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Aim: To analyse the trends in crime clear up rates and methods of proceeding against offenders over the decade from 2007 to 2016 in New South Wales (NSW).
Method: Data on criminal incidents cleared by police within 90 days of being recorded and data on persons of interest proceeded against by police were extracted from the NSW Police Force Computerised Operational Policing System (COPS). Kendall’s trend tests were run on the annual clear up rates and number of offenders proceeded against for murder, domestic and non-domestic assault, sexual assault, indecent assault, acts of indecency and other sexual offences, robbery, break and enter dwelling and non-dwelling, motor vehicle theft, steal from motor vehicle and malicious damage to property.
Results: Clear up rates have increased substantially across many key offence categories over the last decade. Of the offences investigated, the largest change in clear up rates was for robbery (up 16.4 percentage points) followed by malicious damage to property (up 8.1 percentage points). There were also increases in clear up rates for stealing and property crimes as well as slight increases for domestic and non-domestic assault. There was no discernible change in clear up rates for murder or sexual offences. With the exception of domestic assault and sexual offences, the prevalence of all of the offences examined declined from 2007 to 2016 and there was a corresponding but smaller decline in the absolute number of offenders proceeded against for these offences.
Conclusion: Clear up rates have increased and crime rates have fallen across many key offence categories over the last decade. The combined effect of these patterns is that the drop in court workload expected from associated falling crime rates appears to have been significantly reduced by the rise in the proportion of offenders being brought before the criminal courts. The increased clear up rate is likely to improve public confidence in policing and may help deter future offending due to the increased risk of apprehension.