Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (20 August) . . Page.. 2436..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
may be attributable to the increased severity of bail laws and that there has been a probable respite because of that. Again, it is difficult to measure that.
One of the major characteristics of the last year or so has been the heroin drought. The word is that that drought may have broken. There is certainly need for concern and need for vigilance in relation to crime levels, particularly property crime. One of the lessons of Operation Anchorage was that by launching into a process which was called intelligence-based policing, which is a euphemism for saying targeted policing, the police actually did reduce the number of offences. At the same time, there has been an increase in sexual assaults and that remains of concern.
The other figure that I would like to advise the Assembly of is that there has been recorded in recent times an increase in the clear-up rate, which is important. It is also important that we do keep up police numbers. We saw police numbers fall away over the last year or so because of a hold-up with the settlement of the actual agreement with the AFP. We hope and trust that we will be able to keep up the numbers so that we will not have to go into an on again, off again process of having an Operation Anchorage, a rest period and then another Anchorage, but can actually use the lessons learned and use them consistently.
MS GALLAGHER: I have a supplementary question. Minister, you mentioned the worrying increase in sexual assaults. Can you inform the Assembly as to what advice you have received in relation to these offences and whether drink spiking is believed to be one of the reasons for the increase?
MR QUINLAN: Yes, in the figures recorded, there has been a disturbingly high increase in the rate of sexual assault. There is some suspicion that it is the result of a higher level of reporting, as opposed to instances, but I would say that, on the balance of probabilities, it is likely that there has been a substantial increase in the frequency of sexual assault.
In reaction to that, the police have addressed their practices to become more client focused and more friendly. The changes that have occurred include a memorandum of understanding with the Rape Crisis Centre and other support agencies, the design of the SACAT or sexual assault and child abuse team area, a uniform-free and non-threatening area, exposure of victims to police specialists trained in the area, and the training of all members to the maximum possible degree.
With sexual assault the concern is that something like 72 per cent of the offences are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. This is not the sort of crime that allows the police, in terms of detection and policing, to take preventive action. The action that can be taken is in education of the community and the encouragement of victims to report the crime. I can say that the sexual assault and child abuse team is growing in size, an obvious response to increasing demands. I hope that that is because it is a friendly face of the police force and therefore people are more encouraged. I do trust that the full increase in the number of recorded assaults is not actually representative of the total number of assaults but is, at least in part, due to a higher rate of reporting. I will be asking our police, within their crime prevention activities, to incorporate and focus at a higher level on education in this area. We will also look at continuing to ensure, in any way we can, that we have more sympathetic avenues for reporting.