Australia/US Crime Comparison

In the thread http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=78230 about the death penalty this post caught my eye:

(heavily edited to draw out the bit I was interested in)

Is this correct?

My quick look round on the web located a few things off the AIC (Australian Institute of Criminology http://www.aic.gov.au) and FBI sites. It’s hard to find comparable categories, and the best figures I could find for the US were 1999, but in incidents per 100k of population
Robbery: Aus 127 US 150
Homocide: Aus 1.8 US 5.7
Motor Vehicle theft Aus 702 US 420

So it seems there is more auto theft in Aus, but less murder and robbery. Not exactly evidence of a higher crime rate.

As to skyrocketing levels of crime, the homocide rate is Aus has been pretty much steady as above for 10 years, with minor variations. The rate of motor vehicle crime is flat, and the rate of robbery is upwards gently over the 90’s but down in the last couple of years, but if you take into account rising population both these rates are pretty flat.

Don’t spend too much of your youth looking for straight talk about crime and control. We use the death penalty despite the absence of any discernable benefit. We started the so called “War on Drugs” at a time when drug use was declining. Heck, we blame Mike Dukakis for a furlough program installed years before he was governor. It all makes little sense.

Be careful playing with numbers. You say the rates are rising and the population is also so the rate is flat. The rate is typically in number per 100,000 people so it already includes the effect of population increase.

As you noticed, there are a lot of different crime rates. People play games on which ones to include in order to get the numbers they want. In your case if you combine the three catagories you get Australia a crime rate of 830 per 100k vs US 575 per 100k. It shows a higher crime rate. It’s also meaningless in relation to the death penalty since neither country would execute someone for auto theft.

Actually Starfish I suppose what my post didn’t make clear was that the 1999 figures were in incidents per 100000, but the ten year figure graphs on the AIC site were in absolute terms, not population adjusted.

And in addition, if you roughly compare AIC and FBI figures, it looks as if Aus has a much lower rate overall, but the problem is it was hard to find particular categories of crime that roughly matched, to put in my post.

And I was not seeking to draw any conclusions on the death penalty (if I was, I would have just posted on the original topic, I specifically started a new thread just on this topic for a reason).

And as someone who studied criminology and statistics (a very long time ago, thanks for the comment about youth, Slacker) I do realise that crime statistics are a minefield of misinformation. What surprised me about SPOOFE’s post was the implication that Aus had a distinctly higher rate, and that the Aus crime rate was skyrocketing: allegations I have never heard before.

I have heard others talk about Australia’s jump in crime rates. If you ever find a detailed cite, they show a large percentage change. A change from 1 per 100k to 1.5 per 100k is a 50% increase in crime, but the actual rate is still low.

As I pointed out with your three examples, if you combine them Australia does have a higher crime rate than the US.

My point was that “crime rate” is easy to say and print so it gets reported. You seldom get to see what the actual catagories are or what catagories were excluded.

In my example above the story would quickly get shortened from “crime rates rose 50% in some catagories” to “the crime rate rose 50%”. Which it did, but only in one minor catagory.

Only the reporter will know what numbers are being used.