Perception versus fact on crime in Australia

26 May

crime There is a brief report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that caught my eye while I had my morning coffee at Juice & Java.

A DAILY media focus on crime is largely to blame for more than a third of people wrongly believing a terrorist attack is imminent on Australian soil and that the crime rate is rising, experts say.

Three-quarters of Australians believed a terrorist attack would happen in South-East Asia last year while more than a third thought it would happen at home, a survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology has found.

Despite a decrease in the crime rate, 65 per cent of people surveyed for the 2007 report said they believed it had risen, with about half saying it had increased substantially.

Researchers Lynne Roberts and David Indermaur said Australians remained sceptical or ambivalent about the performance of the criminal justice system, wrongly believed courts were too soft on criminals and mistakenly thought they were at much greater risk of becoming a crime victim than was actually the case.

"These misperceptions are generally attributable to the main source of information respondents rely on for their picture of crime and criminal justice – the popular media," the researchers said…

That figures! But there is a lot more in the Australian Institute of Criminology Report than that. I urge you to go there and download a copy. There is much else of interest on the site too.


2 responses to “Perception versus fact on crime in Australia

  1. Mark

    June 2, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Australia tops the rate of crime victims per head of population.

    source UNICRI (United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute).

    Remember television and movies are just television and movies and are a dramatisation. Our perception of crime in the US is definitely blurred by what we have seen dramatised on television and movies over a life time. Certainly if personal behavioural standards are anything to go off Australia should not be surprised to see itself at the top of a list of anti-social behaviour.

    It was so bad back in 2005 that Japan issued a travel advisory warning.

    We are far too lenient on criminals in Australia which has promoted a society where being a criminal miscreant is almost a right of passage to be understood by decent people as phase and we are constantly deceived about being a well behaved low crime country.

  2. Neil

    June 3, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Re the first graph: “Data refer to people victimized by one or more of 11 crimes recorded in the survey: robbery, burglary, attempted burglary, car theft, car vandalism, bicycle theft, sexual assault, theft from car, theft of personal property, assault and threats. Crime statistics are often better indicators of prevalence of law enforcement and willingness to report crime, than actual prevalence.” SOURCE: UNICRI (United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute). 2002.

    See also International comparisons of crime rates out of date (29 March 2006):

    Australian Institute of Criminology Director, Dr Toni Makkai, today said that “a recent OECD report showing Australia had high crime rates compared to other countries, relied on old data”.

    “The OECD report uses results from the 2000 International Crime Victimisation Survey, which was conducted more than five years ago”. Dr Makkai said that “There have been noticeable declines in crime rates in Australia since 2000 and these declines have been confirmed in a number of different tracking systems”.

    “International results from the 2004 international survey have not yet been released,” Dr Makkai said, “However, the results from the Australian survey show that crime victimisation had dropped by seven percent when compared with survey results in 2000.”

    The drop in crime also shows up in recorded crime figures, with declines over the past three years in the crimes of homicide, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft and other theft. This trend was highlighted in Australian Crime: Facts and Figures 2005, which provides a national picture of crime and justice.

    “We also have to be very careful in making comparisons between countries” Dr Makkai said. “For example, homicide is not included in the crime victim surveys, yet it is most reliable violence indicator. For the most recent year for which data are available Australia has a lower rate than the United States, Canada, and England and Wales.”

    Refer also to the document mentioned in the post (2009).

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