The latest round of crime statistics are both good and bad. They highlight some serious ongoing problems for Ballarat but also areas where police are beginning to make inroads.
On one hand, talk of a modern crime wave is overstating the matter. The language conjures up an asphalt jungle and an almost unstoppable force where “the predatory beast takes over”. Hyperbole might serve opportunism but it devalues the seriousness of the issues.
Similarly if the statewide crime rate has dropped, the first in six years, it should not be grounds for complacency nor to ignore the fact that Ballarat’s number have risen, particularly in the areas of theft and aggravated burglary. If general burglaries are down aggravated burglaries, a crime that has a significant impact on victims continue to increase. We know anecdotally this is driven by an unsavoury coterie of youths who are the most likely to commit multiple offences and do it principally to get car keys.
While at the lower end of the criminal scale, aggravated burglary particularly when it is predominantly non- confrontational, may not be as alarming as some more dangerous offences but it is certainly offensive enough for anyone who finds someone in their house and certainly harrowing for those who, having lost their keys, must live in the uncertainty that the miscreants will return.
This has been a key area of focus for police both in their efforts to track and jail many of these youths but also to enlighten the public about the need to a take steps to protect themselves. The fact that residential non aggravated burglaries have fallen shows the message may be getting through and the “easy pickings” for essentially lazy crooks have been thwarted by securely locked doors, windows and garages.
There is also the hope that the state has turned a corner on family violence. For the first time since police made family violence a focus earlier this decade, these offences have dropped. Changes to recording and mandatory reporting had seen the figure skyrocket and highlight how big a problem we are dealing with. Police are still dealing about 90,000 incidents a year, at an average of almost 250 a day. In Ballarat the number of family violence serious assaults is higher and still too high but there have been some drops in other categories of common assault and stalking.
A mixed report but highlighting the problems is a clear step toward solutions.