MONASH citizens have expressed growing concern over an increase in violent crime, but research shows their fears may be largely overblown by “sensationalist” reporting.
A recent study found that crime is now the number one concern for Victorians, and a Monash-specific assessment concluded that feeling safe was a “top priority” for the community. However, the general perception of safety in Monash has declined in recent years; one survey revealed just 58% of people felt safe walking at night compared to 73% in 2011. This perception has dropped yearly, even though Monash ranks safer than 68 of 75 Victorian suburbs, and has a crime rate of below average.
“Despite these statistics, many local people are fearful of crime and this is affecting their quality of life,” said Monash Mayor Rebecca Paterson.
Our own survey revealed just 35% of Monash residents felt equally safe today as they did five years ago, with violent crime being their predominant fear. Most cited the media as the primary reason for their answer.
A recent brawl in Glen Waverley was labelled by several news outlets (such as Channel 9) as an “Apex gang” incident, despite police dismissing the links early on. Another report following the fight said residents were told to “stay indoors“, though police said nothing similar. Mayor Paterson said such reporting creates “unnecessary anxiousness”.
“For media outlets to report unfounded claims in such a situation where Victoria Police dismissed them and is undertaking an investigation is irresponsible and sensationalist,” she said.
“You see it on the news and it looks shocking,” said Chen Lim, an employee at Century City Walk, where the brawl occurred. “It’s just unexpected.”
Monash’s crime rate has risen in recent years, though most of the offences contributing to its rise are non-violent, with theft and drug crimes forming the brunt of the increase. Violent crimes such as rape and homicide have declined. Police previously stated that “a handful of people” had committed numerous crimes such as tap-and-go offences, which “forced up” the crime rate.
A new Monash Community Safety Innovation Board was established in February, composed of representatives from Victoria Police, Council, Monash University, and the Department of Justice. Mayor Paterson said its purpose is to “ensure residents feel safe in their own homes and neighborhoods”.
“The Board will spend about six months researching safety issues in the area and develop recommendations for an innovative approach which improves safety on-the-ground, while also tackling unfounded fears,” she said. “We will continue to work with Monash residents to improve community safety, and perception of community safety.”
Victoria Police declined to comment.