Family violence has risen to record levels in Victoria, with protracted COVID-19 lockdowns and increased reporting cited as reasons behind the rise.
The latest figures from the Crime Statistics Agency for the twelve months ended March 31 show that one in five (21 percent) of recorded crimes is related to domestic violence.
These offenses increased from 101,037 to 112,432, which corresponds to 31 additional offenses per day.
The CSA said the 11.3 percent increase was due to increased violations of family violence orders (up 18.4 percent) and frequent assaults related to domestic violence (up 5.9 percent).
Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said the wave of violent crime in the family was likely related to Victorians spending more time at home and more reporting from police initiatives like Operation Ribbon during the pandemic.
“Sure, we have been very focused on proactive policing over the past 12 months, especially during the pandemic, to ensure victims are safe during the lockdown,” he told reporters on Thursday.
The same factors have been attributed to a 17.5 percent increase in drug offenses compared to the previous year.
Shadow Police Minister David Southwick said there was evidence that lockdowns should only be used as a last resort.
“When we see a situation where the most vulnerable people have been locked up, the result is very clear,” the Liberal MP told reporters.
Overall, the number of registered crimes in Victoria and the number of crimes fell by 1.8 percent.
Although pleased with the result, Mr. Nugent said it could have been worse if it hadn’t been for 37,939 fines for violating the Chief Health Officer’s health instructions.
He announced that so far only 25 percent of the fines have been paid, of which about 2,000 have been reviewed and withdrawn and another 2,000 have been brought to justice.
“We know that around 25,000 fines Victoria have defaulted that have not been paid,” added Mr Nugent.
With the abolition of the COVID-19 fines, the total number of crimes fell by 8.8 percent.
This decrease would have been classified as the largest decrease in Victoria crime since the Law Enforcement Assistance Program’s crime reporting database was launched in 1993.
There were also 44,000 fewer thefts, 30,000 fewer home and business break-ins, 5,500 fewer cars stolen, 1,500 fewer people robbed on the street and almost 1,000 fewer serious attacks compared to the last 12 months.
âWe recognize, however, that crime statistics are more than just statistics. They are more than just numbers, âsaid Mr Nugent.
“They refer, for the most part, to the victims who have affected many months and years and sometimes a lifetime.”
Mr Nugent admitted that preventing crime rates from rising would be a difficult task as restrictions continue to relax after the fourth lockdown.
“(We) are working much more closely with the community, examining the hardening of targets and how we can prevent a return to pre-COVID crime levels,” he said.
“But we also know that the more people return to their normal lives after COVID, the more this will be a challenge.”
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Australian Associated Press