02a An Overview of Violent Crime

Most crime is not random.  In Australia, the chances of being victimized are low vis-à-vis many other countries.  


There have been a series of international and national studies that compare the incidence of different forms of crime across about 60 countries.  The International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS) was conducted in 1989, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and XXX, and the collated data allow for the calculation of estimates of rates of victimization, variations between segments of populations, proportion of crimes reported and not reported to police, perceptions of risk and some of the ways by which people attempt to protect themselves against victimization (see, for example, van Kesteren et al, 2000).

Because definitions of crimes vary in different countries, it is very difficult to compare the relative safety or ‘dangerousness’ from one country to another.  Further, some differences are due to changes in the way data are recorded and variations in the proportion of crimes that are reported/not-reported to police.  However, homicide rates do allow a relatively unambiguous basis for comparison.  In the table below, the average number of homicides per 100,000 population is shown for a few selected cities in different countries.

Table 1: Homicides per 100,000 population in selected cities; average per year 1999-2001


Tokyo       1.21

Sydney      1.63

Wellington             2.13

Helsinki     2.18

Berlin        2.34

London      2.6

Vienna       2.84

San Francisco   8.10

Moscow                18.38 (derived from Barclay & Tavares, 2001, p. 11)

As can be seen in Table 1, overall, Australia remains one of the safest countries in the world with a homicide risk that has remained comparatively low for many years (For example, the USA has a homicide rate at least three times that in Australia).  For other forms of crime, international comparisons are more difficult.  While aggregate data allow comparisons between countries, there are also marked variations in risk within countries between different localities/towns/suburbs etc.