Can crime statistics lie?

In the third and final episode of our series on safety, we look at perceptions of crime. Are there really more bad people out there today or are we misinterpreting the data to create a risk-averse culture?

Statistics and the media’s selective use of figures play a large part in how confident we feel about our safety. We are told, for example, that Alice Springs is the murder capital of Australia and that sounds pretty scary until we learn that almost all violence happens not on the street but at home. Definitions of crime also change over time. In the 1930s, the town jail filled up with Aboriginal people breaking a law about being in the town centre. The crime statistics shot up but by today’s standards, you wouldn’t call that a crime at all.

Broadcast: Tuesday 6 November 2012 at 5.30pm on 8CCC Community Radio 102.1FM

Repeated: Friday 9th November at 9am and Sunday 11th November at 5.00pm

Producer:  Megg Kelham

References used to compile this program include:

Brent Davis and Kym Dossetor: “(Mis)Perceptions of Crime in Australia”, edited by the Australian Institute of Criminology, July 2010

“Listen to Our Yarns: Audio Tour Old Timers Traeger Museum”, available from

Kelham, Megg, 2005, Oral History Interview with Marjorie Gook, conducted for the Ghan Preservation Society; copy also held in the Northern Territory Archives Service

Kerr, J.S., 1988. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Australia’s Places of Confinement 1788-1988, Sydney, S.H. Ervin Gallery in association with the Australian Bicentennial Authority

Northern Territory Archives Service:

F110: Gaol and Labour Prison, Alice Springs Register of Prisoners.

F257: Alice Springs Police Station, charge books 1929-1969

NTRS 2313: Oral history reference copy compact discs for use in Alice Springs

CD 604, Dora McLeod; CD 612, Fred McKay; CD 13, Kevan Weaber

NTRS 3164: Electronic (wave) preservation recordings of oral history interviews, 2005-ct, Mona Haines, item 9

Police Station, Alice Springs F70, Correspondence files, annual single number series, 1950-1955

Northern Territory Government: Facts Sheets – NT Quarterly Crime & Justice Statistics, Issue 32, June Quarter 2010