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The Vanishing Criminal

Causes of Decline in Australia's Crime Rate

Don Weatherburn Sara Rahman



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04 February 2021
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- One of the disheartening observations made about the communities in which we go about our daily lives, is that given the opportunity to commit a crime, more people than you would hope will do so. But, like me, you may also be feeling that crimes such as burglary, robbery and car theft are far less common than once was. This turns out to be true. The levels of these crimes have dropped back, albeit from an alarming spike (pun apology) that ran from the mid-eighties to 2001. My own households experienced two car thefts in that period. 

Here, two authors seasoned in the world of criminology run through the reasons posited for the falls. Sadly, violent crime (assault, domestic violence, murder) have not shown a similar drop, with far more disturbing and lasting effects than the loss of mere property.

The book offers fascinating views over time of the impact of policing (only yesterday, whilst munching my sandwich, I was approached by a police officer as part of Project Servator - a new endeavour) and of social developments such as heroin and 'ice' epidemics, wages, employment and economic well-being, and the role that developments in technology play in the rise and fall of crime. Craig Kirchner


In 2000, Australia had the highest rate of burglary, the highest rate of contact crime (assault, sexual assault and robbery) and the second highest rate of motor vehicle theft among the 25 countries included in the international crime victim survey, which takes in the United States, the United Kingdom and most western European countries.

Then in 2001, Australian crime statistics began to decline. By 2018, rates of the most common forms of crime had fallen between 40 and 80 percent and were lower than they'd been in twenty or in some cases thirty years. Australia is not the only country to have experienced this social trend.

In The Vanishing Criminal Don Weatherburn and Sara Rahman set out to explain the dramatic fall in crime, rigorously but accessibly comparing competing theories against the available evidence. Their conclusions will surprise many and reshape the terms for discussion of these questions well into the future.
By:   ,
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 232mm,  Width: 154mm,  Spine: 17mm
Weight:   486g
ISBN:   9780522877342
ISBN 10:   0522877346
Pages:   1
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Don Weatherburn was director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research for thirty years. He is now a professor at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. Sara Rahman is a researcher at the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, working on impact evaluations of education initiatives. Rahman also worked as a researcher at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.

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