Australian Institute of Criminology

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Sport beats crime

Media Release

06 September 2000

Sport has always played a significant part in Australian society. Now a report from the Australian Institute of Criminology reveals a new role for sport in preventing crime.

Produced as part of a project between the Institute and the Australian Sports Commission, Crime Prevention Through Sport and Physical Activity by Dr Margaret Cameron and Colin MacDougall provides examples of how sport can reduce crime.

"We know that sport and physical activity can improve our quality of life. But this report reveals just how it really can change people's lives and society for the better", Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, said today.

"Sport provides a sense of belonging, loyalty and support that many young people especially are looking for. It provides opportunities for them to engage in behaviours that are valued by society, diverting them from offending behaviours", Dr Graycar said.

Wilderness therapy programs aim to promote a sense of accomplishment, trust and cooperation. The Hope Center Wilderness Camp in the US runs a program for young offenders which has resulted in 85 per cent of participants not re-offending six months after the program.

A Canadian Participate and Learn Skills Program offering activities including ballet, judo and swimming in a housing complex with 417 children succeeded in reducing the level of criminal offences committed by children at the complex.

Sports carnivals organised and run by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people act as catalysts for social and traditional cohesion, reducing harmful behaviours such as petrol sniffing, heavy drinking, violence and property offences at least in the short-term.

In Canning, Western Australia a program at a local swimming centre resulted in vandalism and theft at the centre dropping by 85 per cent over a twelve month period.

Research by the British Shotmoor program, which offers adventure activities, including climbing, skiing and orienteering, found positive changes in gender relations by encouraging collaboration, understanding and acceptance between participants.

The Liverpool Football Club in the UK has made a conscious effort to reach out to the local community, with activities specifically aimed at reducing crime leading to successes in quit smoking and anti-drug programs, as well as truancy reduction.