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New data shows African crime wave small, but rising

Thursday April 20, 2017

Rioters during Moomba 2016.  Photo: Twitter/@russmulry
Rioters during Moomba 2016. Photo: Twitter/@russmulry

Revealing new crime data – listing for the first time offenders by country of birth – shows sharp increases in carjacking and aggravated burglaries in Melbourne by Sudanese offenders.

The statistics show car thefts by Sudanese-born offenders rose significantly from 2015 to 2016, from 89 to 155.
Aggravated burglaries almost doubled from 51 in 2015 to 99 in 2016. 

Sudanese-born offenders committed 4.8 per cent of the aggravated burglaries in the state, according to the data. They are second in the list to Australian-born offenders, who commit nearly 80 per cent (1150 in 2015 and 1624 in 2016).
Sudanese offenders make up 2.1 per cent of car thefts and car-jackings.

The community makes up less than 1 per cent of the Victorian population.
According to Abeselom Nega, a board member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, it is the young African offenders who are "visible" and have become a symbol of fears over rising crime in Melbourne.

"There is no doubt fear in the community [exists] about youth crime," Mr Nega said. "I can see there is a rise in some crimes. There are some things that we cannot hide from and there is crime perpetrated by young people from vulnerable communities and that has to be recognised.

"There is no place for criminal behaviour, but one has to look into the underlying issues."

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New Zealand offenders – covering Pacific Islanders who are classed as New Zealand citizens or had moved to New Zealand before moving to Victoria – are also on the rise. They are involved in more aggravated burglaries and car thefts than ever before but, similarly, the proportions are low. 

The data comes from the Crime Statistics Agency, an independent body, and was submitted this week to a federal government committee on migration settlement. 

The committee is chaired by Jason Wood, the Liberal MP for LaTrobe in the outer south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Two nearby councils – Casey and Cardinia – have both also made submissions to the committee. Cardinia's submission said it was a new home to growing numbers of "humanitarian entrant arrivals" from sub-Saharan Africa and that crime among Sudanese children aged 10-17 was higher than among adult Sudanese residents.

Casey's submission said it had the most "high-frequency" offenders (six crimes a year) in the state and more than a third of those lived in postcode 3977 – Cranbourne, Botanic Ridge, Cannons Creek, Devon Meadows and Junction Village.

"Youth migrants experiencing social marginalisation are getting involved in gang activity," Mr Wood, a former policeman, said while launching the committee last year. Both councils said young people from migrant communities in their neighbourhoods had limited access to services, welfare, infrastructure and sports clubs.

The new data shows overwhelmingly that people born in Australia commit most crimes in Victoria – 67 per cent of murders, 71 per cent of rapes or indecent assaults, nearly 90 per cent of "non-aggravated" burglaries and 84.4 per cent of car thefts. 

But Mr Nega said new African communities in Melbourne were highly vulnerable, with the main problems being education and employment. "We have not been able to engage with young [migrant or refugee] people who are struggling at school. They drop out. Education is the only way to engage young people in a truly meaningful way.

"Unemployment is at 40-50 per cent in some African and Pacific Islander communities," he said. "By the time kids reach 17 or 18, they know they have very little chance. They have very little skill, they don't have the language to compete in the market effectively, they can't go to uni or TAFE or become a tradie. It's a hopelessness.

"There are a lot finding it very difficult to get a job and I am even talking about the African kids who have gone to uni and do the right thing for themselves and for their families. They are struggling, too," Mr Nega said.

Their parents, as well, can become "disengaged" through lack of work and discrimination.

"There are some who leave to go back to where they came from. There is frustration at their inability to get a job.

"If a man becomes dependent on income support there is humiliation. They can't face their children. They lose their dignity. Their kids say to them: 'What about you, mate? You're telling me to get a job but you can't get one.' So they pack up and go."

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