Australian Institute of Criminology

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Preventing crime against older Australians

Media Release

25 January 2001

A report released by the Australian Institute of Criminology today identified three main groups of crime which affect older people. These are predatory crime (robbery, burglary, assault, sexual assault and homicide), duty of care and relationship crime (also referred to as elder abuse) and economic crime (financial abuse, fraud and issues associated with enduring power of attorney and guardianship).

In releasing the report, AIC Director, Dr Adam Graycar said "Older people are at risk of victimisation from four main sources: family members, friends and acquaintances who may assault or steal from them; strangers who may victimise them; commercial organisations or "white collar" criminals who could defraud them; and carers with whom they are in a "duty of care" relationship and who may neglect or abuse them".

At the present time in Australia, there are about 2.3 million people or 12 per cent of the population, are aged 65 years and over. In the second and third decades of this century, people over 65 will account for almost one-quarter of the total population. Older people are a very diverse group. They include people from various cultural and linguist groups, rural Australia, the disabled aged, the frail aged and Indigenous Australians. The majority of people in the older age groups are women.

"The most consistent finding of all the research, both in Australia and overseas is that older people are overwhelmingly less at risk of criminal victimisation than other age groups", said Dr Graycar.

This report lists a catalogue of some of the crime prevention programs for older people in place around Australia at the present time. These programs are operated by the police and government agencies (Commonwealth, State/Territory and Local Government). A summary of these appears below:

In South Australia, the HomeAssist Scheme involves state government, local government and the police and provides security advice and assistance with the installation of security hardware for older home owners. Similar programs operate in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.

In New South Wales, one initiative of the police service has been to distribute personal safety alarms for older people. These are intended to reduce fear of crime as well as to prevent immediate physical threat. The New South Wales Police Service has also undertaken to develop a Safe Return Register which consists of a database of people at risk of wandering from home, perhaps because of dementia.

In the Northern Territory, the Neighbourhood Watch Program advises older people about security precautions at ATMs and EFTPOS outlets as well as procedures for carrying handbags and wallets.

In Victoria, Confident Living for Older Victorians aims to enhance the safety, security, independence and quality of life for older people.

In Tasmania, a joint initiative of the Crime Prevention and Community Safety Council and the Youth Network of Tasmania identifies and addresses older people's fears and concerns in public spaces.

In Queensland, the Office of Ageing has produced an information kit on crime and safety, the aim of which is to dispel myths and fears about the extent of crime perpetrated against older people.

These projects are among many that are described in the report.