The Victorian government has received a much-needed boost to its law and order credentials, with the latest data revealing the state’s crime rate has dropped almost 10 per cent.
The Crime Statistics Agency said recorded offences dropped 9.9 per cent last year, but found the number of sexual offences rose by 16 per cent.
Property and deception offences such as arson, burglary and theft decreased by 13.8 per cent and drug dealing and trafficking dropped 12.6 per cent.
Abduction, weapons and explosive offences and stalking, harassment and threatening behaviour also decreased last year.
Police Minister Lisa Neville said there was a significant downward trend in overall crime across the state.
“I think it provides a small level of reassurance to Victorians that the efforts of Victoria Police, the investments that we are making, are starting to improve the safety of our community,” Ms Neville said.
“Saying crime is coming down in no way diminishes the pain and fear many of those victims have suffered and continue to suffer now.”
She said targeting high-harm crimes had resulted in aggravated burglaries falling more than 11 per cent.
Family violence incidents also decreased by 4.5 per cent in the year to December.
“We do have to remember family violence remains 17 per cent of all crime in the state, about 90,000 of the 500,000 offences we have are family violence related,” Ms Neville said.
“They make up 45 per cent of crimes against the person so a really significant impact continues to be felt, particularly [by] women and children in this state as a result of family violence.”
She said sexual assaults continued to trend upwards and about one-third of reported incidents were related to family violence.
“About 25 per cent relate to historical sexual assaults that are more than 10 years old, and that’s not surprising in the context of royal commissions that you have more people coming forward and reporting these terrible crimes,” Ms Neville said.
Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos announced an additional $417,000 to support sexual assault survivors on Friday afternoon.
Much of that funding will go towards the CASA House of Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne for around the clock care and counselling.
Carjackings, home invasions remain a concern
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said while 2017 was the biggest drop in crime in a single year since the LEAP crime database was introduced in 1994, the high-harm crimes remained a concern.
“We’re seeing carjackings, we’re seeing home invasions and again the brazen nature of some of that offending is worrying, it is of concern,” Deputy Commissioner Crisp said.
“We take it personally when we see sadly the elderly that are victims of these types of crimes, and that’s why we’re relentless in relation to hunting down these particular offenders.”
He said while there had been a slight drop in offenders aged under 24, there is been an increase in the 25 and 35-year age bracket.
“A fairly consistent message for us over the last couple of years is that even though we are seeing that shrinking number of youth offenders, what we are seeing is some of those offenders committing more offences so on average probably more than four offences per individual,” Deputy Commissioner Crisp said.
He said social media was increasingly being used as a tool to commit crimes.
“Certainly the world of cyber is not new, but it’s ever growing and ever changing,” he said.
“We are focused on what we need to do in that world. We are looking at committing further resources into that particular area and we’ll continue to do whatever work we need to do.”
Victoria ‘less safe’, opposition says
Despite the results, the state Coalition said the Andrews government was failing on law and order.
Opposition police spokesman Ed O’Donohue said crime had increased since the last state poll.
“Today’s crime statistics reveal and confirm that under Daniel Andrews, Victoria has become much less safe,” he said.
“Anyway you cut it, crime is up nearly 10 per cent since the election of the Andrews government and more serious offences are up by significantly more.”