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Criminology & Crime Rates In Western Australia

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Criminology is a study, subjective to its view. It can be viewed as a “psychiatry, scientifically oriented psychology”. Or perhaps a subject revolved around sociology and the way various communities’ function. The notion of criminology as a basis of understanding distinctions in groups of people is the foundation to this essay. Disparities in environment and living conditions have impacted the actions and lives of many people, specifically in Western Australia. In 2017/2018, Western Australia alone have had 272,756 registered offences, on the Western Australian Police Force Incident Management System. This single number cannot convey much meaning, but comparing it to ten years ago, in 2007/2008, where there was a total of 243,028 total offences recorded, it displays an increase of offence recorded by 12 per cent.

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Whether crime rates are rising, or report rates have been increasing, those who are offending fail to stop. Inevitably people roaming the cities, or the country of Western Australia have played part in these numbers, particularly those in metropolitan areas. Of the 272,756 offences from 2017/2018, 76.2 per cent of those offences were committed in metropolitan areas. Those in a densely populated environment, tend to be exposed to more crime compared to those in rural areas as implied above. Reasoning behind this is not purely based off crime statistics itself, but heavily relies on the understanding of the sociology behind it. Criminology, being not only a study of “law enforcement and methods of prevention” is also “a sub-group of sociology…the scientific study of social behaviour”.

Hence why, criminology can clearly explain the reasoning behind the differences in crime rates, between metropolitan and rural areas in Western Australia. Western Australia has a population of 2,591,900 people , where Perth has approximately 1,700,000 . Perth carrying the highest percentage of people in Western Australia accounts for the bulk of the metropolitan portion. Within the major cities of Western Australia, sexual assault has especially been at an all-time high . With approximately 4,256 offences having already been reported from 2017/2018. Instances of sexual assault and abuse has not been a subject in the shadows but has been prevalent in society for a long while. A case study in 2009, discussed the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment on campus.

The study examined how sexual attacks on campus were “on predominantly young female students” . A reason behind why, relates back to the essential fear of crime all people have. This degree of the fear of crime varies dependent on age, gender, wealth and many other factors. A plausible reason for the attacks on younger females, is due to younger people having “less choice because of their lower social and [economic] status.” Thus this can explain the idea that sexual assault is not a passionate or pleasurable crime but is rather a “crime driven by a desire for dominance”. Offenders in metropolitan areas, are surrounded by people of status and wealth and would naturally crave that power or dominance that they would otherwise not have.

Furthermore, male sexual offenders have an “abnormally high testosterone level”, which triggers violence and attacks fuelling the need of control over their victim. In a university setting, where there are a variety of buildings clustered amongst campus, many isolated on some days, can increase the risk of harassment in certain areas. Based of the defensible space theory, where the division of zones and surveillance can incline predatorial behaviour in areas unseen and unknown on the campus. The defensible space theory can be related on a larger scale. By examining the structure of cities and buildings, and how there are alleyways and abandoned properties which can be used as a haven for crime, this is a plausible explanation to high crime rates in metropolitan areas.

Another crime prevalent in metropolitan areas in robbery and burglary. By looking at burglary rates, Australia’s rate of burglary is the fifth highest out of thirty. This can be linked to ever increasing poverty rates, where in 2016, 240,000 people were living below the national poverty line. A fuel for stealing and acquiring goods and money is due to social and financial hardships rather than personal gratification. With the Perth City having a high population of homelessness, crime for need of survival is prevalent within metropolitan areas of Western Australia. The essential reasoning for crime in metropolitan areas compared to reasons for crime in rural areas, are loosely linked. Regional Western Australia has produced high rates of stealing and drug offences, as compared to sexual assault which is more common in metropolitan areas. Although rural Western Australia has a lower number of crimes compared to Perth, areas of crime are “comparatively high in a few towns in Western Australia”.

Particularly areas such as Geraldton and Kalgoorlie, which “accounted for the most crime in the region”. Further studies have indicated that there is also a rising fear and concern for crime in Kalgoorlie. In a survey conducted, 45.8 per cent of people feel that crime is a serious problem in Kalgoorlie, while 38 percent feel that there must be more punishment rather than rehabilitation. A plausible reason for the rising fear of crime in these areas could be due to “feelings of vulnerability and intimidation” towards police in remote areas. As stated in the Fitzgerald Inquiry, due to the alienation and isolation of the police force from the rest of society, the full benefits of law enforcement are hindered by feelings of oppression and frustration from the community. Furthermore, in rural communities there is a significant number of indigenous

Australians, who fail to obtain basic social services, but have a greater attention from police authorities. In 2005, ‘Indigenous Australians were arrested at a rate of 8.1 times that of non-Indigenous people’, despite indigenous Australians accounting for only 3 per cent of the total population. In 2013, offences recorded in rural Australia including; ‘acts intended to cause injury’, burglary, weapons offences and public offences had a higher percentage compared to those recorded in Perth. These crimes listed above, which were more “common” in regional Australia reflects crime against property, rather than against a person. Public offences and carrying weapons is a possible rebellion against the law enforcement authorities in these areas, which fail to protect them. These actions can be seen as a protest against the mistreatment and marginalisation against these communities, rather than an excuse for delinquency. But this cannot be said for all cases. Incidents of homicide has occurred too often in Western Australia in 2017/2018, with 41 homicides in regional Western Australia and 45 incidents in metropolitan western Australia. One of the biggest cases of 2018, the Osmington shooting south of Perth, left seven people killed in a murder-suicide.

The reasons for the offender, Peter Miles, committing the crime will be unknown, but based of news reports he was known to be treated for depression leading up to the tragedy. Depression endorses feelings of isolation and worthlessness in people, therefore suicide is an avenue to freedom for those affected. Thus, marginalising communities and individuals, by failing to create inclusiveness and meaning to the lives of people can lead to not only crime, but death. Both metropolitan and rural areas of Western Australia have their respective problems and delinquencies to tackle with. But there are clear cut differences in both cases for specific reasons. As mentioned earlier, metropolitan areas have a higher rate of offences against a person compared to those in rural areas. These crimes against a person includes sexual offences, assault, and threatening behaviour. What all these types of crime have in common is they all encourage an assertion of dominance against a person, or group of people.

By observing these incidents through the theory of positivism within the study of criminology, there must be constraints beyond the individual which leads to crime. Possible constraints within the metropolitan area can include; social status and housing. Those in low socio-economic areas, tend to lead lives of deviance and later crime. Akers social learning and social structure of crime, states that factors affecting the social learning process of people includes “demographic characteristics that identify social status”. Akers model of crime also defines “aspects of community” such as ethnicity and age to be other contributing factors to social learning processes. The social learning theory touches on the idea that “observational learning and direct conditioning” are factors into comprehending human behaviour. For youth in areas where delinquency and crime rates are high, there is going to be a higher probability that the youth will follow in those footsteps.

For instance, looking at metropolitan suburbs in Perth, Ellenbrook, a suburb situated towards the south of Perth has had approximately 2,036 crimes as of 2017/2018. Now looking at the average house price in Ellenbrook, as of 2018 it stands at around $365,5000. Comparing these statistics to a suburb like Peppermint Grove, where there has only been a total of 76 crimes in 2017/2018 (54 per cent stealing), with the mean house price at $3,875,000, there is a clear correlation between wealth and crime offences within metropolitan suburbs. This directly aligns with Akers social model of crime, whereby living standards and communities greatly affect the turnout of crime within a given area. Furthermore, in Ellenbrook there was the alleged killing of a mother and siblings by a teenager of 19 years old. The offender is thought to be mentally unwell, as he is in Graylands Hospital. The link between mental illness and crime has been addressed earlier on in the Osmington case in regional Australia.

There is a clear link, relating back to the marginalisation and oppression in society which can result in mental illness, and a lack of belonging in the community. By suffering from mental illness, rational choice can be compromised. This can be a result of failing to comprehend the core differences between the positive and the negative, and rationalising harmful decisions. Looking back at crimes in rural Australia, there is the common pattern of greater offences against property rather than against a person. This can be explained due to the routine activity theory , which elaborates on choosing a specific target and a lack of ‘rule or surveillance’. Property if high value is generally targeted upon, for resale value and obtaining quick cash. In 2017 a Koorda farm was attacked, where expensive memorabilia were stolen, but there is no evidence of the offender attacking or hurting the victim in the process, thus the main motive of the crime being money.

Furthermore, offences of stealing livestock and animals off farms have occurred, including a “$50,000 sheep heist” in the Great Southern, which had set for sheep prices to be at an all time high. Once again this was an elaborately constructed “heist”, which did not involve a victim getting injured, but rather a clear motive for money. By comparing incidents in metropolitan areas and rural areas the reasons behind the crimes in each location, are different based of the ‘need’. For metropolitan areas, offenders crave the feeling of power and dominance due to being surrounded by wealth and authority constantly, especially in Perth’s CBD. Thus, to prove themselves as better, or greater than others, offenders result to abuse and harassment towards others. On the contrary, in rural areas, crime has been proven to be driven more by money and social retaliation, thus accounting for the difference in statistical crime rates and offences between the two areas.

Criminology can clearly explain the reasoning behind the differences in crime rates, between metropolitan and rural areas in Western Australia, through examining the different ‘triggers’ or reasons behind the common crimes in each area. Based off social factors within each respective area, there have been proven that there are more common types of crime occurring in either place. That is for the metropolitan areas, higher crime against people, while in rural areas, higher crime against property. These reasons account for why there is a higher crime rate in metropolitan Western Australia, as there is a greater population and a greater pressure for people in society to succeed. While in rural areas it is displayed that there is a larger focus on acquiring money, or rebelling against the lack of care from authority, especially in the indigenous minorities.

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