Australian Institute of Criminology

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10 Years on - Australia a safer place to live

Media Release

22 February 2001

An International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS) released today by the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Criminality and Law Enforcement found there had been a decline in the level of crime in Australia during the 1990's.

In 1992, the survey found the total crime victimisation in Australia had fallen from 49.5 per 100 population to 44 per 100 population in 2000. Car theft, motorcycle theft, burglary attempted burglary, sexual assaults and offence sexual behaviour had either decreased or remained stagnant since Australia participated in survey in 1989.

"It is pleasing to note that the ICVS survey shows that overall crime in Australia and other industrial nations is declining. However, property crime, in particular, remains unacceptably high in Australia," Senator Ellison said.

"The Federal Government is committed to working cooperative with the State and Territory Governments, who are primarily responsible for 'law and order' matters, to ensure these crime rates continue to fall."

Senator Ellison said the survey had found a significant increase in the proportion of Australians who thought the police were doing a good job of controlling crime, with Australia rating third behind the USA and Scotland in its level of satisfaction with the police.

"Australians are more likely to report even minor incidences of crime because of our strong safety culture, and the community's confidence in the police. In other countries these matters may go unreported for a range of reasons."

The ICVS survey was based on a telephone sample of 2,000 Australians. In contrast, in their 1998 Crime and Safety Survey the Australian Bureau of Statistics collected data from more than 42,000 people and 20,900 households providing a broader perspective of crime in Australia.

"The ICVS survey is just one of many sources of crime statistics, including local crime data from the ABS, AIC, ABCI and the police. Of course it is always interesting to note these international trends, but it is vitally important that we have access to comprehensive local data to base the Government's crime prevention policies on," Senator Ellison said.

"In the case of the ICVS survey, the small size of the sample must be viewed with some caution."

Senator Ellison said he also found it surprising that crimes such as murder were not included in the ICVS survey.

"Murder rates in Australia are far lower than in the United States - 2 per 100,000 people compared with 5.7 per 100,000 people in the US. Excluding these sorts of crimes from a survey can have an impact on the perception of country's crime levels," Senator Ellison said.

Senator Ellison said the Federal Government had made a substantial contribution to preventing crime at the national level through key Commonwealth law enforcement agencies including the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs Service.

"The Howard Government has invested over $500 million in a practical Tough on Drugs Strategy that attacks the importation and sale of illicit drugs, as well as educating young Australians about their harmful effects. Catching drug importers and getting illicit drugs of Australian streets is one of the Government's top priorities," Senator Ellison said.

"Since the strategy commenced more than $1.24 billion in illicit drugs have been prevented from reaching Australian communities. Last year alone the seizure of illicit drugs rose by more than 300%."

"Thanks to the hard work of Customs and the Federal Police these seizures are staring to make a real difference in the community."

Senator Ellison said the Federal Government was also working to create a safer community through a range of community crime prevention measures including:

  • $50 m for the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence Programme,
  • $21 m for the National Crime Prevention Programme, providing a range of educational and self-help materials aimed at reducing burglary, sexual and domestic violence and violence in indigenous communities,
  • $240 m for the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, which will deliver a range of support services for early childhood development, parenting, marriage and relationship education and family counselling aimed at keeping families together,
  • $50 m for the development of CrimTrac, an automated national fingerprint system and DNA database,
  • implementation of a national gun buy back scheme under which 660,000 firearms were surrendered.