and decrease in arrest rates in NSW is promising, but it seems clear there are still areas which need attention and more resources, especially in rural and regional areas where social issues could lead people to commit crimes.