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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1995  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/06/1995   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing Stock: Safe as houses?

Housing Stock: Safe as houses?

In 1993, over half a million households were victims of household crime. 62% of these households were not members of neighbourhood or rural watch.

Since World War II most western countries have experienced increases in recorded crime as measured by police statistics. However, increases in official crime rates may merely indicate an increase in the number of offences recorded by the police rather than an actual increase in the number of offences committed.

There is a public perception that crime, particularly violent crime, has increased in Australia in recent years1. But 1993 data indicate that there has been only a marginal change in the level of violent crime compared to 1983. While the victimisation rate for robbery has doubled from 0.6% to 1.2%, the rate for sexual assault has remained virtually unchanged at 0.6% and the rate for other types of assault has decreased from 3.4% to 2.5%. It should be noted that these 1983 and 1993 data are 'snapshots' of the incidence of violent crime and that criminal activity may have fluctuated at times between these two years.


ABS crime surveys

While ABS Crime and Safety Surveys can be used to measure changes in patterns of crime, care must be used in comparing their results because of methodological and definitional differences between the surveys. Important differences between the 1983 and 1993 surveys include:
  • in 1983 data were collected using face-to-face interviewing while in 1993 self-completed questionnaires were used;
  • although both surveys had a 12-month reference period, the 1993 survey was conducted in April while the sample for the 1983 survey was spread over 12 months, from February 1983 to January 1984.

The victimisation rate is the number of people or households in a particular category who reported being victims of crime, expressed as a percentage of all people or households in that category. Victims were counted only once for each type of offence, regardless of the number of incidents of that type. Household crime consists of break and enter, attempted break and enter and motor vehicle theft. The latter includes the theft of a motor vehicle, owned or used exclusively by a household member, which may have occurred away from the home

Comparisons with police statistics

Responses obtained in ABS Crime and Safety Surveys are based on the respondents' perceptions that they have been the victim of an offence. Data on crimes not reported to police are collected. The terms used summarise the wording of questions asked of respondents and may not correspond with legal or police definitions.


Violence in the home
Overall, there were proportionally fewer violent crimes in Australian homes in 1993 than in 1983. While there were approximately 1,000 more assaults inside victims' homes in 1993 than in 1983, this represented a marginal decrease in the victimisation rate from 0.5% to 0.4%. Assaults outside victims' homes decreased by almost 6,000, a decrease in the rate from 0.3% to 0.2%. The number of assaults inside another person's home also decreased, from 19,000 in 1983 to 12,000 in 1993, a decrease in the rate from 0.2% to 0.1%.

Women were more likely than men to be assaulted inside their homes. In 1993, 41,000 women were assaulted inside their homes compared to 16,000 men.

VICTIMISATION RATE FOR ASSAULT IN THE HOME

1983
1993


Men
Women
Persons
Men
Women
Persons
Location of last incident
%
%
%
%
%
%

At home - inside
0.3
0.7
0.5
0.2
0.6
0.4
At home - outside
0.3
0.2
0.3
0.2
0.1
0.2
At another person's home - inside
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.1
0.1
0.1
Total
0.8
1.1
1.0
0.5
0.8
0.7
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total victims in the home
45.8
60.9
106.8
37.8
57.2
95.0

Source: Crime and Safety Survey


Break and enter
There was a relatively small increase in break and enter and attempted break and enter in 1993 compared to 1983. Victimisation rates increased from 6.1% to 6.8%.

There were variations in break and enter victimisation rates between the states and territories. Of the state and territory capital cities, Perth had the highest rates for break and enter and attempted break and enter with 8.6% and 5.6% respectively. The Northern Territory also had relatively high rates of break and enter and attempted break and enter while Melbourne and Sydney had comparatively low rates. With the exception of attempted break and enter in Tasmania, all states recorded higher victimisation rates in the capital city than in the rest of the state.

VICTIMISATION RATE FOR BREAK AND ENTER, 1993

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
Type of offence
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Actual break and enter
    Capital city
4.2
3.4
6.9
5.6
8.6
4.8
n.a.
n.a.
4.8
    Rest of state
2.9
3.0
3.8
3.4
3.9
3.4
n.a.
n.a.
3.7
    Total
3.7
3.3
5.2
5.0
7.5
4.0
7.4
5.0
4.4
Attempted break and enter
    Capital city
2.7
2.7
3.4
4.8
5.6
1.9
n.a.
n.a.
3.2
    Rest of state
2.5
2.5
3.0
1.2
2.7
2.2
n.a.
n.a.
2.9
    Total
2.6
2.6
3.2
3.8
4.9
2.0
5.4
4.9
3.1

Source: Crime and Safety Survey


Who is victimised?
One parent families and people living in group households had the highest rates of victimisation for household crime. People living alone had the next highest victimisation rate. These three household types are more likely to be renters and to live in high density accommodation than couple families (see Australian Social Trends 1994, Housing the population).

VICTIMISATION RATE FOR HOUSEHOLD CRIME BY HOUSEHOLD TYPE, 1993



(a) Includes other family households.

Source: Crime and Safety Survey


Home security
Households who had some kind of home security device had considerably higher victimisation rates than those who did not. This could be because victims of household crime may have installed security devices after they had been victimised. It could also be that households with security devices are more likely to live in areas with high crime rates so their likelihood of victimisation is high, regardless of what security precautions are taken.

Membership of Neighbourhood Watch or Rural Watch reduced the likelihood of victimisation for household crime. In 1993, members of these two schemes had a household crime victimisation rate of 7.3% while the victimisation rate for non-members was 8.5%.

Renters had a higher victimisation rate for household crime than home owners. Informal sources of security, such as neighbours watching over premises while occupants are away, are perhaps less available to renters because of their generally higher levels of mobility.

VICTIMS OF HOUSEHOLD CRIME, 1993

Victims
Victimisation rate
Type of security device
'000
%

No security devices
103.1
6.6
Physical devices
381.7
8.9
Electronic devices
100.8
10.7
Other
47.6
11.2
Total households
522.0
8.3
Member of Neighbourhood or Rural Watch
130.9
7.3
Not a member of Neighbourhood or Rural Watch
322.0
8.5
Don't know whether member of Neighbourhood or Rural Watch
69.2
9.9

Source: Crime and Safety Survey


Reporting to police
Police statistics often underestimate real crime rates because they only include those crimes which are reported. Depending on the nature of the crime, reporting rates may be relatively low. For example, in 1993, about half of all robberies, a third of assaults and a quarter of sexual assaults were reported to the police.

In 1993, the police were told about 79% of a break and enters and 32% of attempted break and enters. These figures may have been lower if victims were not required to report incidents to the police in order to claim insurance.

The main reasons given for not telling the police about crimes were that victims thought the incidents were too trivial or unimportant or that they believed that the police either could not or would not do anything about the incident.


Endnotes

1 Mackay, H. (1992) Reinventing Australia: the mind and mood of Australia in the 90s Angus and Robertson.

2 Reported in Queensland Domestic Violence Task Force (1988) Beyond These Walls.



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