RECENT statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology show that teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 are the most dangerous group within Australian society, with young Australians the worst offenders of serious violent crimes including assault and abduction.
The figures, included in the annual Australian Crime: Facts & Figures report, revealed that the level of assaults in the 15-19 age range was 886 per 100 000 people according to 2011 figures. This statistic represents over ten times that of the assault rate for Australians between the age of 55 and 59, which stands at 85 per 100 000.
Sexual assaults were most commonly committed by 15-19 year-olds, with this group committing 64 offences per 100 000 people. Robberies and extortion were also largely committed by younger Australians, with the report showing that those between 15 and 19 committed 115 offences per 100 000 of the total population.
Demographer David Chalke said that there were several factors that were impacting upon the higher rate of violent crime amongst Australia’s youth population. He highlighted increased alcohol availability, the over-use of video games and unstable family dynamics as potential causes for the alarming statistics.
Mr Chalke said: “If you go back 20 years, the availability of alcohol was much less. It was a lot harder for under 18s to get booze. Now it’s a whole lot easier for them to get juiced up and that may be a significant contributor. Video games have also created a culture where violence is the norm.”
Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare said that initiatives were being put in place that had made some progress in tackling serious crime, however admitted that the Australian Institute of Criminology statistics showed that there was still “a lot more work to do” before the government could claim that it had made a significant impact on the national crime rate.
Mr Clare said: “The Federal Government recognises the need to support young people who are at risk of falling through the cracks of society and putting them on the right path and this is why we have invested $40 million into a National Crime Prevention Fund which allows local communities to work together to recognise local problems and develop local solutions.”
Earlier this week Mr Clare rejected the notion that the government would tax violent video games in response to comments made by American Vice Presient Joe Biden, in which he said that he could see “no legal reason” why games like Mortal Kombat could not be taxed. Mr Clare recently announced the implementation of a criminal asset forfeiture scheme, with $10 million of the money seized destined for youth outreach programs across the country.
Father Chris Riley, whose ’Youth off the Streets’ organisation has been named as a recipient of federal funding, said that many social problems in Australia could be traced back to a lack of engagement between young people and their local community.
Fr Riley said: “It is just so easy to do, kids are so easy to engage, we don’t engage our kids in these suburbs, it’s not magic, we employ young people from the area, they may have troubled pasts, and they are leaders in their communities.”