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Community participation and regional crime

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 222

Carlos Carcach and Cathie Huntley

ISBN 0 642 24258 5 ISSN 0817-8542
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, April 2002

Abstract

This paper tests the proposition that participation in community oriented activities corresponds to lower rates of violent and property crime. Working from local membership in Scouts Australia and in some State Emergency Services activities, and using data from local government areas in the mainland eastern states, the study shows that crime rates are lower in local areas with high levels of participation in community oriented activities, and a doubling in the rate of membership of community organisations has the potential to reduce violent crime by between one fifth and one third, and property crime by between one twentieth and one tenth. The paper also discusses the effects of economic change, residential stability and socioeconomic factors, including family disruption, the youth to elderly ratio, and Indigenous population on local crime. The findings suggest that increased participation in community organisations may prove particularly beneficial in rural Australia, with participation having the potential to overcome some of the negative impact that high population mobility has on local levels of crime.