Politics and activism

Crime and punishment

The barber the other day was having a rant about crime (as well as a number of other issues), and claimed that white-collar criminals almost always get caught (specifically, he reckoned they get caught 95% of the time), but muggers and others who commit crimes against the person almost never get caught (he reckoned 95% of the time get away with it).

It sounded pretty unlikely, and frankly I was relieved when his ranting got onto more hazy, less provable (or disprovable) ground. I think he’s been listening to too much tabloid talkback radio.

So what are the real figures?

The Victoria Police publish statistics on crime, including “single year clearances”. From page 14, and quoting the 2010-11 year:

Category Offences recorded Offence rate per 100,000 population Single year clearances
Crime against the person 48,511 868.5 78.0%
Crime against property 252,417 4519.1 29.5%
Drugs 14,789 264.8 98.3%
Other crime 43,362 776.3 92.3%

I’m going to assume that the clearance rates for the bottom two categories are so much higher because they might generally be reported as a result of proactive police action, whereas the others are generally reported by members of the public, and then investigated after the fact.

On the face of it, the opposite to the barber’s claim is true: you are more likely to get caught for a crime against the person than for a property crime such as theft. (Presumably some crimes are cleared after more than a year, bringing the figures up a bit further.)

I like the barber, but I suspect his ranting that the carbon tax will ruin the country is equally wrong, and I’m not entirely sure about his theories on what the CIA’s up to can be trusted either.

Other stats

There’s some other interesting stats in the VicPol document, such as the temporal trends (pages 103-112), which show that crimes such as assault are more likely on Friday and Saturday nights, there appears to be a spike in homicides on Mondays around midday (hmm. Could be the small sample size skewed it?)… and burglary (residential) is most common on weekdays during the day (eg when people are at work) — which makes me think the home insurance people should ask if there’s a car in the driveway on weekdays, and give a discount for it.

Burglary: time of day/week

Page 114 covers the locations of crime. More crimes against the person occur in residences than anywhere else (18,568 out of 48,511, or 38%). In contrast, 1,873 (3.8%) occurred on public transport. There’s also a figure of 1,180 for “other transport” — I’m not sure what this means — people beating each other up in their cars? There were no homicides on public transport, but one on “other transport”.

Page 116 has figures on the relationship of the victim to the offender. For most types of crime against the person, the victim was known to the offender. No relationship was recorded in 25.6% of cases.

Some interesting figures. Well worth a read.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

3 replies on “Crime and punishment”

At Smart Justice, we think it’s important to understand the limitations of Vic Pol crime statistics when interpreting them, Daniel. Unlike NSW, WA and SA, Victoria does not yet have an agency which independently compiles, analyses and publishes crime stats. Next time you get a haircut, please consider leaving our Smart Justice Fact sheet on ‘Crime Statistics- the real picure’ in his magazine rack!

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