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Trends in violent crime show a mixed story, says Australian Institute of Criminology

Media Release

20 June 2008

The homicide rate has decreased overall and robbery rates have declined since the early 2000s in Australia, but recorded rates of assault and sexual assault, particularly in the under 15 age group, appear to have increased, according to the latest paper from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

"Trends in Violent Crime" Trends and Issues paper examines trends in violent crime - specifically homicide, assault, sexual assault and robbery since the early 1990s - using recorded crime and victimisation survey data.

The recorded rate of the most common form of violent crime, assault, has increased steadily over the past 10 years, in parallel with victimisation survey results which show an increase in reporting of assaults. For both assault and sexual assault the rate of increase was greater for children aged under 15 years, with increases almost double that of the older age group.

"This increase could be due to better public understanding of child protection issues and increased reporting due to public awareness of what constitutes physical and sexual assault, especially within the family," said Dr Judy Putt, General Manager of Research at the AIC. "Diminishing associated taboos about sexual assault and improved police and judicial responses to reports of assault may also have contributed to an increased willingness to report," Dr Putt said.

"This area does, however, require further research to examine how much of the increase in recorded violent crime against children relates to current or past events.

The public's perception is that violence is increasing, but homicide, which is the most serious form of violence and is considered the most reliable indicator of violent crime, has decreased by nine percent since 1990, with armed robbery decreasing by one-third since 2001.

Media contact: Barbara Walsh Tel: 02.6260 9244; 0409 985 600 ; aic.media@aic.gov.au