Many localities in regional Australia are undergoing economic transformation. In many places, agriculture and mining, together with their related service and processing industries, are being displaced as the dominant economic activity by manufacturing, tourism and recreation, and retirement industries. Economic change affects local communities. Population mobility due to changes in employment disrupts the social structure of localities. This affects the nature and intensity of social interactions among locals, and it influences a community’s ability to develop efficient mechanisms of social control. This has a direct impact on local crime rates.
This paper, the third in a series devoted to the study of crime in regional Australia (see Carcach 2000a, 2000b), explores further the effect that interactions between size, location, economic transformation and social attributes have on local crime rates. Using data for Local Government Areas in the mainland eastern states, this study shows that: Crime rates are lower in localities that are both residentially and socially stable; Though associated with low local crime rates, factors such as low residential mobility, high average educational level, low income inequality and low unemployment operate differently depending on the population size of local areas and their geographic position relative to major service centres; and Crime rates in small and medium-sized towns that are proximate to a major service centre are highly sensitive to changes in economic and social conditions. This suggests the possibility of crime being diffused from major urban centres to minor surrounding towns.
This study reinforces the need for localised crime control and prevention initiatives and, more importantly, highlights the need for understanding how the crime patterns of local areas relate to each other.