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1345.4 - SA Stats, Nov 2009  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/11/2009   
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FEATURE ARTICLE: CRIME AND SAFETY


INTRODUCTION

Feelings of safety and security are important determinants in the well-being of individuals and communities. The ABS collects data relating to perceptions of crime, safety, and neighbourhood problems through a variety of surveys including the General Social Survey (2006), Crime and Safety Survey (2005) and Personal Safety Survey (2005). This article presents a comparison of the perceptions of crime and safety that are held by South Australians with those of the broader Australian community and highlights some factors that have the potential to influence perceptions. Further, it examines the relationship between perceptions of safety and the actual incidence of crime in South Australia.


PERCEPTIONS OF CRIME AND SAFETY

People's perception of their level of safety is one factor which can influence how they feel about the area where they live. Information about people's perceptions of safety was collected by the ABS through the 2006 General Social Survey (GSS).

The GSS asked people to indicate how safe they felt at home alone after dark. The proportion of South Australians who indicated that they felt either unsafe or very unsafe (8.8%) was significantly higher than the national proportion (6.7%). Further, the South Australian result was higher than for any other state or territory in Australia.

FEELING UNSAFE/VERY UNSAFE AT HOME ALONE AFTER DARK - 2006
Graph: FEELING UNSAFE/VERY UNSAFE AT HOME ALONE AFTER DARK—2006


The proportion of South Australians who indicated that they felt either unsafe or very unsafe when walking alone in a local area after dark (21.8%) was also significantly higher than the national figure (17.9%). The figure for South Australia was higher than for any other state except for the Northern Territory, where nearly one third (30.0%) of people indicated that they felt unsafe or very unsafe.

FEELING UNSAFE/VERY UNSAFE WALKING ALONE IN LOCAL AREA AFTER DARK - 2006
Graph: FEELING UNSAFE/VERY UNSAFE WALKING ALONE IN LOCAL AREA AFTER DARK—2006


According to the Australian Institute of Criminology there are a number of factors that can influence how safe people feel. These include age, sex, whether or not they have been a victim of crime previously, media exposure, and income level. Whilst the GSS did not ask people why they felt unsafe it is possible to look at results by age and sex at the national level. Feelings of safety for males and females decreased markedly with age when walking alone at night. Further the results show that females in general tend to feel less safe than men.

FEELINGS OF SAFETY WHEN WALKING ALONE AT NIGHT, SA - 2006
Graph: FEELINGS OF SAFETY WHEN WALKING ALONE AT NIGHT, SA—2006



PERCEIVED PROBLEMS IN NEIGHBOURHOOD

In addition to the factors mentioned above, the Australian Institute of Criminology also listed environmental considerations (i.e. the physical and social aspects of one's neighbourhood) and neighbourhood change as having the potential to influence a person's feelings of safety. The Crime and Safety Survey (CSS) collects information on the perceptions of South Australians regarding the types of crimes that they perceive as being problems in their neighbourhoods.

In 2005 three out of four South Australians (76%) perceived there were problems in their neighbourhood compared to 70% of people nationally. The problems ranged from neighbourhood "incivilities" such as litter, graffiti and vandalism to the more serious personal crimes of non-sexual and sexual assault.

Looking at the more personal neighbourhood crimes, Other assault (i.e. non-sexual assault) was perceived to be a problem by 3.7% of South Australians as compared to 3.2% of all Australians. South Australia's proportion was higher than for all the other states and territories with the exception of the Northern Territory (8.8%) and New South Wales (4.2%).

PERCEIVED PROBLEMS IN NEIGHBOURHOOD, Other Assault - 2005
Graph: PERCEIVED PROBLEMS IN NEIGHBOURHOOD, Other Assault—2005


The proportion of South Australians who perceived that sexual assault was a problem in their neighbourhood (3.9%) was higher than the figure for Australia as a whole (2.1%). Furthermore, the South Australian figure was higher than for all other states with the exception of the Northern Territory (6.7%).

PERCEIVED PROBLEMS IN NEIGHBOURHOOD, Sexual Assault - 2005
Graph: PERCEIVED PROBLEMS IN NEIGHBOURHOOD, Sexual Assault—2005



INCIDENCE OF CRIME VICTIMISATION

Assault and sexual assault are crimes against the person that have large impacts upon not only the victims but also their family, friends and the wider community. As shown previously, South Australians perceive these crimes to be more of a problem in their neighbourhoods than they are perceived to be by people in most other states. However, with people's perceptions influenced by factors such as experience and/or knowledge of a previous attack and media coverage it may be that the extent or threat of the crime is overstated. Hence an analysis of the actual incidence of selected personal crimes (including assault and sexual assault as components) was conducted.

In spite of their perceptions of assault and sexual assault being problems in their neighbourhoods, South Australian respondents to the 2005 Crime and Safety Survey reported having been victims of personal crime at a rate that was slightly lower than that for Australia (5.0% compared with 5.3%). The South Australian personal crime victimisation prevalence rate was lower than most other States and Territories, but was slightly higher than those for Victoria (4.5%) and Tasmania (4.7%).

VICTIMISATION PREVALANCE RATES, Selected Personal Crimes (a) - 2005
Graph: VICTIMISATION PREVALANCE RATES, Selected Personal Crimes (a)—2005


From the Crime and Safety Survey the personal crime victimisation prevalence rate for South Australia has increased from 4.5% in 1998 to 4.9% (2002) and 5.0% (2005). Over this period, the personal crime victimisation prevalence rates for South Australia have been consistently lower than for Australia. Despite the perception held by South Australians that they are more unsafe than the nation as a whole, actual personal crime victimisation rates in South Australia are relatively low compared to those for other states and the country.

Respondents to the April 2005 Crime and Safety survey who had been victims of assault were asked if they had reported these crimes to police. Over one third (37.4%) of South Australian victims of assault indicated that they had done so, compared to 31.4% in Australia. The reporting rate in South Australia was slightly higher than that recorded for any other state.

VICTIMS OF ASSAULT, Reporting Rates - 2005
Graph: VICTIMS OF ASSAULT, Reporting Rates—2005



CONCLUSION

More South Australians felt unsafe in their homes, and reported a higher perception of personal crimes occurring in their neighbourhoods when compared to most other states. However, despite having the highest crime reporting rate, statistics on victimisation of assault and sexual assault show levels within South Australia that are generally lower than those for the rest of Australia.


REFERENCES

ABS 2006 General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia (cat. no 4159.0)

ABS 2005 Crime and Safety, Australia (cat. no. 4509.0)

ABS 2005 Personal Safety, Australia (cat. no. 4906.0)

Australian Institute of Criminology 1995 Trends and Issues in crime and criminal justice: No. 44 'Fear of Crime and Fear Reduction Strategies' , P.N. Grabosky viewed 12 November 2009 <http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/41-60/tandi44.aspx>


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