Crime in the Northern Territory

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Crime in the Northern Territory is managed by the Northern Territory Police (law enforcement), the territory government's Department of the Attorney-General and Justice (courts and adult prisons) and Territory Families (youth justice and youth detention centres).

Figures show that for the 10 years preceding 2015, the Northern Territory (NT) had a consistently higher per capita rate for homicide and manslaughter than other Australian states and territories, as well as a high level of assaults. Most assaults and murders were related to domestic violence, and most of these were alcohol-related. NT also has the lowest population and the highest level of social disadvantage of the states and territories.

The crime rate in Alice Springs (population c. 24,000) is higher than that of Darwin (population c. 132,000).

Crime across the Territory

The Northern Territory Police are responsible for law enforcement, the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice presides over the courts and prisons, and Northern Territory Families runs youth justice and detention centres across the Territory.

Data collated over the 10 years up to 2015 by the Australian Institute of Criminology's National Homicide Monitoring Program showed that the Northern Territory had a consistently higher per capita rate for murder and manslaughter than other Australian states and territories. Most assaults and homicides were related to domestic violence and most of these were alcohol-related.[1]

Demographics

It also has the lowest population of Australian states and territories, at 245,800 as of December 2018, with many living in very remote areas,[2] and the highest level of social disadvantage[1] and the highest proportion of Aboriginal people of all states and territories, at around 30% of the population in 2016.[3] Much of the population is concentrated in Darwin (148,564), with 98,763 people spread across the rest of the Territory (2018 figures).[4]

2014 report

The 2014 Northern Territory Safe Streets Audit by the Australian Institute of Criminology and Charles Darwin University's Northern Institute reported findings from previous research as well as the results drawn from focus groups. "Factors that may contribute to heightened levels of fear in the Northern Territory include increased risk of victimisation for both violent and property crime, perceptions that crime is more frequent and serious than it actually is, lower levels of confidence in police and the impact of sensationalist media coverage."[5]

The Audit analysed articles in the Centralian Advocate, NT News and Sunday Territorian for each of the first weeks of May in 2010, 2011 and 2012, which showed that between six and ten percent of news coverage was devoted to crime. Crimes involving violence, especially sexual violence, were over-represented compared with other crime types. Although victims’ and offenders’ indigeneity were typically not identified, crimes featuring Indigenous offenders and non-Indigenous victims received greater coverage than other crimes in the weeks studied.[5]

However the report noted that fear reduction strategies were not as effective as targeting actual crime and offending. Noting evidence of crime "hotspots", the high incidence of domestic violence and the correlation with alcohol, it said "there is a need to implement evidence-based crime reduction strategies targeting both acute and chronic hotspots, as well as strategies that can reduce alcohol consumption and related harms, reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous people as victims and offenders of violent crime and respond to high rates of domestic violence".[5]

2017 Riley Review targets alcohol

A review in October 2017 by former chief justice Trevor Riley brought about huge changes to the Northern Territory's alcohol policies. The 220 recommendations included a floor price for all alcohol products at A$1.50 per standard drink, the reinstatement of an independent Liquor Commission, a complete rewrite of the Liquor Act (expected to take a year), and introducing licensing inspectors to help police at liquor outlets.[6]

Recent trends

In the year ending July 2019, the number of reported house break-ins across the Territory had reached its highest level since 2009, after a dip around 2015–6, but commercial break-ins had dropped. The rates in Alice Springs, Katherine and Palmerson were above average, but Darwin was below average. However, all categories of assault had dropped. Alcohol-related assaults were 24.2% below the previous year's figure, and 20% below the long-term average. Domestic-violence-related assault had dropped 11.66% against the previous year, and general assaults had dropped by 15.67%.[7][8]

Overall, crimes against the person had dropped 14.67% against the previous year, and crimes against property 1.71%. The per capita offending rate had dropped in most categories, with the exception of house break-ins (17.07% up) and motor vehincle theft (0.8% up).[7]

Reduction in alcohol-related crime

In the 10 months between 1 October 2018, the date that the alcohol floor price of a minimum of A$1.30 per standard drink and various other measures were imposed by the NT government following the Riley Review, and 31 July 2019, there was a 26% decrease in alcohol-related assaults in the Territory. In Alice Springs there was a 43% reduction in alcohol-related assaults and a 38% reduction in domestic violence; Tennant Creek dropped 28% in both categories; and in the Darwin area, alcohol-related assaults 16% and domestic violence by 9%.[9][6]

Youth crime and justice

In 2017–18 the number of young offenders (i.e. aged 10–17 years old) in NT decreased by 27 offenders, or 4%, over the previous year. The rate per capita of young offenders was marginally higher than Western Australia and New South Wales, at about 2.7 per 100.[10]

Often, a high proportion of the crime is perpetrated by repeat offenders. In Palmerston, up to 20 young people who at any given time regularly commit property and other offences have been identified, and youth represent 73.1% of apprehensions for break-ins. The NT Government created a new three-pronged strategy to target youth crime in the area, which included diversions, building a new youth justice facility and a new police station, and the creation of new recreation facilities and engagement programs.[11] Violent crimes committed by young offenders are of particular concern.[12]

The Youth Justice Court hears charges against young offenders in NT; for particularly serious offences, cases may be transferred to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory for sentencing.[13]

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's Youth justice in Australia 2017–18 report showed that the rate of young people aged 10–17 under supervision orders was highest in the Northern Territory, at 59 per 10,000 (compared with 10 in Victoria), and also for those in detention (15 per 10,000; Victoria, 2 per 10,000).[14][15]

Crime in Alice Springs

21st century background and history

Crime has been a significant social issue in Alice Springs in the 21st century.[16] The Indigenous camps of Alice Springs were described by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, as "murder capitals" in 2007 at the second reading of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007, preceding the controversial Intervention by the Howard government.[17]

In 2009, violent crime in the town was at unprecedented levels, with reported assaults up 29% on the previous year, the highest number (1432) since statistics had been publicly recorded, and double that of 2004. Alcohol had played a part in about 65% of assaults, and more than half of them were classed as domestic violence. The NT Southern Region Police Commander said that itinerancy, domestic violence and alcohol were the main factors driving up crime rates.[18]

The June 2010 report of the Northern Territory Justice Department's Quarterly Crime & Justice Statistics documented huge increases across multiple categories of crime in Alice Springs in the six years between the 2004 and 2010 reporting periods, largely due to the impact of the NT Police Force's "Violent Crime Reduction Strategy" introduced in 2004, which resulted in more offences being recorded and counted in the stats. Recorded cases of assault rose by 87%, sexual assault offences rose by 97%, house break-ins increased by 64%, commercial premises break-ins by 185%, and motor vehicle theft and related offences by 97% on 2004-05 figures. Compared with the previous reporting year, all categories except for commercial premises break-ins rose significantly.[19]

After a prolonged spike in crime in early 2011, especially break-ins committed by young offenders, concern about the high levels of crime led to a public meeting attended by 250 people in February 2011, organised by a citizens' group called Action for Alice. Aboriginal elder Lindsay Bookie addressed the crowd of mainly white residents, expressing the view that The Intervention of 2007 had caused a lot of bad people from remote communities to move to Alice.[20] Action for Alice put the spotlight on crime using TV advertisements. The over-representation of Aboriginal people in the crime statistics, as both perpetrators and victims, was attributed in part to the movement of people into Alice Springs from remote communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said that poverty and social dysfunction in the town camps around Alice Springs were part of the cause, and welcomed recent spending by the federal government of A$150 million on housing and social services in the camps.[21] The town camps were notorious for their drinking, violence and substandard living conditions.[22]

In 2012, John McRoberts, Northern Territory Police Commissioner, said that there had been social dysfunction in Alice Springs over 30 years. Stephanie Bell, Director of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress said that there had been some positive changes brought about by government programs, but "the impact of years of neglect and failure of services and programs is now at a point where it is escalating beyond everyone's capacity, and we have to work collaboratively to address it". Assaults were common in Aboriginal town camps and 95% of people in the town fleeing domestic violence were Indigenous, sometimes filling a shelter housing 900 people. Housing in the 17 town camps, where people from remote communities stay when visiting Alice Springs for medical and other services, was very overcrowded, and the young people were looking for excitement when they came to town.[23]

In February 2013, Tangentyere Council called an emergency meeting of Territory government, police and other stakeholders, to address concerns among Alice Springs town camp residents, who were living in fear caused by alcohol abuse, violence and family feuding. However, several officials walked out. Camp residents later said that they felt abandoned by the Territory government.[24]

In 2015, NT police promised extra patrols for an upcoming sporting event, after the number of youth offenders across the Territory had doubled in the previous year. They would be working with Tangentyere Night Patrol, along with other night patrol teams from across Central Australia, and urged residents to help by reporting crime through the regular channels, after a vigilante group called the Alice Springs Volunteer Force (ASVF) were trying to recruit people with firearms experience on social media. The police had earlier launched Taskforce Neo to try to reduce the rates of youth crime in Alice Springs as well as remote areas.[25]

In September 2016, the level of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities was described as "out of control" by the Northern Territory Coroner.[26]

At the end of 2017, youth crime was still causing concern in the community, after a series of violent assaults, brawls and robberies perpetrated by youths. At an Alice Springs Council meeting called by local Arrernte elders, Arrernte elder, former police officer and resident of nearby community Santa Teresa Phillip Alice said that the town was under siege, and that the young troublemakers were not local. The traditional owners said that they had had enough, and that Aboriginal people had to be part of the solution in making the town safe again.[27]

NT Police launched "Operation Shulton" in November, "...to target antisocial behaviour and associated crime". Police would be actively engaging with young people on the streets, and calling on the community to report crime. This was part of the multi-agency "Summer in Alice" campaign, described as "the biggest campaign by an NT government to target kids at risk before they engage in bad behaviour". A$250,000 was being invested in after-hours activities, including transport to get youths home if needed. Additional police were being recruited and trained in Alice Springs. Eight outreach workers from Territory Families Youth Outreach and Re-engagement Team (YORET) would work every night over the summer holidays.[27]

2017 travel advisories

In 2017, the governments of the UK, Germany and Canada issued travel advisories to their citizens travelling in Australia, singling out Alice Springs as a place where extra precautions should be taken: "Take care in the town centre of Alice Springs at night. There have been a number of incidents of harassment, robberies and attacks (including sexual assault) on foreign tourists." (UK).[28][29] This was despite the fact that common assaults and sexual assaults fell 12.4 and 17.1 per cent respectively in Alice in 2016,[28], and only one of the high-profile attacks on tourists in the 2010s actually took place in the town (a violent robbery and gang-rape;[30][31] there were three others at other locations in the Territory between 2001 and 2017[32][33][34]).

Recent trends

The Alice Springs LGA for which statistics are collected represents about 12% of the NT population. Crime against persons showed a decline of 275% between 2017–8 and 2018–9, but at 6074 per 100,000 people, the figure was still nearly three times that of Darwin, at 2379 per 100,000. Crimes against property had risen 12%, at 17,948 per 100,000 (Darwin 8,163).[35][36] Break-ins were the highest in the Territory, at 2,396 incidents per 100,000 people, which was 57% above the 10-year average (Katherine 1,201; Palmerston 922; Darwin 564).[8]

In the 10 months between 1 October 2018, the date that the alcohol floor price and various other measures were imposed by the NT government following the Riley Review (see above), and 31 July 2019, there was a 43% reduction in alcohol-related assaults and a 38% reduction in domestic violence.[9][6]

Crime in Darwin

Recent trends

In the 10 months between 1 October 2018, the date that the alcohol floor price and various other measures were imposed by the NT government following the Riley Review, and 31 July 2019, alcohol-related assaults dropped by 16% and domestic violence by 9% in the Darwin area.[9][6]

Notable crimes

There are several massacres of Indigenous people recorded within what is today the Northern Territory, both before and after federation, which would be today regarded as crimes.

Tourist attacks

  • July 2001 – Peter Falconio disappearance, near Barrow Creek: British tourist disappears on 14 July 2001[32]
  • April 2012 – Three teenagers rob and subsequently gang-rape a Finnish and German tourist at gunpoint in Alice Springs.[30][31]
  • December 2016 – French tourist stabbed to death at roadside rest area at Connor Well, about 100 kilometres (62 mi) north of Alice Springs.[33][41]
  • August 2017 – Two German tourists raped in Katherine.[34]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Moulton, Emily (7 July 2015). "The Northern Territory has the highest homicide rate in Australia". News.com.au. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Australian Demographic Statistics, Dec 2018". 20 June 2019. Retrieved 12 July 2019. Estimated Resident Population 1 Dec 2018
  3. ^ "3238.0.55.001 - Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2016". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 31 August 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  4. ^ "3218.0 - Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2017-18". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Northern Territory Safe Streets Audit" (PDF). 2014. ISBN 978 1 922009 73 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Damjanovic, Dijana; La Canna, Xavier (19 October 2017). "Riley review: Floor price on alcohol, 400sqm rule to be scrapped in wake of NT alcohol policy paper". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Northern Territory Crime Statistics". NT Police Force. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  8. ^ a b Gibson, Jano (3 September 2019). "Northern Territory break-ins at highest level in more than a decade, with Alice Springs leading the pack". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Heaney, Chelsea (19 October 2019). "Alcohol-related domestic violence and assaults drop dramatically one year on from floor price introduction". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Youth Offenders". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Breaking the Cycle of Youth Crime - Palmerston". Northern Territory Government. Dept of the Chief Minister. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  12. ^ Garrick, Matt (6 October 2019). "Palmerston brawl ends horror week of youth crime in NT". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Types of courts and their roles:Youth Justice Court". Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  14. ^ Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (10 May 2019). "Youth justice in Australia 2017–18" (pdf): 6. Retrieved 8 October 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ "Youth justice in Australia 2017–18". Australian Government. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  16. ^ Rothwell, Nicolas (8 February 2011). "Destroyed in Alice". The Australian. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  17. ^ Anthony, Thalia. "Governing Crime in the Northern Territory Intervention" (PDF). Austlii. p. 92. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  18. ^ Tlozek, Eric (31 March 2010). "Alice crime rates reach unprecedented levels". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  19. ^ Northern Territory. Dept of Justice, Research and Statistics. "Recorded crime, June Quarter 2010: Northern Territory – key findings" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  20. ^ ""Big problems" in Alice Springs - Inside Story". Insidestory. 25 February 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  21. ^ Sales, Leigh (24 March 2011). "Trouble in Alice Springs". ABC. 7:30. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  22. ^ Skelton, Russell (26 May 2011). "No town like Alice". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  23. ^ Sales, Leigh (19 June 2012). "Alice Springs crime sparks concern". ABC. 7:30. Archived from the original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  24. ^ Stewart, Anthony (13 February 2013). "Walkout sinks town camp safety summit hopes". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  25. ^ Dunlevie, James; Ellen, Rosa. "Get off Facebook and help us, NT Police tell Alice Springs residents". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  26. ^ Maddocks, Tom (21 September 2016). "Domestic violence 'out of control in NT Aboriginal communities'". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  27. ^ a b Sleath, Emma (4 December 2017). "'Town under siege': Alice Springs community calls for action on youth crime". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  28. ^ a b "Foreign travellers warned about visiting Alice Springs". The New Daily. 15 March 2017. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  29. ^ Webb, Carolyn (15 March 2017). "Foreign tourists warned on Alice Springs safety risks". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  30. ^ a b "Teen charged over Red Centre tourist sex attacks". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  31. ^ a b Ellen, Rosa (24 February 2015). "Bruce Impu sentenced to 18 years' prison after raping two backpackers at gunpoint in Alice Springs". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  32. ^ a b "Murdoch found guilty". The Age. 14 December 2005. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  33. ^ a b Vanovac, Neda; Maddocks, Tom (1 December 2016). "French tourist stabbed to death in 'unprovoked' NT outback attack, police say". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  34. ^ a b Lynch, Lydia (15 August 2017). "Outback assault a nightmare for young German tourists". Katherine Times. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  35. ^ "Alice Springs Crime Statistics". NT Police, Fire & Emergency Services: NT Police Force. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  36. ^ "Darwin crime statistics". NT Police, Fire & Emergency Services: NT Police Force. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  37. ^ "Invitation to a ceremony in memory of Dhakiyarr". Multicultural Council of the NT Newsletter. Archived from the original on 17 January 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2005.
  38. ^ "'Crocodile Dundee' man alleged killer". ABC.net.au. 4 August 1999. Archived from the original on 10 October 2004. Retrieved 9 November 2005.
  39. ^ "Teens sentenced to life for croc-river murders". The Age. 20 March 2005. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  40. ^ "Category: - NT News". Ntnews.com.au. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  41. ^ Davidson, Helen (1 December 2016). "French tourist stabbed to death at remote rest stop in Australian outback". The Guardian.

Further reading

  • Finnane, Mark; Finnane, Kieran (2011). "A death in Alice Springs" (PDF). Current Issues in Criminal Justice. University of Sydney. The Institute of Criminology. 23 (2). "The 2010 prosecution of five white men in Alice Springs following the death of an Aboriginal man resulted in their conviction on manslaughter and subsequent sentencing to custodial terms of up to six years each. This article reviews the circumstances of the death and its aftermath...

External links

  • Department of the Attorney-General and Justice
  • Northern Territory Police
  • Territory Families - Youth Justice
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