CRIME on the Mornington Peninsula decreased slightly over the past 12 months, despite an almost 24 per cent rise in the number of rapes reported and a 51 per cent jump in sex offences.
Also of concern was a 43 per cent surge in serious drug offences such as trafficking and manufacturing. Growing use of methamphetamine (also known as ice) was highlighted as the most significant drug issue.
The latest Victoria Police statistics for the year to 30 June show the total number of crimes recorded on the peninsula fell 0.1 per cent from the previous year, compared to a 3.4 per cent rise for Victoria as a whole.
The crime rate per 100,000 people was down 1 per cent for the peninsula but 1.6 per cent higher across the state.
The slight drop in crime on the peninsula stood in stark contrast to Frankston, where crime surged 7.6 per cent – almost five times the rate of increase for Victoria as a whole.
However, police said this was due to the increased number of police officers in the area and better enforcement rather than an actual rise in offending.
The annual statistics, which were released last week, show 47 rapes were reported between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013, compared to 38 over the preceding 12 months, an increase of 23.7 per cent, while 210 sex offences not including rape were recorded, up 51.1 per cent from 139 cases the year before.
There was a 10.8 per cent rise in assaults on the peninsula, with 1054 offences recorded compared to 951 the year before, while drug offences increased 16.4 per cent (to 377 from 324), including a 42.9 per cent spike in the number of charges laid for commercial activities such as cultivation, manufacture and trafficking.
Enhanced police search and seizure powers resulted in a 53 per cent rise in the number of weapons offences detected, with 207 charges laid compared to 134 the year before, while theft from shops surged 58 per cent to 354 offences from 224 following an increased number of police operations targeting shoplifting, especially over school holidays.
Leading the decline in the peninsula’s overall crime rate was a 33.3 per cent drop in the number of robberies, with just 26 offences reported compared to 39 over the previous 12 months, while theft from motor vehicle was down 26.7 per cent to 979 from 1335, burglary was 19 per cent lower at 635 from 666, car theft (down 9.5 per cent to 239 from 264) and harassment (54.5 per cent lower at 122 from 399).
Mornington Peninsula police commander Inspector Bryan Sharp welcomed the improved results for most categories of crime, commending the work of his predecessor Chief Inspector Ron Cooke who recently retired, as well as efforts by the community at large to help tackle criminal behaviour.
“I am pleased to say that over the previous reporting period, our community has achieved reductions in most categories of crime and road trauma,” Inspector Sharp said.
“While assaults have increased slightly, robberies have decreased by a significant 33.3 per cent. Property offences including burglary (other), theft of motor vehicle and theft from motor vehicle have also experienced marked reductions, while on the roads, our serious injury collisions are well down, which is also a very pleasing result.”
However, he said family violence remained a serious concern and was largely responsible for the increase in the rate of crime against the person, a category that includes rape, assault and murder.
“Family violence is an ongoing statewide issue that exacts a terrible toll on families and the community. These destructive behaviours will remain a priority for police and support groups.
“The Mornington Peninsula family violence unit will continue to target recidivist offenders and offer support to victims, so I urge all members of our community to speak out against family violence.”
Across Victoria, the total crime rate was up a moderate 1.6 per cent compared to the same period last year, but Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said the 21.6 per cent rise in family violence offences was a growing concern.
“We know that family violence-related crime is significantly impacting on our crime statistics,” Mr Lay said.
“Over the past 10 years, family violence-related crime against the person has increased by nearly 400 per cent. This is mainly due to increase in assaults.
“We don’t think we’ve seen the extent that this horrible crime is having on our community. While we know changes to the way police respond to and record family violence incidents, as well as greater community confidence to report these matters, is pushing up these figures, it’s alarming that such a high volume of crime is being committed in the home and that people are at risk in their own homes.”
He also highlighted an increase of almost 12 per cent (per 100,000 people) in drug offences across Victoria, which was being driven by increased ice and amphetamine use, and said he would be “very surprised” if this was not contributing to the rising tide of family violence.
“Drug offences have been enormously problematic for us in the past 12 months,” Mr Lay said.
“We know there is a significant increase in the use of ice in the community.”