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Crime and prejudice

Opinion

Crime and prejudice

Jane Stephens offers some perspective on crime statistics for the Sunshine Coast but fears scaremongering is skewing reality.

You would not think it from the hysteria and scuttlebutt, but there is far less crime being committed in Queensland now than there was 20 years ago.

It might be hard to believe, but it is true: the latest figures from the Queensland Crime Report show that where criminal activity is concerned, the facts and broadly accepted perceptions just don’t marry up.

Fear twists minds to change our behaviour, so surely it is prudent to seek real information before we cower and fret.

The stats from 2022-23, released recently, make for fascinating reading. While there are perceptions of a ‘youth crime wave’, young offending fell 26.7 per cent over nine years – and that takes into account our population boom.

However, once the wayward young ones have committed a crime, they are more likely to reoffend, with many becoming what the report calls ‘hardcore recidivists’. There might be fewer rotten apples, but they are worse than the bad ones before and spoil the whole barrel.

Perceptions are wrong about dark, young strangers putting us at risk, too. While the rate of assaults in Queensland generally is nearly three-times worse than four years ago, most violence is committed by family or friends – only 30 per cent by a stranger – and most by men aged 30-39.

The best news is hiding among the columns and tables in the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office document: the Sunshine Coast shines and swims against the tide, with figures showing we live in a purple patch of safety in the state.

On the Coast, offences against people fell seven per cent on the year before, and offences against property fell by two per cent on the decade before. Other regions were not so lucky. We had fewer homicides and assaults than the year before, even though assaults skyrocketed in the state overall. Sexual offences dropped like a rock: down a third on the year before. All robbery and drugs categories were well down in our patch of paradise. And while stalking, unlawful entry and life-endangering acts were up in the latest data drop, the stats show the Sunshine Coast is a not favoured by the criminal classes.

While anyone who has been a victim will tell you that a single criminal act is one too many, it is important to celebrate the safe-ish, calm-ish reality.

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Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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