Introduction Scope of the Inquiry – History and Background
The Inquiry Process
The Committee has embarked upon an extensive research process in order to
◆ Examine the nature and extent of crime in the Melbourne CBD, Docklands, Southbank, and selected areas of East and West Melbourne from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 2000.
◆ Identify any emerging crime trends in the Melbourne CBD, Docklands, Southbank, and selected areas of East and West Melbourne.
◆ Provide insight into the print media’s portrayal of crime-related issues during this period.
◆ Determine the potential effect that media portrayals of crime levels in the city may have on the community’s perceptions of levels of local crime and safety.
◆ Examine the various strategies that government and non-government organizations have implemented to counter and prevent crime and promote safety in the area.
In conducting the Inquiry, the Committee has undertaken an extensive review of the literature on crime and safety in the Melbourne CBD and comparable cities, crime perception studies, and media reportage of crime. The Committee has sought to canvass the issues and receive input from as many individuals, agencies, and organizations with a stake or interest in the issue as possible. As part of this process, the Committee has called for and received submissions from the community, sought expert opinions, spoke to key stakeholders, and held public hearings. A detailed analysis of official crime statistics recorded by Victoria police has been undertaken along with an examination of The Age and Herald Sun’s reportage of crime in the Melbourne CBD.
Local visits and inspections
The Committee made a number of site visits/inspections and held meetings with key organizations during both this Inquiry and the Committee’s Inquiry into Public Drunkenness.14 These visits provided opportunities for the Committee to observe crime prevention strategies in the Melbourne CBD and experience at first-hand problems arising for crime control and prevention strategies. Members also individually observed the ‘trouble zones’ to ascertain for themselves the degree to which these areas presented an actual threat to the community’s safety or created the perception that this could be the case.
Analysis of Victoria Police official crime statistics
An analysis of official crime statistics recorded by Victoria Police for the Melbourne CBD from 1995–2000 was undertaken. The methodology used for this aspect of the research is detailed in Appendix 4. This study utilized unit record data from the Victoria Police Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) database. While it is acknowledged that official crime statistics have their limitations,15 they are the best available time-series measure available. A review of newspaper reportage of crime in the Melbourne CBD A detailed content analysis of newspaper crime reportage in the Melbourne CBD, Melbourne West, Southbank, and the Docklands was conducted.16 This analysis reviewed all copies of The Age and Herald Sun newspapers between 1 January 1995 and 31 December 2000.17 The Committee also conducted a comparative analysis between the above newspaper crime coverage and the official Victoria Police crime statistics for the same period.
Calls for written submissions were published on 14 April 2001 in the Herald Sun, 21 April and 1 May 2001 in The Age, and 17 April in the Melbourne Leader. Print media and radio interest also alerted the public to the Inquiry. Letters inviting submissions to the Inquiry were sent to key agencies in Victoria. In all, the Committee received 10 submissions.
The Committee conducted Public Hearings on 28 May 2001 and heard evidence from 12 witnesses.12 These Hearings provided the opportunity for key stakeholders and interested individuals to present their views on crime trends and safety issues in the Melbourne CBD and comment upon the impact of newspaper reporting of crime, crime rates, and personal safety issues within the Melbourne CBD.