DV, sex crime reports buck NSW decline

·3-min read

Crime rates have fallen across many categories in NSW but those predominantly committed against women have bucked the trend.

The COVID-19 pandemic wildly disrupted criminal behaviour, resulting in unprecedented falls in crime across NSW, particularly in the volume of property offences, the latest data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) showed.

But reports of domestic violence, sexual assaults and restraining order breaches were higher in the year to June, compared to the year to June 2017, according to data released on Thursday.

"Police reports of domestic assault and sexual offences were already increasing before the pandemic and that hasn't changed," BOCSAR executive director Jackie Fitzgerald said.

Domestic violence trended up 2.6 per cent annually, with a drop in reports during last year's statewide lockdown followed by a sudden return to peak levels in December, the data released showed.

While sexual assault reports were stable over the past two years (6967 in the past year), they have increased about 15 per cent in the past five years.

That is consistent with the longer-term national trend.

Australians reported twice as many sexual assaults per capita last year as in 1993, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.

Breaches of apprehended violence orders (AVOs) in NSW also rose by an annual average of 10 per cent, to 21,769 in 2021/22 - an average of 60 per day.

BOCSAR cautions AVO breaches, like drug offences, are "heavily influenced by policing activity and priorities" and therefore do not necessarily reflect changes in prevalence.

Other offence categories - such as stealing, malicious damage to property and car theft - are trending downwards.

Non-domestic assaults were down 14 per cent on 2017/18 levels, retail theft has not returned to pre-COVID levels while reports of robberies in Sydney have nearly halved in five years.

This week, research commissioned by the NSW Council of Social Services suggested domestic and family violence fuelled by coronavirus restrictions could cost the state economy $14 million a day by 2026.

While NSW has pumped in an extra $100 million per year since the start of the pandemic, support services say per-capita funding is about a third of what Victoria has committed.

"'Today's data is a devastating reminder that more action is required to stop this trend which sees instances of domestic violence and sexual assault continue to increase," Opposition women's safety spokeswoman Jodie Harrison said.

The NSW government says it has pledged to double women's refuges, passed affirmative consent laws to deliver better justice for victim-survivors and will reform domestic violence laws to ensure coercive control is outlawed.

"The Perrottet government has made addressing the issue of women's safety and the prevention of domestic and sexual violence a priority, appointing a dedicated minister and committing a record $687 million (over four years) for a range of initiatives across the sector," Women's Safety Minister Natalie Ward said.

"However, these statistics are a sad reminder that there is still much more to be done, which is why we will continue to work closely with the sector to help prevent these crimes and provide wrap-around support to victim-survivors."

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