Wednesday 7 March 2012

The bad old days

Pick up the newspapers or turn on the telly and you'll sure to be swamped with articles and segments about how crime-riddled our society is. If you read or watch for long enough, you'll be deadlocking your door, too frightened to step outside. Talk to old ladies in the supermarket aisles and you'll hear about the 'good old days' when you could leave your door open, but now there are baddies behind every corner. There'll be cries of 'what is society coming to?!'.

A few months ago, I was driving round town and I heard a criminologist being interviewed on the ABC about gang violence (yes, I listen to 702, I never said I was cool). It was fascinating as he was talking about how there is a perception that gang violence is out of control now, certainly in ways it wasn't 50 or more years ago. What he said was that it actually hadn't risen that much. Rather that gang crime was reported more often in the press so it was generally perceived that it was a 'new crime wave' and that there was more fear in the public about gangs. He suggested that this may have racial undertones as well, that people were more fearful Vietnamese or Middle Eastern gangs and that many had thought of criminals such as Neddy Smith and his crew almost like larrikins or the underdog. A kind of bushranger hero worship thing. I arrived at my destination at that point so I never heard the end on the interview or even found out who the criminologist was.

During the night last night, I was feeding the boy when I read this article in The Sydney Morning Herald by Ross Gittins about how crime rates have fallen yet no-one in the media was reporting it. Crime does pay, it seems when we're talking about media sales.

Property crime rates have been falling significantly for the past the decade, but if you turn on Today, Tonight or A Current Affair or even the network news and you'd think there was someone lurking under every window waiting for the moment to pounce.

The article says that statistics from The Australian Institute of Criminology show:

The clearest evidence is of a long-run decline in recorded property crime. The number of burglaries reached a national peak of almost 440,000 in 2000, and has since halved to fewer than 220,000 a year.
The number of motor vehicle thefts reached a peak of 140,000 a year in 2001, and has now fallen by 61 per cent to below 55,000 a year. Other thefts peaked at 700,000 a year in 2001, but are now down by a third to almost 460,000 a year.

 Wow, fascinating stuff. Well, it is to me.

What do you think? Do you feel more vulnerable to crime than you did five or 10 years ago? Do you feel that the media scare mongers? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I think that academic or data person on the radio may have been Don Weatherburn from BOCSAR? He's brilliant! I too love 702, especially James Valentine.

    No, the 'rising crime' thingy is a complete furfy. I don't believe it at all, and it means that I no longer watch the news on TV because so much of it's scare mongering, not to mention not news at all.

    1. Could've been. I used to be James Valentine's researcher a million years ago.

  2. The media has so much for answer for.
    Our world is not a worse place - it's just a more sensationalised one.
    Crime is changing - I'm more concerned about my internet banking vulnerability than locking my doors!!

  3. This is why I don't watch the news here in the US either. It's all doom and gloom and very rarely do you hear something positive and heart warming.
    It's sad really...our news is either about a celebrity or the underbelly of society...gossip and tragedy really do turn a buck I suppose!


Thank you so much for your comments! I'm always thrilled to hear from you.

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