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Recorded Crime Victims Australia - Commentary by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research                

Release date: 29 May 2003

Statistics released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show the most comprehensive fall in crime in Australia since the ABS began publishing national uniform crime statistics in 1993.

The ABS recorded national decreases in the recorded rate of offending for attempted murder, driving causing death, kidnapping/abduction, armed robbery, unarmed robbery, blackmail/extortion, unlawful entry (i.e. break and enter), motor vehicle theft and 'other' theft (e.g. steal from the person, shoplifting etc.).

The only other year in which similarly comprehensive decreases in crime occurred was 1999. However the falls in crime recorded in 1999 were not as large.

The rates of motor vehicle theft and break and enter in Australia are now lower than they were in 1993. The rate of armed robbery (which had risen sharply over the last decade), is now back below its 1997 level, while the rate of unarmed robbery is back below the 1998 level.

According to the ABS, NSW experienced big decreases in the incidence of armed robbery (down 32%), unarmed robbery (down 18%), break and enter (down 13%) and motor vehicle theft (down 20%).

The only offences that increased nationally, according to the ABS, were murder, manslaughter, assault and sexual assault. However, the increases in murder and manslaughter involved very small numbers of cases (an extra seven murders and an extra ten manslaughters across the whole of Australia). The increases in assault and sexual assault, on the other hand, were fairly small (less than six per cent).

The ABS figures show that NSW experienced a 63 per cent increase in manslaughter and a 21 per cent increase in blackmail/extortion. Once again, however, the numbers are small. Despite the increase, NSW last year recorded only 13 cases of manslaughter and 82 cases of blackmail/extortion. As the Bureau reported earlier this year, there were also some minor increases in assault (up 6.1%) and sexual assault (up 3.4%).

Commenting on the figures, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that the most plausible explanation for the fall in crime was a drop in heroin use across Australia. "Our research shows a strong link between heroin use and crime" he said. "Since late 2000, Australia has been in the grip of a severe heroin shortage. We are now beginning to see the benefits of this".

According to Dr Weatherburn, improvements in vehicle security, particularly engine immobilisers may also have helped push down the rate of motor vehicle theft.

Further enquiries:
Dr Don Weatherburn (02) 9231 9190 (wk) / 0419 494 408 (mob)