Australia: Queensland violent crime soars in pandemic

Queensland Police dealt with a surge in violent offences in 2021/22 as overall crime dropped. Credit: AAP

By: Robyn Wuth and Fraser Barton/PerthNow

Rates of violent crime including domestic violence, rape and assault are soaring in the Australian state of Queensland.

COVID-19 and its attendant restrictions have lowered the incidence of some offences, but statistics for the 2020/21 financial year released by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office on Thursday show a significant increase in violent crime.

The report showed domestic violence offences reported to police have jumped to 39,871 – an increase of 17.1 per cent.

Over the last decade the number of DV breaches has skyrocketed – more than doubling with an increase of 213.6 per cent.

The number of offences against the person increased from 37,960 in the previous year to 45,687 in 2020/21, an increase of 20.4 per cent.

Across the state, assaults increased by more than 24 per cent, while sexual offences spiked by more than a fifth.

In more positive news, data also revealed an almost 25 per cent decrease in homicides, while robbery offences were down 11.6 per cent.

The spread of COVID-19 played a significant role in those reductions, with restrictions including border lockdowns, quarantine and business closures helping lower the rate of some offending from March 2020 when the pandemic was declared.

As Queenslanders grappled with their highest level of COVID-19 restrictions in April 2020, the overall crime rate in the state fell to a low of 728.7 offences per 100,000 people – 25.8 per cent lower than in January 2020.

“The imposed restrictions and containment measures had an immediate and noticeable impact on levels of criminal activity,” the report said.

The overall crime rate in 2020/21 dropped by more than 12 per cent on the previous year.

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the statistics reinforced the work carried out by officers across the state.

“In the past two years, an extraordinary amount of work has been targeted towards youth crime, and we can see that reflected in the decrease in unique offenders,” the commissioner said.

“However, we know there is more work to be done, and the QPS remains committed to keeping communities safe.”

Police Minister Mark Ryan said that while any criminal offence was unacceptable, police remained dedicated to preventing and disrupting crime.

“For every crime there is a victim and even one instance of crime is one too many,” the minister said.

Outback Queensland had the highest rate of crime across the state, with roughly 22,500 reported offences per 100,000 people.

Townsville topped the crime table in coastal, city and regional centres, with reported offences per 100,000 people at nearly one in seven.

Figures released by the state opposition show that in the last month Townsville experienced an average of 10 homes and businesses broken into every day, and two cars stolen.

“It’s got to stop,” Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said on Thursday.

“You can’t have this amount of homes, businesses, cars, livelihoods ripped apart and not demand action.”

Burdekin MP Dale Last said the figures made for horrifying reading.

“Behind every single one of those stolen cars, or break-ins, is a victim,” he said.

“I’m continually receiving calls from these victims, their families, terrified kids can’t sleep at night … they’re at their wit’s end.”