Contrary to public perception, the property crime rate in Australia actually declined between 2001 and 2010. There is a reality gap between declining crime rates and the popular rhetoric of ‘tough on crime’ media stories and political policies. Campaigning in the recent West Australian, New South Wales and Victorian state elections saw both sides of politics rely on tried and tested ‘tough on crime’ approaches to justice policies. Despite the falling rate of property crime, a ‘tough on crime’ approach to property crime continues to be promoted and pursued in some jurisdictions. An example of this is the use of mandatory sentencing for property crimes in Western Australia.

Whenever politicians talk about getting ‘tough on crime’, or the media selectively reports criminal justice stories, there is the potential for an increase in public nervousness and perceptions of social disorder. Such an increase is going to reduce feelings of safety among some Australians. Alternatively, balanced reporting and considered policy proposals from politicians have the potential to improve feelings of safety.

The facts are that property crime rates in Australia fell between 2001 and 2010 and Australians reported feeling safer. There is a good news story in this paper.

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