What Is The Effect Of The Pandemic On Crime?
The Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have had an interesting effect on crime rates across Western Australia.
The Western Australian Police Force collects comprehensive data on reported crimes and publishes these figures regularly.
Looking at a snapshot of crime figures in Western Australia over the 2020-21 year one may consider that the COVID pandemic has had an interesting impact on those figures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, offences against a person or property (such as vehicle theft, break and enter, burglary and graffiti) have declined.
Unfortunately, one effect of the pandemic appears to have been the rise in family and domestic violence which was up almost 20 percent.
The figures show:
- Selected Offences Against the Person (excluding Family Related Offences) increased by 4 percent;
- Family Related Offences (Assault and Threatening Behaviour) increased by 19.3 percent;
- Selected Offences Against Property decreased by 30.7 percent;
- Total Selected Offences Against Person or Property decreased by 21.0 percent; and
- Drug Offences decreased by 21.4 percent.
Domestic Violence - ‘the shadow pandemic’ ?
Those working the front line of domestic violence; workers answering hotlines or providing safehouses have voiced their concern about the effect of the pandemic and lockdowns.
While lockdowns in Australia have been a significant part of our government’s pandemic-management, they appear to have impacted upon the risk of harm for victims of domestic and family violence. That’s because victims can be locked at home with a perpetrator, 24/7. Furthermore, lockdowns inevitably reduce a victim’s access to friends and family, work colleagues, or other people that they may be able to turn to for support.
The pandemic has also created significant financial and emotional duress in our country; factors which tend to be key drivers behind family violence, particularly if the family dynamic is volatile to begin with.
While domestic and family violence rates have been rising in Australia over a number of years, our country's spike in family and domestic violence over the past 18 months is not unique to Australia. Around the world, domestic violence rates have risen dramatically during the pandemic.
In Western Australia the police statistics are backed up by the experience of those working in the front line of domestic violence services. Crisis shelters have been stretched to capacity. There have been stories of victims couch-surfing, living in their cars, or even applying to cancel restraining orders so that they can go back to an abusive partner sadly for the sake of having a roof over their heads.
The good news is that right now, the Western Australian Government is investing record amounts of money in addressing domestic violence. Money is being allocated to increase capacity at refuges and to invest in much-needed government housing and support services. Of course, to decrease the extent of domestic and family violence over the long term, education and zero tolerance in our community is required.
For those leaving an abusive and violent relationship, getting the right legal advice is paramount. There are legal mechanisms that can be put in place to protect victims of domestic and family violence while they get their lives back on track.
1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
Lifeline (24-hour crisis line) 131 114
PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.