Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (22 October) . . Page.. 3935 ..
MS DUNDAS (3.50): I will address my comments to both Mr Pratt's motion and the amendment as moved by Mr Wood. It is not clear to me as yet what information Mr Pratt has to say that the performance of the ACT police force is in decline.
Because crime affects a minority of people in one year and has some level of randomness in whom it affects, subjective perceptions at the extent of the crime problem can have little relation to actual objective statistics. If you or a family member, neighbour or friend had been recently affected by crime, you are likely to believe that crime is getting worse overall. Certainly I have had representations from residents who have been the victim of vandalism and burglary, who believe that a more visible police presence should reduce crime in their area.
However, looking at the ACT criminal justice statistics profile reports that have come out, although vandalism rose by around 15 per cent over the last year, burglary rates fell by 25 per cent. This is, I believe, hardly evidence of a rising crime wave. Overall the total number of reported offences did rise slightly-and this is to be monitored-but it is part of the statistical norm.
However, if crime is in fact rising in particular parts of Canberra, which is detailed in the statistical profile, I suspect that it is due to reduced spending on crime prevention and our limited success in reducing the incidence of drug addictions. I have repeatedly called for an increase in the spending on crime prevention, and I still believe the balance between prevention and prosecution is too heavily skewed towards dealing with the symptoms rather than the causes of crime.
Unfortunately, increased policing has no impact on the main causes of crime, and property-related crime in particular, which are school retention rates and drug dependence. If we are going to be throwing more money at the problem, we should perhaps be looking at those issues-a safe injecting room, dealing with drug-related issues as a health issue as opposed to just wanting to arrest people and lock them away.
I will agree that a police presence can make a difference to the rate of violent incidents in public places. We all know that assaults in public places tend to be confined to areas near licensed premises; so all that is needed is a more targeted police presence, not necessarily a police person on every corner.
I have seen recent reports that an increased police presence in Civic at night has reduced the number of alcohol-related assaults, which is very good news and something that I think we need to maintain. People have reported that they feel unsafe at night in our town centres. Having a police presence at night in our town centres should help alleviate that, but that doesn't mean we need police cars driving through every street in the ACT 24 hours a day.
I think that clause 6 of Mr Pratt's motion displays an ignorance of the policing process, and I would like to know whether or not Mr Pratt has read the August 2001 Australian Institute of Criminology report Policing urban burglary. In this report Jerry Ratcliffe did a case study of Operation Anchorage, which was an AFP campaign to reduce burglary rates in the ACT. As many people would be aware, 10 per cent of the ACT police force