Analysis of the recorded crime trends show that between 2000 and 2008 crime in New South Wales has been generally either stable or falling.
Crime and community safety is a very topical issue which receives a lot of attention from the media, government and the general public. Perhaps because of the way crime is reported, many people believe that crime levels and trends are worse than is actually the case. Police recorded crime statistics are a key means by which we can measure the actual trends in crime and regional variations in crime. Analysis of the recorded crime trends show that between 2000 and 2008 crime in NSW has been generally either stable or falling. Some offences such as break and enter and motor vehicle theft have fallen so much that they are now much less prevalent than they were in 1990.
Trends in Personal Crime
Personal crime generally refers to crimes of violence such as murder, assault, sexual offences and robbery.
Since 1990 the number of murders in NSW has fallen steadily and significantly. In 1990 there were 119 people murdered while in 2008 there were only 75.
Assault is a very high volume offence with nearly 70,000 incidents recorded by NSW Police in 2008. Slightly more than a third of these incidents were domestic violence related. About four percent of the population experiences an assault each year, and the prevalence is higher among young people and males. Between 1990 and 2008 the recorded rate of assault in NSW more than doubled. This was due to a steady increase in the number of assaults recorded between 1994 and 2001. Since 2001, however, the rate of assault has remained stable. An investigation by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in 2009 found that the long term increase in the recorded rate of assault was to both an increase in violence and an increase in public awareness of assault and increased willingness to report assault incidents.
The recorded incidence of sexual offences in NSW has remained stable since the late 1990s. Prior to this, however, there was a sharp rise from 1993 to 1997 so the recorded rate of sexual offences is now about twice as high as in 1990. Part of this is likely because the mandatory reporting requirements for child sex offences have increased over this time.
The offence of robbery relates to a violent theft offence such as a mugging or home invasion. About a third of robberies involve a weapon, most commonly a knife. Less than ten percent involve a firearm. The rate of robbery in NSW fell considerably in the six years to 2008 so that it is now equivalent to 1994 levels. There was a sizeable surge in robbery incidents between 1995 and 2001 but
since then it has decreased every year.
Trends in Property Crime
Stealing offences which do not include personal violence can be referred to as property crime. The long term trends for these offences in NSW are very encouraging. Almost all have fallen over the past 15 years and some are well below levels recorded in 1990. Also included here is the offence of maliciously damaging property. Contrary to the trends in stealing offences, this offence has actually increased over the past 15 years.
Break and enter of a dwelling or burglary is another high volume offence. In 2008 about 7% of NSW homes experienced an attempted or actual break in. Break and enter of a non-dwelling includes incidents occurring on commercial premises, in offices, factories and all other non-residential premises. In 2008 recorded rates of break and enter of both dwellings and non-dwellings were both well below their 1990 levels. This is due to a sharp and continuous decline which has occurred since 2001.
A similar pattern is evident in the incidence of motor vehicle theft. The number of cars stolen has fallen so dramatically that in 2008 the rate of motor vehicle theft was 60% lower than it was in 1990.
The offence of malicious damage to property includes vandalism and graffiti. Unlike the major theft offences, however the recorded incidence of malicious damage to property has actually increased over time. Between 1995 and 2008 there has been a steady rise in the number of incidents recorded by police. We cannot be sure what proportion of the increase is attributable to increased reporting and what proportion is a real increase in offending.
Mr Bryan Price, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and Ms Jackie Fitzgerald, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research