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Crime in Redfern a result of outsiders not locals

Redfern has a bad reputation for crime but residents are not the ones committing them; it’s their friends reports Una Butorac in City News on 22 September 2011.

Statistics from the NSW Bureau of Crime show over three-quarters of property crimes in Redfern are committed by offenders from other suburbs visiting services, friends or relatives in the area.

Colin Campbell, from the Australian Institute of Criminology, said: “With acquisitive property crime it is very unusual that [the offender] is not from the neighbourhood.”

Mr Campbell said an offender committing property crime usually lives within two kilometres of the target.

The Redfern Waterloo Community Safety Plan March 2004 report revealed Redfern’s recidivist offenders and drug supply may be attracting offenders from other suburbs into the area.

But Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR), Don Weatherburn, said: “Drugs may be an attraction but the drug market in Redfern has shrunk dramatically over the last ten years.”

Dr Weatherburn said it is likely offenders are from surrounding neighbourhoods which are walking distance from Redfern.

“Many may go through Redfern to catch the train, go shopping or hang out.”

Spokesperson for Redfern community group REDWatch, Geoffrey Turnbull, said public facilities also bring people from other suburbs into Redfern.

“[There is] a number of Aboriginal services that operate in the area and there are people who come into Redfern to meet up with family.”

Offenders may not be coming to Redfern to commit crimes but opportunities crop up once they arrive.

Centre Manager of the Designing Out Crime research centre, Rodger Watson, said: “Property crimes are often of an opportunistic nature.”

BOCSAR counts break and enter, stealing, motor vehicle theft and fraud as property crimes when conducting their statistics.

According to the Redfern Waterloo Community Safety Plan report, high density of housing plans in Redfern gives residents and visitors easy access to a large number of premises in the suburb. This therefore provides an increased opportunity for crime.

Mr Turnbull said: “A lot of crime that’s taking place is taking place in units.”

Dr Weatherburn said surrounding industrial and residential areas may also increase the opportunity for crime.

“There may be more opportunity for retail theft, stealing from a motor vehicle and stealing motor vehicles in Redfern.”

The Redfern Brand Study Report conducted by REDWatch found the perception of Redfern was still negative, although changing:

“The perception of Redfern . . . may be quite fluid, with expectations of continuing enhancement or improvement,” the report wrote.

Mr Turnbull said Redfern residents have worked hard to clean up the image of their suburb.

“There has been a significant change in Redfern. There is lots of resilience in the community.”

 By Una Butorac