A qualitative and quantitative analysis of the relationship between community cohesiveness and rural crime

1 Jan 2000

Crime in rural Australia has been a little studied phenomenon. A two-part comprehensive analysis of crime in rural Australia, sought to address the neglect of research into this important issue. In part one, quantitative analyses of census data and crime rates across 122 rural Local Government Areas (LGAs) in New South Wales, highlighted the extraordinary diversity amongst rural communities in Australia. Crime rates were found to be clearly related to social structures that varied across identifiable types of geographic locations. Based on analyses of demographic variables, it was apparent that factors that imply greater community cohesion and integration were linked to less crime. Conversely, communities with lower cohesion and integration had more crime. Theories of social disorganisation proved to be a suitable orientation of organising and interpreting these analyses.

In Part Two, qualitative analyses complimented and supported the quantitative analyses. Case studies were conducted in four rural communities which were differentiated according to their social, demographic and crime profiles revealed in the quantitative analysis. Residents' perceptions of the incidence and types of crime and other social problems experienced in each region were compared. Factors that intervened between the success or failure of the residents to cope with crime, were explored. More cohesive and integrated communities experienced less crime. Their residents perceived fewer community problems and were more involved with overcoming social problems that occurred in them. Conversely, more fragmented communities had more crime and other social problems. There appeared to be no real evidence of fear of crime amongst rural residents. Unemployment and the loss of services in rural areas were their primary concerns. Crime was generally regarded as a consequence of these social problems.

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