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FEATURE ARTICLE: CRIME AND SAFETY
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.
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.
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%).
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%).
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%).
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.
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.
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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