The results of the most recent New England Times Poll found that New Englanders are very concerned about crime, and are most concerned about home break-ins, car theft or damage, and theft, but less than a third trusted police to deal with it. Meanwhile the latest crime stats reveal Moree is one of the worst crime hot spots in the state.
The majority of respondents to our poll were more than a little concerned about crime. When asked to rank how concerned they were about crime from 1 to 10, the average was 7. There may be a little bias in these results in that those who are concerned about crime are more likely to do a poll about crime, but the crime stats indicate that concern may be not be justified outside of Moree.
The recent release of annual crime statistics from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) found crime rates were stable in most parts of the New England. The two year trend for the New England North West region is stable in every category of crime, except for ‘steal from a motor vehicle’ which was down 15.1% in 2022.
Looking at the individual local government areas, the stand out changes were:
- Stealing offences were significantly down in Armidale, particularly ‘steal from dwelling’ which was down 37.4% in the last year.
- Gunnedah had a great year on the theft front, with steal from a motor vehicle down 35.8%, steal from a dwelling down 33.8%, and malicious damage to property down 16.9%; however, cannabis possession offences were up 96.4%.
- In Glen Innes Severn Shire malicious damage to property was up 31.5%, while weapons offences were down 47.5%.
- In Inverell steal from a retail store was down 49%, but non-domestic violence assault was up 46.7%.
- Arson was up 55.3% in Moree Plains Shire, and charging people with trespass was up 75%.
- Fraud was up 48.9% and ‘other theft’ was up 42.4% in Narrabri.
- Break and enters are up 32.4% in Tamworth while stealing from a motor vehicle is down 32.3%.
Gwydir, Uralla, and Walcha all have crime rates so low it’s not possible to generate meaningful statistics, while what few statistics there are for Liverpool Plains and Tenterfield are stable.
However, Moree remains one of the worst places for crime in the state. It has the highest rate of non-DV assault, motor vehicle theft, other stealing offences and malicious damage to property of all local government areas in the state. It ranks at number 2 for domestic violence assault, robbery, break and enter dwelling, steal from a motor vehicle and steal from a retail store. The only major crime category it didn’t rank in the top 10 is break and enter non-dwelling, where it came in number 11.
Inverell also got top 10 rankings for assault – ranked at 6 for domestic violence assault and 5 for non-DV assault. Tamworth had one top ten, coming in at 7th highest for the rate of ‘break and enter dwelling’. Armidale also had one, coming in at 8th worst for robbery.
The top three types of crime people were concerned about – Home break in, car theft or damage, and theft – were not too far apart, but other than that higher concern about the loss of belongings, there was very little in the way of trends in our poll results. Surprisingly, given its high prevalence throughout the New England and more women (62%) completing the survey than men, only 3% said they were concerned about sexual assault. The crime the fewest number of people were concerned about was murder.
What kinds of crime are you concerned about?
There were some concerning results when we asked people whether they trusted local police to manage crime, with only 28.1% saying yes.
Do you trust local police to manage crime in your area?
A high ‘other’ figure of nearly 17% indicated a significant problem, and from the comments it was clear: you can’t trust local police to manage crime when you don’t have any local police. Respondents in Uralla, Guyra and Glen Innes in particular pointed to not always having police in town, while some of the smaller villages pointed to police needing to travel from a service centre as a disincentive for them to properly police the area.
In bigger centres, particularly Moree, there was significant concern about understaffing of the police station, and a perception that “police do their best” but the justice system just lets criminals back on to the street.
As always in a New England Times Poll there is an open text box and an invitation to say anything you like about the topic. The concern about not having police in town appeared again in these responses.
“Police in my town are predominantly transferred to other towns at night. The Crooks know it. Three police are housed in my town yet a call to the station will almost always be directed immediately to the larger towns and locals as our police are always there and always busy with the other town’s issues. If a crime happens in my town, don’t expect the cavalry to arrive and catch the crook. They will turn up the next day or later, usually.”
Female respondent in Guyra, aged 45-54
Another recurrent theme was the lack of consequences for the alleged criminals. Unfortunately, many of these comments also were quite racist, so it is difficult to determine how much of it was real and how much was stigma and stereotype. Some comments were, however, based in fact and personal experience.
“We had a major break in to our home and a vehicle stolen and it took forensics 9 days to fingerprint our home, so that gives you a good indication of how the investigation has gone. Nothing has been followed up and these criminals have no consequences and are getting more brazen.”
Female respondent in Glen Innes, aged 45-54
“I have been a victim of multiple crimes in my life and multiple types/categories of crimes, some were reported either by me or other people in my life, others haven’t been reported, I trust the cops somewhat but not entirely, and as for the courts I think they don’t always give a fair sentence dependent on how the victims or their families actually feel about these lowlifes. When I did pursue one particular crime through the courts the sentence handed down to the guilty party was nothing but a joke, they have gone on to live their life as if nothing happened and I have suffered ever since the crime happened, years and years…”
Female respondent in Guyra, aged 25-34
“The crime in Moree is horrendous. Motorbikes drive down the middle of the streets kicking in car doors as they drive past. The Police can’t or won’t do anything about it. The Moree Plains Shire Council are very corrupt. They are just filling their pockets, won’t let new business come to town. People are scared of home invasions, drug related crimes, arson. I was going to the bank at 9.30am and got hit in the back of the head by a group of young men in their 20’s. They need a new magistrate in Moree. One that lives here and doesn’t travel back to the city.
Female respondent in Moree, aged 54-64
There were multiple comments about the magistrate in Moree being “too soft”.
There were also comments about raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and some comments about holding parents accountable for youth crime.
Thank you to everyone who participated. Our next poll is about how you feel about the election result.
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