Are we in a crime epidemic?
The media would have us believe that we are in the depths of a spiralling crime epidemic. Not like the good old days when you felt safe and protected. If you were to be influenced by the media (which is unavoidable) you would live in fear of being car jacked, assaulted, kidnapped or murdered every time you step out of your home. So let’s look at the crime data to see how unprecedented this crime crisis really is?
The Queensland Police regularly publish crime statistics. For this analysis I am considered overall statistics across the state www.data.qld.gov.au. The basic dataset includes 87 different types of offences grouped under three main areas 1)Offences Against the person – homicide, robbery, kidnapping etc. 2) Offences against property – unlawful entry, arson, fraud etc. and 3) Other Offences – drug, prostitution, Liquor, Good Order, Traffic etc. The offences are reported as a rate per 100,000 people and are reported from January 1997- June 2014.
Firstly let’s simply add the offence rate of all 87 offences to get an overall average offence rate over the 17 years. On average there were 884 offences per 100,000 people per month (1997-2014). The good news is that this overall offence rate has been steadily dropping since about 2000 from about 1027 offences per 100,000 people per month to about 755 (6 month averages) or 26% drop in offence rates across the state since 2000 (Figure 1). That is a pretty sensational result and I’m surprised there hasn’t been a longer queue of politicians lining up to take credit.
This overall offence rate is dominated offences against property and increasingly by “Other” offences (more on this later). The things that make us truly terrified – Offences against the person – are a much rarer event (about 7.5% of offences since 2000), and even these are down by 33% over that time. Whilst any level above zero is unacceptable, things are clearly not getting worse. There is clearly no crime epidemic, simply an epidemic of overly dramatic news reporting.
Figure 1: offence rates in Queensland since 2000
Let’s have a look at a few key offence groups.
Offences against the person
The dominant offences against the person are assault offences, which are on the decline, followed by Sexual offences, also on the decline and “Other” offences against the person which includes kidnapping, extortion, stalking and life endangering acts. Robbery is also on a gentle decline, an offence causing death (murder, other homicide, attempted murder, manslaughter etc.) are hardly discernible on this plot, but they have also declined over the period from about 1 in 100,000 per month in 2001 to 0.3 in 100,000 per month in 2014.
Figure 2: Offences against the person.
Offences against property
I will cover this topic in an upcoming post on insurance premiums. In summary, offences against property have declined 55% since 2001 – very dramatic. These falls have largely been across all of the property offence categories.
Figure 3: Offences Against property
‘Other offences’ is dominated by three sub-categories; drug offences, traffic and related and Good Order offences. The traffic and drug related offences are relatively stable over the reporting period, but the Good order offences are dramatically on the rise. Good Order offences are made up of public nuisance, resist or hinder offences, Disobey a move-on directive and fare evasion. All of these offences have steadily increased – but most dramatically public nuisance and resist and hinder police offences have more than doubled. The two alternative conclusions that I can draw from this are 1) the police are getting more sensitive and are more inclined to give you a ticket for being a pain in the neck, or (more likely) 2) as a society we are increasingly obnoxious.
Figure 4: Good Order offences
Despite the dramatic news stories on my TV every night, Queensland is a much safer place than when I grew up. Unfortunately the vacuum created by absent criminals is being filled by obnoxious jerks.
…the data set is available under the ‘example data’ library in your Truii account for you to explore further…
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