Ethnicity and crime


Criminological literature over the last several decades shows that socio-economic disadvantage and disorganised communities contribute substantially to a city’s or neighbourhood’s crime problem. This literature also shows that new immigrants, from some source countries, may suffer these disadvantages and inherit disorganised communities more often than others. Official statistics from Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia show members of some migrant groups are arrested, convicted and imprisoned at a disproportionately high rate. A large number of them also appear as victims. The evidence, however, is based neither on comprehensive statistics within a country nor on data gathered over time. Also, in a comparative sense, it is rendered unusable because of a lack of consistency in the definition of such groups. Indeed, “ethnicity” is a difficult concept to quantify, involving such variables as country of origin, language, religion and physical appearance. Likewise, “migrant” is a term applied differently in different social contexts and under different immigration systems. The relevance of both terms to any one group of people can change over time and this phenomenon is itself worthy of further study.

This paper provides a brief analysis of the quality, reliability and content of research and currently available statistics on ethnicity and crime in Australia, and suggests methods of improving our knowledge of the relation-ship of ethnicity to crime.