If the old newsroom adage of “if it bleeds, it leads,” is true in Australia, then Aussie journalists will need to find something else to write about, as the country has experienced one of the most dramatic and precipitous falls in crime rates seen in the developed world.
Since 2001, break-ins have fallen by 68%, motor vehicle theft by 70%, robbery by 71%, attempted murder by 70%, and murder rates by 50%, while overall homicide including manslaughter plummeted by 59%.
A comprehensive report in the Sydney Morning Herald gives us the cheerful news, while also attempting to explain this across-the-board bettering of society.
Possible reasons for the declines include less alcohol consumption among young people, improvements in the economy and lower unemployment, and improved access to better safety technology in cars and homes.
Furthermore, the shrinkage in black and grey markets have created a greater risk in dealing with stolen goods.
In 2000 this wasn’t always the case, and a book published by Australian social scientists called The Vanishing Criminal bears witness. Rising crime rates were the norm, like other English-speaking nations, in the 70s and 80s.
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An international crime statistics survey in 2000 of 25 countries showed that Australia had the second-highest rate of car theft, the highest rate of burglary, the highest rate of contact crime—covering robbery, sexual assault, and assault with force—and the highest overall level of crime victimization, the authors say.
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Against these depressing trends, the recent fall seems like a miracle. Rising demand from the public on police to produce real results seems, as the SMH reported, to coincide with increased understanding of what works best in policing, while the replacement of a heroine problem in Aussie society with methamphetamines seems to have reduced crime rates among drug users.
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It really bears out what Steven Pinker and Matt Ridley write in their books Enlightenment Now and The Rational Optimist: Meaningful ways in which the world is getting better are happening at rates never before seen by our species, and virtually no societal problem is insurmountable by progress.
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