4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2015  First Issue
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CRIME, SAFETY AND JUSTICE

WHAT IS CRIME, SAFETY AND JUSTICE?

Crimes are acts that breach legislation and are punishable by the state. Criminal laws govern particular geographic areas/jurisdictions and are aimed at protecting the lives, property and rights of people and organisations within those areas/jurisdictions.

Nearly every aspect of life has laws, rules, guidelines, codes or standards associated with it, from environmental protection to the operations of Government. Family, civil and criminal legal systems govern our interactions and activities. Laws delineate what is regarded as acceptable behaviour, from behaviour that engenders conflict or violence, that threatens the lives or resources of individuals, or that threatens the cohesion or longer term survival of society.

As the moral principles that underpin the notion of crime are subject to gradual change over time, the types of behaviour defined by the legal system as criminal may also change. For example, corporal punishment in schools was once accepted, if not encouraged, but is now illegal.

There is a strong desire in the community for justice systems and processes to be fair and accessible to all Australians. Desire for fair and accessible justice not only refers to aspects of Australia's criminal justice system, but also extends to other areas of law that people encounter including civil law and family law. Recent directions in criminal justice administration have seen matters move out of the criminal domain through police and court initiated diversionary programs and civil and family law have increasingly important roles to play in defining and maintaining safety in our community and homes.

The criminal justice system does not exist in a vacuum; rather, it is situated within a complex social milieu that incorporates other social and economic factors. It is often these other factors that determine the levels and types of crimes committed, victims' propensity to report their experiences to police, as well as the response of the criminal justice system.

CRIME, SAFETY AND JUSTICE AND OUR WELLBEING

Crime takes many forms and can have a major impact on the wellbeing of victims, their families and friends, and the wider community. Victims of crime and those close to them can suffer financially, physically, psychologically and emotionally. Household crimes may affect an individual or family's feelings of safety or security and may result in property damage and/or financial loss. Many of these effects cannot easily be compensated for.

Beyond the direct effects of crime, individuals in a community also need to feel safe - secure from physical danger, and guaranteed against the loss or destruction of personal property. Wellbeing can be strongly affected by the fear of crime as well as the direct experience of it. People who witness crimes, or come across evidence of crime in their local area, can suffer anxiety and may feel demoralised or powerless. People may adjust their behaviour (e.g. stop going out at night), or take actions to secure their house and property. All these actions can affect the physical and financial wellbeing of those involved, and result in a loss of confidence and freedom.

It is widely acknowledged that a complex relationship exists between crime, feelings of personal safety, and social wellbeing (Ackomak and ter Weel 2008; Paras 2003; World Bank 2011). Experiences of crime and feelings of personal safety can be seen as both indicators and outcomes of social wellbeing, as well as interacting with social wellbeing in a multifaceted and complex manner. Experiencing crime victimisation may be associated with poorer outcomes on some measures of social wellbeing, and more favourable outcomes on other measures. (ABS, 2012). The direction and strength of these associations may also vary according to socio-demographic factors.

In a national consultation conducted by the ABS in 2011-12, Australians said that it is important to be safe and free from physical and emotional violence and harassment in their relationships, in public, while at work or in other areas of their life (MAP 2013, ABS). Australians also wanted justice systems and processes to be fair and accessible. Everyone has the responsibility to abide by Australia's laws. People thought that this could be achieved by reducing crime, and through urban planning, workplace regulations, policing and justice systems, safe housing and other mechanisms that ensure public safety. As well as being safe, the consultation revealed that people need to feel safe in order to function well in their lives.

Current conditions and historical trends related to crime and justice can be monitored using information such as:

  • experiences of crime
  • reported crime
  • crime reporting rates
  • feelings of safety
  • perceptions of and contact with the criminal justice system (police, courts, corrective services).

CRIME, SAFETY AND JUSTICE AND OUR CHANGING WORLD

There are a range of events, pressures and drivers of change that have the potential to substantially affect wellbeing. In relation to crime and justice, some examples of these factors include:
  • socioeconomic, cultural and environmental influences
  • portrayal of crime in media
  • perceptions and attitudes of the public towards crime and the justice system
  • impacts of infrastructure planning and investment on crime and safety
  • keeping legislation up to date with technological and societal change
  • the range and availability of support services for victims and offenders.

CRIME, SAFETY AND JUSTICE AND ACTIONS SUPPORTING WELLBEING

There are many ways that people, community groups, governments and other institutions can work to improve crime and justice outcomes in Australia, particularly to improve the safety of individuals and society as a whole. Some examples include actions to:
  • maintain law abiding behaviour
  • work towards improving feelings of safety
  • improve attitudes toward, and increase trust in, the police and the justice system
  • be informed about providing information and/or acting on information of criminal activity
  • encourage appropriate values and behaviours
  • develop community based safety programs
  • assist and support victims of crime
  • provide support for rehabilitation
  • maintain a well-functioning justice system, police and corrective services.

BUT THIS IS NOT THE WHOLE STORY...

To gain a better understanding of crime, safety and justice in Australian society, look through the pages on:
  • Family and community
  • Culture and leisure
  • Work
  • Governance

USEFUL RESOURCES

Need some more information on crime, safety and justice? This section can point you in the right direction.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0) - This release is designed to help Australians address the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?' Measures of Australia's Progress provides a digestible selection of measures in answer to this question. Australians can use this evidence to form their own view of how our country is progressing, includes themes and measures relating to crime, justice and safety.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015, Crime Victimisation, Australia, 2013-14 (cat. no. 4530.0) - This release presents information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2013-14 national Crime Victimisation Survey, which is the sixth in the annual series.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2013 (cat. no. 4510.0) - This release presents statistics about crime victimisation for a selected range of offences that came to the attention of, and were recorded by, police between 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2013.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, 2012 (cat. no. 4524.0) - Presents analysis and commentary on a range of topics using ABS Crime and Justice statistical sources. This issue focuses on relationships between crime victimisation and social wellbeing.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Measuring Victims of Crime: A Guide to Using Administrative and Survey data, June 2011 (cat. no. 4500.0.55.001) - This paper is intended as a guide for users of crime statistics to assist in making informed decisions about which crime victimisation data source best meets their particular data needs.

KEY TERMS

Reporting rate

The total number of victims who reported the most recent incident they experienced of that type of crime to police expressed as a percentage of victims. Includes incidents where the victim did not report the incident themselves, but were aware of another person that did.

Victim

A victim is a person or household who has experienced as least one incident of a selected type of crime within the last 12 months. A victim may experience more than one incident of a type of crime, but is only counted once for each crime experienced.

CLASSIFICATIONS

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC), 2011 (cat. no. 1234.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Australian Standard Classification of Drugs of Concern, 2011 (cat. no. 1248.0).

REFERENCES

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015, Crime Victimisation, Australia, 2013-14 (cat. no. 4530.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2013 (cat. no. 4510.0).


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