Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Size, Accessibility and Crime in Regional Australia

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Size, Accessibility and Crime in Regional Australia

Article excerpt

Official statistics show that crime rates in non metropolitan areas have increased faster than in metropolitan areas over the last five years. Population size and location playa role in determining the crime levels of local areas. These factors are associated with the potential of regions to attract new economic activities, adjust to economic change and generate local development.

This study shows that crime rates are highest in either highly accessible or very remote areas rather than those in between. Distance from a service centre plays a crucial role in explaining the levels of crime in small- to medium-sized localities. Small towns located relatively close to major urban centres tend to have crime rates as high as remote towns. In rural localities (that is, less than 1,000 residents), however, geographical or service isolation does not necessarily play a role in shaping crime rates. In these locations, economic change and the ability to adapt, population exodus and the strength of community ties are key factors in determining the levels of crime.

Identification of the factors that drive crime rates in regional Australia is crucial to developing strategic approaches to crime prevention and control. This paper will be followed by others that take the analysis further.

Adam Graycar

Director

The term non-metropolitan applies to regions located outside capital cities. These regions contain urban centres of varied sizes, as well as rural localities, that differ along many demographic, social and economic dimensions.

Rural communities may be experiencing, or may have already gone through, processes of structural adjustment derived from changes in economic activity, negative growth and out-migration. Little is known about the impact that these changes and associated processes have on the level of crime of non-metropolitan localities. Non-metropolitan crime, in particular rural crime, is a neglected topic in the Australian literature, and only a few studies have been published (Cunneen and Robb 1987; O'Connor and Gray 1989).

Small localities seem to be less equipped to cope with forces of change than large ones, and they may experience difficulties when trying to adjust to new conditions. This may heighten the levels of social and economic stress among residents, which can result in rising crime rates (see, for instance, Weatherburn and Lind 1997). of Accessibility to basic services affects the socioeconomic wellbein residents and may influence local crime rates (Kposowa, Breault and Harrison 1995; Kovandzic, Vieraitis and Yiesley 1998).

Population size and accessibility may be associated with other factors that are, in turn, causally related to crime. Measures of social and economic disadvantage would certainly explain much of the variation in crime rates across types of localities and any effects of population size and accessibility might drop from the analysis. Broad sets of economic opportunities accrue to a place by virtue of its size and its access to larger economies, therefore these factors have a significant effect on its development (Ghelfi and Parker 1997). Because these two dimensions are related with a broader set of local processes besides those resulting in socioeconomic disadvantage, it is important to understand their impact on crime rates before taking into consideration other "causally" related factors.

Understanding the role that size and accessibility play in explaining regional variations in crime is important from a policy perspective. Understanding the way in which crime rates vary across different types of localities, in particular rural ones, is an important first step in the process of developing strategic approaches to crime prevention and control.

Using data for LGAs in the mainland states except for South Australia, this paper discusses the role of population and accessibility in explaining regional variation in crime rates. …

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