Notable and sustained drop in juvenile crime in Australia

young offenders in AustraliaThe Australian Institute of Criminology has published the results of a research project carried out by Payne, Brown and Broadhurst about the criminal career of the generations born in 1984 and 1994. It involved finding out what influence criminal trends during a person’s first years of life had. 1984 was a year when the crime rate was consistently increasing, whereas 1994 saw a downward trend. The study focused on the population in the state of New South Wales, which, furthermore, is the most populated in the country. The generation of 1984 consisted of 83,328 persons and that of 1994, of 89,373.

The results were very clear. The percentage of people under 21 that have committed some type of crime fell from 9.5% to 4.8%. If we separate them into different crime typologies, we find that:

  • Violent crime fell from 2.6% to 1.8% (a 42% drop).
  • Crimes against property fell from 3.8% to 1.7%.
  • Crimes against public health (drugs) fell from 1.7% to 1.3%.
  • Cases of affray fell from 3.3% to 1.9%.

In overall numbers, young people (-21) of the 1984 generation committed 7,900 crimes, whereas those of the 1994 generation committed 4,341.

The study divides criminals into occasional criminals (1 crime), moderates (between 2 and 4 crimes) and chronic cases (5 or more). In this case, the comparison shows that for the 94 generation the relative importance of chronic criminals is bigger. While in the case of the 84 generation chronic criminals committed 23.1% of all crimes, the percentage among the 94 generation was 31.5%. Therefore, although they are less in the first group (1.5% as opposed to 2.2%), they are much more prolific criminals.

Regarding the reasons underlying this reduction in youth crime, the study points out the following:

  • The improvement in security for both private and public property (security measures and the design of buildings and vehicles).
  • The increase in wealth in New South Wales, which has improved its inhabitants’ standard of living.
  • The reduction in time that minors spend in the street without any form of supervision (online activities at home are stated as one of the causes, but that could lead to other types of network-related crime).
  • The reduction in the number of youths that casually get involved in a criminal career.

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