Stats what you make of them

June 16, 2017

Greater Shepparton is the fifth worst local government area in Victoria when it comes to offences committed per resident population.

The latest Crime Statistics Agency data has once again created plenty of political debate following the latest release of figures.

The statistics revealed that Victoria’s overall crime rate had risen four per cent in the 12 months to March 31 this year, with the number of assaults, murders, robberies and rapes rising from the previous years.

In comparison, the figures showed family violence offences had not risen, while drug dealing and trafficking had dropped for two consecutive years.

While any rise in crime in this state is obviously a concern, the situation may not be as bad as some would have you believe.

After the new CSA figures came out yesterday, The News received almost 10 media releases from the state opposition. Among the headlines were ‘‘Violent crime tsunami continues in Shepparton’’ and ‘‘Community safety in Shepparton is at risk’’.

Police Minister Lisa Neville defended the government in the wake of the figures.

Of course we don’t discourage keeping the government honest on crime — and we will always stand up for our fair share of police resources. But in some cases, statistics can be deceptive and they can say whatever you want them to say.

For example, one of the media releases referred to above stated homicide and related offences were up 150 per cent in Greater Shepparton in the 12 months to March this year.

On the surface it seems like a large rise, but when there are so few offences of this kind any increase, no matter how small, would of course see a spike.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy was quoted in the media reporting that statewide, murder was up 19 per cent and attempted murder up 141 per cent.

Again, it sounds like a big rise, but the figure needs to be looked at in the context of the tragic events in Melbourne’s Bourke St in January, when six people were killed.

A man was charged with six counts of murder and 29 of attempted murder, so the figures need to be judged in the context of this one-off event.

That said, it is still a concern that Greater Shepparton is the fifth worst local government area in Victoria when it comes to offences committed per resident population.

Between April 2016 and March this year, 8464 offences were committed, accounting for a rise of 6.3 per cent.

At 994, breaches of family violence orders were highly represented in this figure.

This does not necessarily mean there are more family violence incidents, but may indicate more confidence or faith in the system for victims to report the crimes.

Shepparton police Inspector Haydn Downes has said the results are disappointing, but maintains Shepparton is a safe place to live.

We will continue to listen to our local communities and local police about the issues, and hear from politicians about what constituents are telling them about crime in their area.

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