Australian Institute of Criminology

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International comparisons of crime rates out of date

Media Release

29 March 2006

Australian Institute of Criminology Director, Dr Toni Makkai, today said that "a recent OECD report showing Australia had high crime rates compared to other countries, relied on old data".

"The OECD report uses results from the 2000 International Crime Victimisation Survey, which was conducted more than five years ago". Dr Makkai said that "There have been noticeable declines in crime rates in Australia since 2000 and these declines have been confirmed in a number of different tracking systems".

"International results from the 2004 international survey have not yet been released," Dr Makkai said, "However, the results from the Australian survey show that crime victimisation had dropped by seven percent when compared with survey results in 2000."

The drop in crime also shows up in recorded crime figures, with declines over the past three years in the crimes of homicide, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft and other theft. This trend was highlighted in Australian Crime: Facts and Figures 2005, which provides a national picture of crime and justice.

"We also have to be very careful in making comparisons between countries" Dr Makkai said. "For example, homicide is not included in the crime victim surveys, yet it is most reliable violence indicator. For the most recent year for which data are available Australia has a lower rate than the United States, Canada, and England and Wales."

Key trends in Australia include:

  • certain major recorded crimes peaked between 1999 and 2001 but have since declined.
  • the total number of alleged offenders in jurisdictions, where data is available, has also declined since 2000.
  • heroin use decreased markedly amongst police detainees between 2000 and 2001 and has remained at this lower level.

"Given significant declines in crime rates in the past few years, the OECD comparisons using 2000 data are clearly out of date and could potentially mislead the community".