Four times every year BOCSAR (the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research) produces a report about trends in crime.
The report informs all sorts of things like the allocation of police resources, as well as NSW State Government funding around particular social problems linked to crime, or funding and support services for victims of crime.
BOCSAR also provides interactive crime maps which are interesting for social researchers, and members of the general public who like to keep an eye on crime trends in areas where they live and work.
BOCSAR is a specialist unit within the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and all of its information is publicly available. The most recent published report dated March 2022 makes some interesting comparisons with life pre-pandemic.
Property offences have declined
During the pandemic – lockdowns, travel restrictions and in some areas, curfews, really had an impact on crime, particularly ‘property offences’.
- Larceny – theft or stealing, including shoplifting.
- Damage of property – when a person intentionally or recklessly causes damage to something that belongs to another person.
- Threat to Destroy or Damage property – a person can be charged for making a threat even if it is not carried out. A charge can be established on the fact that the person on the receiving end of the threat felt fearful.
- Destroying or damaging protected places – this relates to vandalism of special or ‘protected’ places such as Churches, cemeteries, shines and monuments as well as national parks.
Property offences are more often dealt with in the Local Court.
What the statistics say
According to the BOCSAR statistics, during the pandemic Police recorded 24% fewer property offences than the same period two years ago (January to March 2020).
This reduction is largely driven by a significant decline in break and enter offences – dwelling (down 27% Quarter 1 2022 compared with Quarter 1 2020), break and enter – non-dwelling (down 23%), shoplifting from retail store (down 24%) and theft from motor vehicle (down 21%).
Robbery is down overall by 32%.
Domestic Violence and other violent crime
Violent crime, by contrast, is generally now on-par with pre-pandemic levels, according to the figures. And while domestic violence services recorded particularly high levels of demand during the two years of Covid-19, domestic violence levels are now showing equivalency with the same levels as they were two years ago, at the start of Covid-19 lockdowns.
As life ‘returns to normal’ it will be interesting to see what other trends emerge. Some experts also suggest that property offences, especially the drop in robberies, could be attributed to the fact that during the pandemic there were a lot of government financial assistance available, although obviously it’s important to note that not all people who are experiencing poverty or unemployment steal or engage in criminal behaviour.
What causes crime?
In fact when aiming to answer the question “What Causes Crime”? In a special bulletin produced in 2021, the Executive Director of BOCSAR, Don Weatherburn, wrote that:
“Most studies examining the relationship between poverty, unemployment and crime have examined crime rates in areas marked by poverty and unemployment rather than rates of
participation in crime by individuals who are poor and/or unemployed. The trouble with this kind of research is that, on its own, it cannot tell us whether it is the poor and unemployed who are
…. Studies which have examined the experiences of particular individuals generally find that individuals at the lower end of the socioeconomic status scale are more likely to participate in
crime. There are some notable exceptions to this rule but, generally speaking, they involve crime which is relatively minor in nature. Since crime frequently leads to arrest and imprisonment and this, in turn, reduces an individual’s employment prospects, so it is possible to argue that crime leads to poverty and unemployment rather than vice versa.
The only reliable way to determine the causal direction of the relationship is to conduct a longitudinal study to see whether crime follows or precedes exposure to poverty and unemployment.”
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.
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