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Sarre, Rick --- "How I Would Spend $100 Million to Reduce Crime" [2017] CICrimJust 6; (2017) 28(3) Current Issues in Criminal Justice 339


How I Would Spend $100 Million to Reduce Crime

Rick Sarre[*]


Governments all over the world are constantly endeavouring to make their communities safer and the lives of their citizens less fearful. Fortunately, their policy-makers have at their disposal a vast array of criminological research findings that have emerged and which continue to emerge from universities and public and private research institutes. For decades now, these researchers have been asking: ‘What is working to reduce crime?’ ‘What could work better?’ ‘What have we not tried, but could?’ Their research reveals that there are many choices when it comes to spending public and private money on initiatives and programs designed to reduce crime and, importantly, that some choices are better than others. Research has shown that, with appropriate resourcing of preferred choices, we can stem the flow of potential offenders (and re-offenders) into the justice system. In this essay, I take 100 million dollars and place them into a suite of initiatives and programs that evidence tells us will deliver the best outcomes for crime reduction in Australia today.

Introduction: Our research record

There is an abundance of research findings that have poured into the literature over the last three decades in Australia and elsewhere. We are getting better at commissioning good research, interpreting the data, evaluating the programs, and suggesting preferred policy responses. We have been developing significant crime data sets. Journals on criminological topics are growing rapidly. Ad hoc papers are regularly prepared not only by university-based scholars but also by government departments, parliamentary research personnel and justice practitioners.

The immediate and relevant question is whether these research outputs make a difference to what happens in practice. This issue was addressed in a paper by Richard Harding over a decade ago in which he asserted that a legitimate purpose of criminological research is influencing policy. Based upon an overview of his career in the field, he concluded:

There has actually been a dazzling array of effective inputs. ... [I]f the integrity and quality of the research are good enough, and the sense of timeliness and social relevance is acute enough, the criminologist can influence policy whatever his formal position in the overall scheme of things and however he chooses to bring his work to public notice [sic] (Harding 2003:483).

I have formed the same opinion. The track record of research-to-policy in Australia is, in my view, becoming more impressive year by year. The ‘what works’ studies internationally have been highly influential in this regard. While there have been valid criticisms of ‘what works’ approaches to crime prevention (see, for example, Sutton 2000:320–22; Cherney 2000), and while we know that nothing works everywhere (Laycock 2014), one can safely say that the ‘what works’ quest has been, and continues to be, a laudable attempt to discern which programs should become the focus of policy-makers’ attention (and government spending) and which ones should not. A notable (and ground-breaking) example was the study undertaken at the University of Maryland over two decades ago (Sherman et al 1997) designed to determine the efficacy of crime prevention programs based upon strict methodological criteria. The Campbell Collaboration was set up to undertake similar tasks (for example, Grabosky 2012). The Washington State Institute for Public Policy is a leading exponent of the art of determining the cost-effectiveness of specific initiatives (WSIPP 2017). The Crime Reduction Toolkit (College of Policing 2013) and EMMIE (Johnson, Tilley and Bowers 2015) are two other examples of vehicles by which public and private researchers are able to inform policy-makers regarding preferred options.

There is good news on the crime front, too. Most crime, especially property crime, is trending downwards in all modern Western democracies (Baker 2013). Indeed, violent crime rates have been declining significantly since the early to mid-1990s (Farrell 2013). In Australia, the results of victimisation surveys from 2008 to 2016 confirm these trends (ABS 2017). National rates for property crime have been steadily declining over the last decade for break-in, motor vehicle theft, theft from a motor vehicle, malicious property damage, and other theft. The proportion of Australian households experiencing malicious property damage fell from roughly one in 10 in 2008–09 to one in 20 in 2015–16 (ABS 2017). However, there are some anomalies. While face-to-face threatened assault showed a general decline, the rates of physical assault, non face-to-face threatened assault, robbery and sexual assault remained stable and are not in decline. On the rise, according to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, is cyber-crime, both cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled (Broadhurst 2017).

At the same time, however, there has not been any decrease in the use of the traditional crime control measures offered by the formal justice system. They have been, and continue to be, adopted with alacrity by governments across Australia (Tubex et al 2015). Governments continue to hire more police, install more prison beds, put in place greater restrictions on bail and parole, and legislate for harsher sentences. There has been a consequential (and dramatic) rise in prison numbers in Australia. Over the last 30 years, Australia’s imprisonment rate has risen from 86 per 100 000 adult population (in 1984) to 208 per 100 000 in 2016 (ABS 2016). We are rapidly heading towards having 40 000 men and women in prisons nationwide, with 30 per cent of them on remand awaiting trial, and over a quarter of them of Aboriginal descent. There may be a temptation for some commentators to conclude that the declining rate of crime has been driven by sentencing trends and parole and remand in custody decisions that has led to unprecedented growth in prison numbers. There are a number of reasons, however, why such a conclusion is fallacious:

1. There has been a rise in the incidence of some crimes. One would expect the deterrent and incapacitative effects of heavy-handed judicial and parole board decisions to apply across all crime types and age cohorts, but that is not the case. Indeed, the opposite may be true. A study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in California in October 2008 found that the age cohorts that showed the biggest increases in imprisonment in that State correlated with the biggest surges (or slowest declines) in violent and felony crime rates (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice 2008).

2. There have been similar crime drops in jurisdictions where the rate of imprisonment has remained stable or actually declined, as in Scandinavia (Sarre 2011, 2017a). Indeed, in Queensland during the period 2005–12 the imprisonment rate fell at the same time as violent and property crime fell.

3. There are many reasons that have been suggested for the drop in crime that have little to do with punitive criminal justice responses and more to do with, for example, economic prosperity, policing strategies, a heroin drought, demographics, enhanced social institutions, and better and cheaper household and business security (Farrell 2013, discussed below).

4. Moreover, economist Ben Vollaard (2012) is of the view that, while longer sentences may reduce the rates of some crime, the size of the crime-reductive effect is subject to diminishing returns; that is, the expenditures on extra prison beds will eventually outweigh any savings brought about by reductions in crime.

I have been reading of, and teaching from, the research evidence for 30 years. I have seen programs and initiatives tested in randomised trials (for example, Sherman et al 1997) and studies using other scientific evaluative tools (for example, Pawson and Tilley 1997). I have emerged from my reading of the literature hardened in my resolve that criminologists have a good story to tell, and that policy-makers are prepared to listen if the researchers are clear and persuasive (Head et al 2014). The message, indeed, is a simple one: formal criminal justice processes, necessary as they may be, are but a blunt instrument in the fight against crime (Tonry 2011). The provision of police and prosecution services, courts and corrections are necessary but insufficient to guarantee citizen safety.

I have become more and more persuaded over the years of the strength of the argument that a safe community is one that is built on trust, equality of opportunity and the development of strong social capital (Putnam 2001). That safety can be compromised quickly if resources are pushed in the wrong direction, and if the spending choices that we make are poorly thought through. I therefore endeavour in this essay to set some financial priorities for governments and non-government agencies to consider in their drive to prevent crime and victimisation.

What I would do with $100 million to spend in the pursuit of lower crime rates

If one is considering the justice processes currently in play in Australia, $100 million is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. In 2014–15, Australia spent over $15 billion on police, courts and corrections (Productivity Commission 2016a), but if we remove the dollars for the civil courts it falls to just under $14.7 billion. Even on these figures, $100 million would be swept up and spent by justice agencies in just over two-and-a-half days.

Interestingly, the $14.7 billion does not include the costs of the Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’) (who police the Australian Capital Territory and offences against the Commonwealth), nor immigration detention centres (in the fight against terrorism), nor funding by private companies and individuals on private security measures (non-government funds), nor the current (and recent) financial commitment of the Australian Government towards the fight against cybercrime and internet fraud (Australian Government 2014). If we were to add these figures, namely the annual budget for the AFP, plus off-shore detention annual costs, plus an estimate of the amount of money Australians spend each year on private security services (based upon Prenzler, Earle and Sarre 2009, and Sarre and Prenzler 2017), along with nominal proportions of the dollars set aside in the 2016 Federal Budget to counter violent extremism, plus the dollars currently funding the Australian Cyber Security Centre and to establish a new Cyber Security Growth Centre (say, all up $20 billion), $100 million would be consumed in less than two days. The Productivity Commission (2016a) has recently estimated the costs of crime at $47.6 billion by adding to the formal justice process costs (above) the actual financial losses caused by crime, along with the services associated with supporting victims. In the context of these numbers, a commitment of $100 million is a ‘drop in the bucket’. Judiciously spent, the savings possibilities are significant.

Below I list the initiatives that I believe should become (or continue to be) the focus of our justice funding. I am highlighting here the ones where I believe the research evidence tells us that we can best operate or intervene most effectively to reduce the pain and suffering associated with crime and victimisation. There are many other avenues that we can take, but the ones chosen by me (and detailed below) are where I am of the view that our priorities should lie.

I am going to ask Australian governments to spend $100 million on top of the current formal justice budgetary allocations in the manner following.

Pre- and post-release programs and prisoner rehabilitation

It is undeniable that in prisons and police cells we find principally those who are economically marginalised and facing labour market uncertainty, and who live under the influence of drugs, poor education or mental illness. When they are released (and more than the current number of our nation’s prisoners any one night this year are released each year), inmates find that many of their problems have been compounded. Prison makes little difference to public safety in these cases, for safety is compromised once angry and frustrated (and usually unemployed) men (95 per cent are men) are freed (and almost all are freed at some stage). We have long put paid to any suggestion that ‘nothing works’ (Sarre 2001). Indeed, there is evidence of good programming (and well-trained program staff) in rehabilitative settings within prisons in Australia, but it remains under-funded (Howells et al 2004; Heseltine, Day and Sarre 2011). Five million dollars should be spent injecting life back into Australian prison-based rehabilitative programs.

Pre- and post-release services are highly beneficial in enhancing the rate of desistance from crime (Halsey and Harris 2011; Maruna 2011; Goldsmith and Halsey 2013; Cherney and Fitzgerald 2014; Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 2012:8), especially where there has been exposure to therapeutic communities prior to release. Five million dollars should be spent on improving accommodation support and employment opportunities for ex-prisoners, with an emphasis on chronic offenders.

Research also tells us that there are high rates of mental illness and cognitive disability (for example, Acquired Brain Injury, or ‘ABI’, and foetal alcohol syndrome) among prisoners (Baldry 2014; Butler et al 2007; Andrews and Baldry 2013). Five million dollars should be spent implementing programs designed to ameliorate the debilitating effects that these illnesses have on the ability of ex-prisoners to rejoin society successfully.

Expanding diversionary and therapeutic models of justice delivery

There have been significant policy advances in the last 30 years designed to promote the diversionary options that have been shown to reduce the likelihood of offenders — including those who are older (Thompson et al 2014) but especially young persons — continuing into the formal criminal justice process (Blandford and Sarre 2009). This shift has been based in large part on the evidence that the probability of an offender returning to the juvenile courts increases as the number of appearances of that offender increases (Harding and Maller 1997; Cunneen and White 2002:78).

A randomised trial convened from 1995–2000 in the Australian Capital Territory showed reductions in violence for youths (under 30 years of age) when they were assigned to a ‘restorative justice’ family conference rather than a court. In the first two years after arrest, violent offenders who participated in conferences had about 50 per cent less re-offending than those who went to court (Sherman and Strang 2007). Another (this time non-randomised) study showed reductions of 15–20 per cent in re-offending across different offence types regardless of the gender, criminal history, age and Aboriginality of the offenders (Luke and Lind 2002).

While some caveats have appeared in the literature, namely that there are stronger effects on the frequency of repeat offending when conferences are used as a supplement to conventional justice rather than as a substitute (Smith and Weatherburn 2012; Sherman et al 2015:20), numerous studies continue to find high levels of victim satisfaction with family conferencing. The research has concluded that such diversionary programs work at least as well as court-based responses at no more cost (Daly 2000). Five million dollars should be spent reinforcing the diversionary programs currently being undertaken in each Australian jurisdiction, including shoring up the delivery of family conferencing.

Allied to diversionary and restorative practices is a concept known as ‘therapeutic’ justice. The research literature tells us that the leading manifestation of therapeutic justice, namely problem-solving courts such as drug courts, Indigenous courts, mental health courts and family violence courts, can have a therapeutic effect upon those who appear before them (Freiberg 2003), even if the evidence of lower recidivism rates in Indigenous courts remains scant (Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia 2013:88). Considering that therapeutic and restorative programs very easily become casualties of governments keen to tout their ‘law and order’ credentials (Sarre 2011), $5 million should be spent reinforcing the therapeutic justice problem-solving courts currently in operation, and supporting the reinstatement of such courts (for example, drug courts in Queensland) that had found themselves cancelled as legacies of political gamesmanship.

Programs designed to improve policing

The evidence is clear and abundant: citizens are more likely to obey the law if they believe that the police are behaving legitimately, that is, in a procedurally fair manner (Tyler 2006). Findings suggest that procedural justice (fair and just processes, along with respectful treatment of individuals) is fundamental to fostering good public perceptions of police and, hence, crime control. On this assessment, when people view the law and enforcers of the law as acting lawfully and being procedurally fair, they are more likely to defer to rules and to police decisions, and to self-regulate (Tyler and Fagan 2008).

These findings are supported by the fifth European Social Survey that was conducted across 28 countries in 2012. The study found that faith in procedural justice exhibited by police is the strongest and most consistent predictor of a ‘felt obligation to obey’, the association being positive and significant in relation to all twenty-six countries for which a dataset is available (Hough, Jackson and Bradford 2013).

Legitimacy theory testing is now well underway in Australia too, and the results are similar to those discussed above (Barkworth and Murphy 2015:270). Moreover, procedural justice is an important predictor of a victim’s satisfaction with the criminal justice system too (Murphy and Barkworth 2014). Police practices that are designed to utilise the results of this research should be taught in police academies, hence $5 million should be set aside for curriculum development, training and implementation of legitimacy practices. This training should not be reserved only for recruits, but should be provided at all levels of policing.

Initiatives and programs that encourage crime prevention partnerships between government and the private sector

A very useful study was published in 2013 by Graham Farrell (Farrell 2013). He examined 15 reasons (hypotheses) that had been offered by various commentators to explain the significant drop in crime, especially violent crime, across the Western world since the mid-1990s. The hypotheses were as follows: general economic prosperity, capital punishment, more guns in private hands, (and the converse) fewer guns in private hands, prison numbers, police numbers, specific police strategies, legalised abortion, programs for inter-ethnic harmony, consumer confidence, lower drug availability, the removal of lead from gasoline, demographics (the last of the ‘baby boomers’ turned 35 in 1995 and thus their law-breaking days were mostly over), better social institutions, and better and more affordable home and business electronic security systems. Farrell then subjected the hypotheses to a series of tests which he devised: the empirical evidence in support; their cross-national stability; any pre-existing trends; their power against crimes that are not decreasing; and their perceived effectiveness across different crimes. He concluded that the only hypothesis that satisfied all tests was the last: better and more affordable home and business electronic security systems. This one is, of course, outside of the hands of the formal justice processes and largely in the hands of the private sector.

I mention this because crime prevention adherents have been devoting a great deal of attention to the worldwide trend to diversification in policing partnerships that are allied with private security operatives and private personnel generally (Prenzler and Sarre 2016). Policing is now increasingly performed by non-governmental participants, with private security companies (and their employees) being the most prominent category (Prenzler and Sarre 2014). Certainly a citizen, when moving around the community in daily life today, is far more likely to be directed, challenged or searched by a security officer than by a police officer. Furthermore, international research has found that privately funded security directly contributes to significant reductions in criminal victimisation (van Dijk 2008:129ff). For example, the fight against cyber-crime has been a site for strong cooperation between national police and the corporate sector (Gill 2013). Indeed, the United Nations (‘UN’) has come on board. It has recommended improved security industry regulation in order to support greater professionalism in policing partnerships. The UN publication Crime Prevention Guidelines includes a useful set of recommendations designed to this end (United Nations 2010:13).

The successes related to public/private crime prevention partnerships in Australia are many. Here are two examples (from Sarre and Prenzler 2017):

• National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council — which brings together federal and state governments, police, insurers and transport and motoring bodies — has reported significant reductions in motor vehicle thefts through a range of strategies including the promotion of immobiliser technology and a ‘U-turn program’ for young offenders (Australian Crime Prevention Council 2012; Prenzler 2013).

• Strike Force Piccadilly, operated by the New South Wales Police Property Crime Squad, was initiated to stop an outbreak of automatic teller machine (‘ATM’) ram raids (and, later, explosive gas attacks on ATMs) that began in the mid-2000s (Prenzler 2009, 2011). The partnership involved convening a committee of representatives from police, banks, ATM operators and retail security. The committee devised an intelligence-sharing system that led to the introduction of a range of counter-measures — including a specialised alarm-response system, ATM relocations and anti-ramming and anti-explosive equipment — that resulted in the virtual elimination of this crime problem.

Governments should invite and reward (by making $10 million available) funding applications that bring together and encourage public and private initiatives that have been shown in pilot studies to have a crime reductive effect. A proportion of this money should be set aside specifically to encourage further work in the prevention of what is loosely termed ‘future crime’, that is, the phenomena for which we are largely unprepared, for example, the disruptive consequences of mass migration driven by climate change.

Indigenous community justice initiatives

There is little doubt that the experiences of Indigenous people in their relationships with the justice system has been, and continues to be, qualitatively different from those of

non-Indigenous Australians. This arose in contemporary Australian society primarily through two main factors: the frontier war colonial heritage, and 200 years of social construction of Indigenous peoples as inferior ever since. Even today, the high number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples coming into police custody continues to grow. Indeed, while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders constitute around 2 per cent of the Australian population, they make up over 25 per cent of Australia’s prisoner population (Tubex et al 2016).

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (‘AIHW’) (2016a), on an average day in 2014–15, there were approximately 5600 young people (aged ten and older) under youth justice supervision in Australia. Fifteen per cent (about 850) were in detention. While rates of supervision decreased over the five-year period for both Indigenous and

non-Indigenous young people, the level of Indigenous over-representation increased. Indeed, only 5 per cent of Australia’s 10- to 17-year-olds identify as Aboriginal, yet they make up 40 per cent of all young people in the nation’s juvenile justice systems (both custodial and

non-custodial) (Guthrie, Levy and Fforde 2014). No change will occur in these figures unless we acknowledge the fact of colonial dispossession and its ongoing consequences for contemporary social exclusion (Blagg 2017). We must incorporate into our justice practices strategies to combat the legacy of dispossession. We must address health care needs, ensure appropriate housing and increase employment opportunities for released Aboriginal prisoners (Kelly and Tubex 2015) and offer services for children of incarcerated Indigenous men and women.

Seven million dollars should be set aside for the specific education (primary, secondary and tertiary) and mentoring of Aboriginal young people, in partnership with Indigenous communities, to enhance their life skills, work skills and, in the process, their prospects of employment. This should include a specific emphasis for children of Indigenous prisoners. Specific strategies that could be reinforced and mirrored have been outlined in the report of the Productivity Commission ‘Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage’ (2016b).

Aboriginal courts made their first appearance in Australia two decades ago. The evidence indicates that such courts make it more likely that those on bail will turn up for hearings and less likely to be ordered to serve custodial remands (Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia 2013:88). The success of Nunga, Murri and Koori courts, especially as a means of addressing the underlying problems associated with Indigenous offending, is undeniable (Marchetti 2014).

Three million dollars should be devoted to the facilitation of Indigenous courts, Indigenous-run justice centres, and night patrols, with an additional focus upon the treatment of those affected by drugs and alcohol, and who suffer from mental illnesses.

Funding for women who suffer as victims of domestic violence

A 12-year National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children was introduced by the Australian Government in 2010. It was designed to drive generational change and rid the country of the scourge of domestic violence. Six years on, a 2016 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that there is still much to be done. For example, in the financial year 2014–15, 106 000 Australians sought help from homelessness services after being forced to leave home as a result of family violence. Almost half were single parents, and more than three quarters were female (AIHW 2016b). Taking one jurisdiction as an example, according to South Australian Department for Correctional Services figures, there are currently in South Australia 103 sentenced and 241 remandees in custody charged with domestic violence-related offences, arising out of 18 600 domestic abuse incidents last year, including more than 6000 aggravated assaults (Novak 2016).

The Women’s Safety Service in South Australia opened in 2016. It assists women who wish to leave violent relationships to put in place protection orders, to arrange crisis accommodation, to undertake counselling, and to receive legal advice. Similar services are run in all jurisdictions. Five million dollars should be allocated for the ongoing work of such services. Another $5 million should be allocated to family violence units, with dedicated officers in every police station in Australia where an assessment has been made that such support is necessary. To assist with this transition, training in the fight against family violence should be given not only to new recruits, but across all ranks of police. This training must be in specific modules, not generic online training modules that police only complete when they find the time (Segrave, Wilson and Fitz-Gibbon 2017). The training should be assisted with an injection of $5 million.

Programs that intercede with protective factors at crucial developmental transition points in young people’s lives

The Australian Pathways to Prevention program has shown that strategies that involve specialists interceding with protective factors (positive interactions) at crucial developmental transition points in a child’s life can have the effect of reducing law-breaking (Developmental Crime Prevention Consortium 1999). According to the researchers, the reinforcement of these effects is dependent upon a community’s capacity to agree on goals for a child’s wellbeing and its ability to mobilise efforts to meet them (Homel, Freiberg and Branch 2015; Homel and McGee 2012).

A longitudinal study in New Zealand revealed something similar. The Christchurch Health and Development Study, a 35-year study of a birth cohort of 1265 children born in the Christchurch region in the mid-1970s, reveals much about the importance for crime prevention of proper social and psychological development of children (Fergusson, Boden and Horwood 2015). Developmental criminology and life-course criminology studies have set out strategies for policy-makers that draw down from this research (McGee and Mazerolle 2015), emphasising that the key is early intervention (Piquero et al 2016). Ten million dollars should be set aside for the purpose of funding community-based strategies, informed by Homel, McGee, Mazerolle, Fergusson and others, that implement programs that enhance the social and mental health of Australian children, with an ongoing commitment to evaluating each step of the way.

Programs designed to prevent child neglect and abuse

Theorists have been exploring for decades the links between social disadvantage and crime. There is now a large and growing inventory of literature that details the criminality wrought by inequality and economic impediment (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009). A study undertaken over ten years in Australia showed that variations in income levels have a greater effect on crime rates than shifts in the intensity of policing or deterrent sentences (Wan et al 2012). There is good evidence in the United States (‘US’), too, of a direct link between child abuse and violent crime, and between school failure and crime (Currie 1998, 2008). Australian studies reveal that children with substantiated records of physical abuse and neglect are more likely to be arrested later in childhood (Weatherburn and Lind 1997, 1998).

A randomised trial conducted a decade ago in the US monitored the progress of children born to mothers with low psychological resources and who were living in highly disadvantaged settings. One group of children received specialist services by nurses. By the age of 12, these children were less likely to engage in substance abuse and suffer mental health problems. Their academic achievement improved (Olds 2008). In a follow-up study (Olds et al 2014), the authors concluded that the program was a promising means of reducing all-cause mortality among mothers and preventable-cause mortality of their first-born children.

Eighteen million dollars should spent on programs and practices that have been shown to be effective in reducing the levels of child abuse and neglect in Australia. Abuse, neglect and family violence are significantly associated with the alcohol and drug dependence of children’s caregivers (Payne and Gaffney 2012), which suggests that there would be great value in implementing programs designed to limit the availability of cheap packaged wine and the placing of restrictions on the number of alcohol licences permitted in selected neighbourhoods (Livingston 2011; Donnelly, Menendez and Mahoney 2015). Moreover, we know that what reduces drug-related harms in the community is a focus on support, on keeping people alive and on access to treatment, not fear campaigns and bolstering criminal justice responses (Lee 2017). Two million dollars should be set aside for the implementation of further pilot programs to test the policy implications of this research.

Public education

Two million dollars should go into public education programs designed to convince Australians that the above priorities will keep them more safe than simply by injecting (or siphoning) the same amount of money into formal justice system processes. Publicly funded advertising is crucial. One can only draw people to the above options (and away from options that promote ‘more of the same but harsher’) if the argument is evidence-based and persuasive.


A final $3 million should be spent on a series of evaluative exercises, placed into the hands of research teams, designed to determine the cost-benefit effects of these expenditures, and to keep abreast of further research findings. Should another $100 million injection of funds continue into the next year? Should the priorities be shifted and, if so, into what programs and initiatives? This process should include training for policy-makers in their general ability to read research, to sift the good research from the poor research, and to engage in the implementation process in accordance with reliable findings.


Decades of valuable criminological research reinforce the clear message that there are preferred paths that need to be taken by communities, by governments, and by private and not-for-profit organisations in the pursuit of more secure communities and lower rates of fear of crime. We now have a large and growing body of criminological literature, datasets and other statistical information that allow us to consider the best options for the delivery of a safe and secure country for a palatable price. Our analyses will allow us to avoid the consequences of governments acting too hastily in the pursuit of being seen to ‘do something’ to allay fear (Ayling 2013; Sarre 2017b).

The literature tells us that we can, with appropriately directed resources, turn broken lives around; we can divert young people from careers in crime; we can do our policing more legitimately and thus more effectively; we can benefit from the pluralisation of the agents of social control; we can enhance training and development of old and new police; we can assist young families to cope with the vicissitudes of life, and we can bring stability to dysfunctional families. By doing so, we will relieve the current levels of victimisation in this country. But that can only happen if we trumpet our successes, acknowledge our limitations, clearly and succinctly communicate our findings, and continue to develop our evaluative capacity.

In short, if accompanied by sufficient political momentum, these modest budgetary allocations will continue to drive down crime rates in Australia for the foreseeable future.


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[*] Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, School of Law, University of South Australia, City West Campus,

228 Hindley Street, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia. Email: Paper delivered at the Applied Research in Crime and Justice Conference, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and the Griffith Criminology Institute, Sydney, February 2017.

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