The fourth annual convention of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) was held in Perth during 26-29 October 1999, combining meetings of the Advisory Groups of Crime, Courts and Corrections Units, and the Police/Crime Statisticians with an Information Day.
The theme for the Information Day centred around Performance Measurements for Crime and Justice statistics and included representatives of the working groups from the Review of Commonwealth/State Service Provision and the Productivity Commission.
An opening address was given by Barbara Dunlop, First Assistant Statistician of the ABS Social and Labour Statistics Division. This was followed by presentations on:
- Activity-based Performance Measurement for Police,Tammy Scheide, South Australia Police
- Western Australia Client Satisfaction Survey, Richard Foster, Ministry of Justice, Western Australia
- National Comparisons in Service Provision by Corrective Services, Robert Harvey, Ministry of Justice, Western Australia
- Performance Measures in Corrections: What are they, why have them? Gary Dickie, Corrective Services, South Australia
- Measuring the Effectiveness of the Justice System, Peter Marshall, Ministry of Justice, Western Australia
- Measuring Crime and Justice Sectors for the National Accounts, Steven Kennedy, ABS
- New Zealand Justice Sector Information Strategy, Phillip Spier, Ministry of Justice, New Zealand
- System-wide Indicators, Adam Graycar, Australian Institute of Criminology
A closing address was given by Philip Mussared, Department of Treasury and Finance, Tasmania.
For the first time the NCCJS, in conjunction with the Productivity Commission, plans to publish the papers presented at the Information Day for circulation to a wider audience in the crime & justice arena.
NATIONAL CRIME AND SAFETY SURVEY
Preparations are being made for the next national Crime and Safety Survey. User input has been sought in writing and from a meeting held at the ABS on 1 March 2000. Core data items will be the same as in the 1998 survey and new items are being developed in consultation with users.
In 1993 and 1998 the survey was conducted as a supplementary survey to the April Monthly Population Survey (MPS). The ABS proposed to change the collection methodology to one where data would be collected over a 12 month period starting July 2001. This would have allowed more sensitive questions to be asked without compromising response to the Labour Force Survey, the main component of the MPS.
The recent consultation with users, however, revealed that it was more important to them to have data comparable to that collected in the past. The NCCJS is therefore seeking approval to have the survey placed in the April 2002 timeslot. Further information on this issue will be sent to interested users once a decision is known.
The 1998 national Crime and Safety Survey showed:
- The most commonly perceived problem with crime or public nuisance issues in local neighbourhoods was the category 'housebreaking/burglaries/theft from homes'.
- Assault victims experienced an average of 2.5 incidents in the 12 month period, with those assaulted 4 or more times accounting for 50% of all assault incidents.
- 23% of robbery victims knew their attacker compared with 67% of assault victims.
NATIONAL CRIME STATISTICS UNIT (NCSU)
The NCSU is currently undergoing preparation of its annual publication Recorded Crime, Australia 1999, (ABS Cat. no. 4510.0), This will be the seventh in the series, but the first published in accordance with the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC).
This has involved much effort to map the police offences to ASOC codes across all police jurisdictions, and also to enhance the NatCrime processing system to incorporate all the changes. The NCSU has had strong involvement in the coordination and implementation of ASOC for the Recorded Crime Statistics (RCS) collection.
In February, the NCSU held a one day meeting with the National Crime Statistics Advisory Group and a three day meeting with Police/Crime Statisticians. In these forums, a number of key issues and new initiatives were raised for discussion. Some of the key achievements were:
- agreement on the expansion of the weapon use classification to include 'knife' and 'syringe';
- commitment to the implementation of ASOC into the RCS collection; and
In May, the NCSU Board of Management meeting was held in Perth. The NCSU budget has been held at the same level since the unit was established in 1990, so a proposal was put to the Board that, in order to maintain NCSU activity at its current level, the base NCSU budget should increase by approximately $50,000 p.a. commencing in 2000/2001. The Board agreed to this proposal.
- discussion on the possibility of an Offender Based Statistics collection.
The NCSU has previously sought and obtained in-principle Board approval for the development of statistics on indigenous victims and offenders. Discussions have now been initiated with Queensland Police Service and the Northern Territory Police Service for projects to establish indigenous data collections.
The Board also considered a proposal from the NCSU to establish a national working group to agree on a minimum dataset for illicit drugs and determine police agency implementation costs for this dataset. It was agreed that the NCSU (and through the Unit, the ABS generally) should be invited to participate in an existing working group under the auspice of the Australasian Centre for Policing Research.
In addition to this, the NCSU has been involved in a number of other activities, which include participation in the Police Working Group meetings, input into the Report on Government Services 2000 and continued liaison with other National Common Police Services.
NATIONAL CRIMINAL COURTS STATISTICS UNIT (NCCSU)
During the convention in Perth, the NCCSU Advisory Group met to discuss progress in and future directions of the higher criminal courts collection. Dr Don Weatherburn stood down as chair of the Advisory Group, having chaired the group since the formation of the NCCSU. Jonathan Rees from the Tasmanian Department of Justice and Industrial Relations was elected as the new chair.
As the Advisory Group expressed a preference for meeting twice a year as a way of being more proactive in the development of the statistical collection, a second meeting was held in early March. The annual Board of Management meeting was held in early February.
At each of these meetings, concerns were expressed about the collection of offence data being impeded by delays in the implementation of ASOC in the jurisdictions' systems. While the development of a penalty data collection was seen as a viable alternative, it was stressed that the priority is still to collect offence and penalty data.
COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENTS (COAG) COURTS DATA QUALITY PROJECT
The Courts Administrators, the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department and the ABS have agreed in principle with the project, which is to improve the quality and comparability of the existing data collection, and to explore the potential to improve the relevance of existing and new performance indicators.
The Courts Administration Data Collection, the first part of the project, was completed and plans for the quality assurance strategy are about to be implemented. This will involve a detailed inspection of the systems, procedures, data holdings and data management techniques in each of the jurisdictions during the life of the project.
In addition, the Court Administration Working Group received approval from the Council for Chief Justices for a national survey of litigant satisfaction on 29 October. The NCCJS has been providing expertise in questionnaire development and sample selection.
NATIONAL CORRECTIVE SERVICES STATISTICS UNIT (NCSSU)
The NCSSU Board of Management meeting took place in Perth in May 2000. The Board endorsed a proposal from the NCSSU that unspent funds will be re-directed to new work on measuring the performance of home detention programs. To date, this has been the responsibility of the National Corrections Advisory Group (an officer group servicing the Corrective Services Administrators' Conference), and the Board agreement represents a desire to see the work of the NCSSU more closely integrated with their own national policy concerns.
Quarterly Custodial Collection
The December quarter 1999 issue of Corrective Services, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 4512.0) was released on 30 March 2000. Some of the key findings are:
- In the December quarter, the average daily number of prisoners in Australia was 20,619, an increase of 5% on the December quarter 1998.
- New South Wales and Western Australia made the greatest contributions to this increase, rising by 6% and 12% respectively.
- On 1 December 1999 the highest number of Indigenous persons in prison custody was recorded in New South Wales (1,117), followed by Queensland (1,089) and Western Australia (963).
- Between the September quarter 1999 and the December quarter 1999, the national imprisonment rate decreased by 1%.
- The highest ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous rates of imprisonment was recorded in Western Australia, with an Indigenous rate of imprisonment 21 times the non-Indigenous rate.
Community Based Corrections
A new approach to the Community Based Corrections (CBC) Collection was proposed at the National Corrections Advisory Group meeting in Alice Springs in March. It has been decided that the CBC Collection will occur on an annual basis, and it is expected that it will be published in the September quarter issue of Corrective Services Australia. The CBC Collection will also use aggregate data rather than unit record data, in an attempt to align it with a collection currently being published by the Productivity Commission in its annual Report on Government Services.
Currently only the NCCJS Recorded Crime collection includes information for juveniles (as victims of crimes recorded by police). The Centre will be extending its coverage of juvenile justice, and juvenile corrections in particular, through the following two initiatives:
- The COAG Courts Administration Working Group has sought the assistance of the NCCJS in the inclusion of juvenile justice statistics in its report.
- The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is undertaking a project on juvenile justice and has sought the assistance of the Centre in relation to criminal justice data on juveniles.
The NCCJS is represented on the COAG Emergency Management Working Group, covering ambulance, fire and other emergency services. The NCCJS role up until now has covered the analysis of Population Survey Monitor data for publication in the Report on Government Services.
However, the NCCJS is now assisting the Emergency Management Working Group in developing new areas for community surveys and in preliminary considerations of the statistical standards and framework that support performance measurement.
AUSTRALIAN STANDARD OFFENCE CLASSIFICATION (ASOC)
A meeting of the ASOC Implementation working group will be held in Melbourne later this year to discuss progress by jurisdictions on ASOC implementation. The first stage of ASOC implementation in the national collections will be the 1999 Recorded Crime statistics.
NATIONAL ILLICIT DRUGS STATISTICS FRAMEWORK
Work continues on the implementation of the Stage 1 recommendations of the National Illicit Drugs Statistics Framework (NIDSF), developed in conjunction with the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence. The NIDSF addresses quality and availability problems associated with current law enforcement drug data by specifying a core set of high quality data on the policing of illicit drugs.
Since the publication of the NIDSF report in June 1999, an independent evaluation strategy for the diversion of illicit drug users by police has been established. One element of this evaluation strategy has been the specification of a National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) that will hold drug offender diversion information to be collected by police and various assessment, education and treatment agencies.
The data items in the NMDS that fall within the responsibility of police agencies are substantially, but not wholly, the same as those set out under the NIDSF Stage 1. A concordance exercise has been completed that details which of the NMDS data items may be satisfied by equivalent, existing NIDSF data items and, for those NMDS items with no direct equivalent, what needs to be incorporated into the NIDSF to satisfy them. It is hoped that integrating the NMDS and NIDSF will provide cost benefits and will expedite their implementation.
There has been considerable increase in staff numbers in the NCCJS in recent months. We have said farewell to Ian Appleby and Christian Klettner and we have welcomed Shona Williamson to the NCSU, Betty Velentzas, Tracey Bloxsome, Rebecca Altmann and Aimee Nelkner to the NCCSU, Nick Skondreas, Jan Schumacher and Stacey Richardson to the NCSSU, and Christine Holland, Jo Dover, Feodora Fomin and Karen Gelb to the Coordination and Analysis Unit. Nick Chrisant has also moved sections, from the NCSU to Civil Courts.
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