The world’s longest COVID-19 lockdown not just arrested the spread of the virus, but helped reduce assault crime in Victoria too.

The state recorded the lowest rate of physical assaults across the country last year, according to the Productivity Commission’s latest Report on Government Services, which includes both reported and unreported crime.

There were 1486 victims of physical assault per 100,000 people in Victoria in the year 2020-21, marking a 20 per cent decrease from the previous year.

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By comparison, there were 2966 in South Australia, 2560 in Tasmania, 2547 in the Northern Territory, 2324 in Queensland, 1898 in NSW and 1782 in the ACT.

Physical assaults increased from the previous year in SA, Tasmania, the ACT and NT.

Sexual assaults also increased overall, with 536 victims per 100,000 people in Australia last year compared to 325 from 2019-20.

Additionally, the rate of face-to-face threatened assault steadily declined in most states and territories during the height of pandemic restrictions.

The biggest drop in threatened assaults occurred in the NT, which recorded 3166 victims per 100,000 people from 2020-2021 compared to 4363 the previous year.

Property crime, including break-ins, motor vehicle theft and malicious property damage, decreased everywhere with the exception of the ACT and NT.

Break-ins increased by three per cent in the ACT from the previous year, while motor vehicle thefts were up 40 per cent in the NT.

The data also found 89 per cent of Australians felt ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ at home alone during the night in 2020-21.

This dropped to 54.6 per cent when walking locally at night, and dropped further to 32.1 per cent when travelling on public transport at night.

The Productivity Commission uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Crime victimisation survey data. This includes both reported and unreported crimes.

Last year, Victoria Police Acting Chief Commissioner Rick Nugent said the COVID-19 pandemic was a contributing factor in the state’s 12.8 per cent drop in overall criminal offences.

“While the highly unique environment in Victoria last year clearly contributed to the overall decrease in crime, it was incredibly positive to see a reduction in serious offences which impact the community such as home burglaries, robberies and car thefts,” Mr Nugent said.

At the time, he predicted crime would begin to increase again as society opened back up.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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