ACT State of the Environment 2007

Indicator: Safety

Summary

Events around the world, nationally and locally contribute to the perception of safety for the individual and the community in the ACT.

Overall reports of total offences dropped by approximately 12.8% between 2003–04 and 2006–07, falling from 44,564 to 38,832. While this is encouraging it should be kept in mind that many offences, especially those of a sexual nature, are not always reported.

While official crime rates are trending down the perception of crime is generally stable or trending slightly upward in the ACT. Matters of most concern for Canberrans during the reporting period were illegal drugs, dangerous driving and breaking and entering.

Canberrans are steadily reducing their traffic collisions with a 9.92% drop in four years. However, road accidents involving kangaroos have increased by 57.7%.

What the results tell us about the ACT

People and property

The numbers of offences against property (burglary, motor vehicle theft, robbery and property damage) decreased by 16.5% over the reporting period from 32,955 in 2003–04 to 27,754 in 2006–07 (Table 1). In July 2006, after several successful years, Operation Halite was permanently embedded into ACT Policing's Territory Investigations Group as the Property Crime Teams to target recidivist burglary and motor vehicle theft offenders.

Table 1: Offences against property, 2003–04 to 2006–07, ACT
Category 2003–04 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07
Total offences 32,955 28,007 29,322 27,754
Offences cleared 5,151 3,954 3,467 4,196
Resolution rate 15.6% 14.1% 11.8% 15.1%

Source: ACT Policing annual reports

Offences against the person (murder, manslaughter, assault and sexually based crimes) have also decreased notably over the reporting period; offences reduced by 198 (7%) between 2003–04 and 2006–07 (Table 2), significantly less than offences against property.

Table 2: Offences against the person, 2003–04 to 2006–07, ACT
Category 2003–04 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07
Total offences 2,782 2,521 2,672 2,584
Offences cleared 1,963 1,775 1,822 1,704
Resolution rate 70.6% 70.4% 68.2% 65.9%

Source: ACT Policing annual reports

As at 30 June 2007, 609.2 (73.5%) of the 829.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff providing services to ACT Policing were sworn members. Over the reporting period numbers of female sworn officers has fluctuated but ultimately decreased by 7.5 FTEs (5.2%); while male officer numbers have increased over the reporting period by 13.7 FTEs (2.9%; Table 3).

There has been a shift in reporting of police numbers from sworn and unsworn to operational and non-operational. Unsworn officers, including those in traffic investigations, forensics, processing urgent and non-urgent police assistant calls, community programs and corporate services, now perform many of the support roles.

Table 3: Sworn and unsworn police FTEs in the ACT, 2003–04 to 2006–07
Category 2003–04 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07
Sworn officers
Male 457.0 440.5 488.0 472.9
Female 143.8 131.3 133.4 136.3
Subtotal 600.8 571.8 621.4 609.2
Unsworn officers
Male 102.1 93.7 97.7 127.1
Female 123.2 126.1 123.2 93.0
Subtotal 225.3 219.8 220.9 220.1
Total 826.1 791.6 842.3 829.3

Source: ACT Policing annual reports

Community perceptions

The series of Neighbourhood Perceptions of Crime by AC Nielsen, (ACT Policing, 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005-06, 2006-07) which surveys 2000 households across the ACT, shows an overall improved perception of safety in the ACT (Table 4). A high percentage of those surveyed expressed concern about illegal drugs, with speeding cars second highest followed by housebreaking. However, small changes in percentages should be considered carefully, due to the limitations imposed by sampling error owed to the small proportion of the community surveyed.

Table 4: Neighbourhood perceptions of safety in the ACT, 2003–04 to 2006–07 (%)
Measure 2003–04 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07
People who feel that motor vehicle theft is a major problem or something of a problem in the neighbourhood 64.0 53.5 53.0 55.1
People who feel that housebreaking is a major problem or somewhat of a problem in the neighbourhood 76.2 71.4 68.3 68.6
People who feel that graffiti or other vandalism is a major problem or somewhat of a problem in the neighbourhood 55.1 50.8 49.2 48.2
People who feel that louts or gangs are a major problem or somewhat of a problem in the neighbourhood 34.9 30.8 28.5 25.8
People who feel that drunken or disorderly behaviour is a major problem or somewhat of a problem in the neighbourhood 33.9 30.1 30.5 31.7
People who feel speeding cars, dangerous and noisy driving is a major problem or somewhat of a problem in the neighbourhood 73.0 72.5 70.6 70.6
People who feel that illegal drugs are a major problem or somewhat of a problem in the neighbourhood 86.0 86.2 N/A 85.6
People who feel that family violence is a major problem or somewhat of a problem in the state or territory 67.0 66.2 N/A N/A

Source: ACT Policing Annual Reports, 2004–07, AC Nielsen, National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing, 2003–04 to 2006–07

While the statistics show an overall decrease in satisfaction with ACT Police Services and police support for community programs, there is an increase in people feeling that police treat the public more equitably with attitudes towards feeling safe in the home both during the day and at night remaining steady over the reporting period (Table 5).

Table 5: Community satisfaction with police, 2003–04 to 2006–07 (%)
Measure 2003–04 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07
General satisfaction with services (satisfied or very satisfied 70.6 63.7 66.4 60.5
People who are satisfied or very satisfied with police support for community programs 60.0 57.7 64.6 55.1
Police treat people fairly and equally (agree or strongly agree 67.6 65.7 71.2 72.1
Police perform their job professionally (agree or strongly agree) 80.4 79.0 80.3 80.9
People who feel safe or very safe at home alone during the day 93.3 91.9 93.2 93.4
People who feel safe or very safe at home alone after dark 84.3 82.3 83.2 85.3

Source: ACT Policing Annual Reports, 2004–07, AC Nielsen, National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing, 2003–04 to 2006–07

The ACT Property Crime Reduction Strategy 2004–07: Building a safer community was released in August 2004 as part of the Canberra Social Plan. The strategy amalgamates a number of existing and new initiatives to achieve and maintain significant reductions in burglary and motor vehicle theft. Seventy-two actions underpin the strategy and involve a whole-of-government commitment to addressing property crime. The Crime Prevention Working Group, with representatives from various government departments and community groups, was established in 2003 to advise the ACT Government on developing strategies to address major crime and safety concerns for Canberrans. Results for 2005 and 2006 show a marked decrease in burglaries and motor vehicle theft; in 2005 there was a drop of 12.6% in burglary and 18.6% in car theft and in 2006 there was a decline of 10.8% and 17.3% respectively from 2003.

Traffic collisions

In 2003–04 there were 11,413 traffic collisions, this figure decreased by 9.92% in 2006–07 to 10,281. ACT Policing is confident that this reduction is due to media campaigns to get drivers to focus on their driving behaviour.

The ACT remains the only jurisdiction in Australia with mandatory reporting of all on-road collisions even if no damage to property or person resulted.

Collisions between motor vehicles and kangaroos continue to be significant on ACT roads. Reported accidents involving vehicles and kangaroos and requiring a park ranger's attendance (either to euthanise the injured kangaroo or remove it from the road) increased by 38.01% in 2006–07 (from 563 in 2005–06 to 777 in 2006–07). It should be noted that these data are an understatement as many roadkills are unreported and typically many animals (110 in 2005-06 and 127 in 2006-07) are unable to be located after reported collisions and ranger attendance. Many road kills also include other animals such as domestic pets and livestock (TAMS, 2007). The Give Kangaroos a Break education and awareness program has not been undertaken in the last year however signage is posted on roads where there is a high incidence of collisions. Given the continuing high collision rate, an effective education and awareness program seems warranted.

Children at risk

In 2004 the review report, The Territory as parent: review of the safety of children in care in the ACT and of ACT Child Protection Management, known as the Vardon Report, was released. This report made 47 recommendations, which the ACT Government agreed to in full, in part or in principle. An implementation strategy was tabled with a two to three year reform program. As at February 2006, 13 recommendations had been completed and the remainder had commenced implementation. This has resulted in funding increases to various projects, programs and services and development of integrated approaches to early intervention and improved cooperation between jurisdictions.

In 2005-2006, there were five children who died or who nearly died, who were at some time in their lives known to Care and Protection Services. The Government commissioned Ms Gwenn Murray and Mr Craig Mackie, experts in the field, to examine the interventions of Care and Protection Services concerning the death or near death of five children to enable the service to identify opportunities to improve services to children and families. Gwenn Murray and Craig Mackie made 55 recommendations to improve service delivery to children at risk.

To date, 50 of the 55 recommendations have been completed. The majority of the remaining recommendations relate to ongoing work, such as exploring a structure for review of child deaths with ACT Health, dialogue and development of a whole of government strategy to address the effects of domestic violence and heavy substance abuse on children and ongoing management of workplace aggression and stress.

Women and domestic violence

In the ACT, women and girls comprise the majority of victims of domestic, family and sexual violence and are more likely than males to experience continuous abuse or repeated cycles of violence. Females comprised 89% of recorded sexual assaults in the ACT in 2003. In 69% of these cases someone known to the victim perpetrated the sexual assault and in 25.6% of cases the perpetrator was a family member. Over the reporting period the number of reported sexual offences decreased from 587 to 344, a drop of 41.4% since 2003–04. There is ongoing debate about whether the drop in statistics is the result of a decrease in offences being committed or of offences not being reported.

Domestic violence cost Australia $8.1 billion in 2002–03 (Gallagher 2005). Nearly half the cost was borne by the victims of violence.

Data sources and references

ACT Policing, 2004, Annual Report, 2003–04 AC Nielsen's National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing 2003–04

ACT Policing, 2005, Annual Reports, 2004–05, AC Nielsen's National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing 2004–05

ACT Policing, 2006, Annual Reports, 2005-06, AC Nielsen's National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing 2005-06

ACT Policing, 2006 sic, Annual Reports, 2006-07, AC Nielsen's National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing 2006–07

ACT Policing, 2004a, Annual Report 2003–04, Australian Federal Police ACT Policing, Canberra, available at <http://www.afp.gov.au/about/publications/annual_reports.html>

ACT Policing, 2005b, Annual Report 2004–05, Australian Federal Police ACT Policing, Canberra, available at <http://www.afp.gov.au/about/publications/annual_reports.html>

ACT Policing, 2006c, Annual Report 20005-06, Australian Federal Police ACT Policing, Canberra, available at <http://www.afp.gov.au/about/publications/annual_reports.html>

ACT Policing, 2006d sic, Annual Report 2006-07, Australian Federal Police ACT Policing, Canberra, available at <http://www.afp.gov.au/about/publications/annual_reports.html>

ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety 2004, ACT Property Crime Reduction Strategy 2004–07 – Building a safer community, available at <http://www.jcs.act.gov.au/eLibrary/ACT_Property_Crime_Reduction_Strategy.html>

Gallagher K 2005, 'Men and women unite to eradicate violence against women', ACT Minister for Women, media release, 27 October 2006, available at <http://www.chiefminister.act.gov.au/media.asp?section=53 &media=1831&id=1831&title>

TAMS Territory and Municipal Services, 2007, Parks Conservation and Lands, Parks and Reserves, Combined North and South Urban Wildlife Summary

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