Monday, 22 January 2018

This is what happens when you read news reports generated by right-wing politicians

“Victorians are “scared to go out to restaurants” because of “African gang violence”, Peter Dutton has said, in an interview attacking the supposed lack of deterrence of crime in Victoria. The home affairs minister told 2GB on Wednesday that Victorians were “bemused” when they looked “at the jokes of sentences being handed down” due to “political correctness that’s taken hold”. “There’s no deterrence there at the moment,” he said. The federal Coalition government and Victorian opposition have stepped up rhetorical attacks on the Andrews Labor government using a string of high-profile incidents to claim that “African street gangs” are on the rise because certain nationalities such as Sudanese are over-represented in statistics – although crime overall is in decline. The Victorian deputy police commissioner, Shane Patton, has reassured the public the police are taking youth crime seriously and said that “networked criminal offenders” are not technically “gangs” because they lack any organised structure.” [The Guardian, 3 January 2018]

The reality is, people are scared to go out to restaurants of a night-time because they’re followed home by these gangs.”
“We just need to call it for what it is… African gang violence.”
Mr Dutton tells Chris that if people aren’t prepared to integrate, then “frankly they don’t belong in Australian society”.
“If people haven’t integrated, if they’re not abiding by our laws, if they’re not adhering to our culture, then they’re not welcome here.” [Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton,  4BC News Talk, 3  January 2018]

During this December 2017 to February 2018 Australian Parliament annual recess it was hard to miss the political meme being generated by Messrs. Turnbull and  Dutton.

It was one of ‘Shock! Horror! Crime and violence!’

Lest we were in any doubt of the – ahem – perilous situation the nation finds itself in, the meme was quickly reduced to black violence – perpetrated  by foreign ‘others’.

The state that these politicians have chosen to place under the spotlight is Victoria and the ethnic group identified as Sudanese.

So it is no surprise to find that recent polling now shows a strong belief that youth gang crime has increased over the last few years, that it needs addressing as a matter of importance and, that this belief is highest amongst Liberal and Nationals voters in the survey group.

Essential Report, 16 January 2018:

A majority believed that all crimes have increased.
More than two-thirds believe that drug-related crime (76%) and youth gang crime (70%) have increased – and about half think they have increased a lot.
Those more likely to think youth gang crime has increased were Liberal/National voters (73%), other party voters (86%) and aged 45+ (83%).

More than two-thirds think that drug-related crime (72%) and domestic violence (67%) are the most important types of crime for the Government to address.
53% thought youth gang crime was one of the most important. Those most likely to think it important were Liberal/National voters (57%), other party voters (72%) and aged 55+ (60%).

There is a question that needs answering. Is the belief that youth gang crime is an increasing  problem based on fact or fear whipped up right-wing politicians?

First of all the actual number of youth offenders (10 to 17 years) has fallen since 2008-09 when the national total stood at 64,152 individuals.

The total number of youth offenders in 2015-16 was 54,974 or approximately 13 per cent of the entire national offender total.

Of these youth offenders less than 11,000 fell into what could be considered a violent crime category – that’s est. 20 per cent of all youth offenders across the country.

The rate of youth offending is not increasing across the board and has fallen in most of the violent crime categories since 2008-09, with the exception of the non-assaultive sexual offences component of sexual assault statistics.

The majority of youth offenders were born in Australia. This appears to apply to the youth offender population in all states.

There seems to be no national database for youth gang offenders or gang-related behaviour. However, networked youth offending reportedly involves young people from diverse ethnic backgrounds according to a police submission made to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration’s Inquiry into Migrant Settlement Outcomes.

When it comes to Victoria and offender statistics which identify country in which the offender was born, out of the 82,334 total crime incidents in all categories for the 2016 calendar year allegedly committed by offenders of all ages, only 807 were identified as being committed by individuals born in Sudan or less than 1 per cent. Of these only 22 incidents appear to have involved a form of collective behaviour and only 89 incidents involved Sudanese youth offenders.

Quite frankly it is hard to support Minister for Home Affairs and Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton’s rhetoric on violent Sudanese youth gangs based on so small a number.

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