Official statistics show that crime rates in non-metropolitan areas have increased faster than in metropolitan areas over the last five years. Population size and location play a role in determining the crime levels of local areas. These factors are associated with the potential of regions to attract new economic activities, adjust to economic change and generate local development.
This study shows that crime rates are highest in either highly accessible or very remote areas rather than those in between. Distance from a service centre plays a crucial role in explaining the levels of crime in small- to medium-sized localities. Small towns located relatively close to major urban centres tend to have crime rates as high as remote towns. In rural localities (that is, less than 1,000 residents), however, geographical or service isolation does not necessarily play a role in shaping crime rates. In these locations, economic change and the ability to adapt, population exodus and the strength of community ties are key factors in determining the levels of crime.
Identification of the factors that drive crime rates in regional Australia is crucial to developing strategic approaches to crime prevention and control. This paper will be followed by others that take the analysis further.