Are we less safe from crime these days?

It doesn’t usually take more than a couple of hours into a party for someone to raise the horrendous crime rate we live with today – usually accompanied by a reference to the good, old days of low crime, when we were all safe in or houses and on the street.

But is that observation accurate?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the stats for 2016 that showed the number of victims of crime increased across the entire range of offences for the first time in six years (the current series of data started in 2010).

The number of sexual assault victims rose for the fifth consecutive year to 23,052, the number of victims of robberies rose for the first time since 2010 to 9,403 due to an increase in armed robberies, and motor vehicle theft victims rose 9 per cent on-year to 51,525, 

And it was only last year that Senator Pauline Hanson said that Australian’s didn’t feel safe on the streets due to the number of stabbings, bombings and murders. Likewise, then-energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg said that he believed Victorians had ‘never felt as unsafe as they do now”.

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A fact-check of the comments by The Conversation found that violent crimes were not, in fact, becoming more common, although some crimes, such as ice abuse and identity theft were. Thefts such as break and enters, street robberies and car theft were actually well down since the year 2000. while stabbings have dropped since 2002, and the murder rate has dropped since 2000 too.

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The official Crime Statistics Australia site, run by the government’s Australian Institute of Criminology , meanwhile, shows that the rate of homicides had plunged by 44 per cent from 1989-90 to 2013-14

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Of course, all of this data are based on reports made to police, so it’s possible to argue that many crimes may be going unreported.

But a similar argument is also used with regard to decades past – that crimes such as sexual assault and child abuse weren’t less common, it was just less socially acceptable to report that they had occurred, as can be seen by the many victims of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church who have since spoken out about their experiences, having been hushed up by the church, police, and even their own parents at the time of the offences.

Regardless of the stats, though, it’s true that many people believe they are less safe today than they were in the past, as the Crime and Justice Bulletin from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research showed in 2015. It had surveyed residences of the state on their perceptions of crime and the justice system, and found that perception was quite far from reality. 

“The majority of survey respondents continue to hold marked misperceptions of crime and justice outcomes,” according to the bulletin. “Most people fail to perceive declining property crime, overestimate the prevalence of violence in crime, and underestimate conviction and imprisonment rates.”

Do you think crime across the board has worsened since you were a child? Do you think the statistics reflect reality or are is there under-reporting of crime?

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