Gunnedah and the New England North West region has one of the highest, post-theft vehicle recovery rates in the state, according to data by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Senior data analyst Dr Alana Cook, who was one of many presenters at last week’s Crime Prevention and Community Safety Conference in Gunnedah, said this indicated the theft was likely “opportunistic” in nature.

“When a car is stolen, it is often recovered by police – not necessarily in a driveable condition, but it may have been used for joy riding or similar,” Ms Cook said. “In greater Sydney we see much lower recovery rates which suggest cars are being stolen for conversion to profit.”

The analyst said understanding what’s driving these behaviours could offer an avenue for intervention.

Worryingly, vehicle theft in the region was 67 per cent higher in the year to March 2023 compared with five years earlier. Furthermore, the number of vehicles stolen in March 2023 was the highest since records began in 1995.

In the same five-year period to March this year, regional NSW has experienced a 179 per cent increase in legal actions against young people in relation to vehicle theft.

Ms Cook said although regional NSW has experienced higher rates of violent crimes and property offences compared to its city counterparts – the data was consistent across the years.

“It’s not a new phenomenon but it is felt more acutely in the regions compared to the metropolitan areas,” she said.

“Violent crimes can be a difficult policy area to intervene. It’s impacted by educational outcomes, intergenerational disadvantage, employment opportunities – it’s bigger than a simple fix.

“There is a path out of this but it’s not clear. It requires a lot of systems and resources.”

The data also shows a 10 per cent increase in young people coming into contact with police across regional NSW and 30 per cent in the New England North West region alone.

The most common offence in the region for young people was car theft (15 per cent), followed by non-domestic assault, then break and enter.

BOSCAR provides data to local governments, members of the public and academics to support communities understand crime problems, who is committing these offences and where increases are occurring.

Ms Cook said it helps “paint a picture” of crime specific to an area but understanding if the data was the result of increased prevalence or increased reporting, can be difficult.

“This is the challenge of using this data – what we are reporting is only what’s been reported to police or detected,” she said.

“Break and enter and car theft are more likely increased prevalence because when someone experiences a crime like this, they are more likely to report it to the police immediately.

“Other offences like family violence, it can be difficult to understand if it’s a reflection of increased prevalence or increased policing.

“We do know police are directing more resources into understanding and supporting victims of family and domestic, and sexual violence.”

It was not all bad news though with some data highlighting the good positive change made in some areas of the crime statistics.

The data showed young people’s contact with the justice system was falling; a trend for most people to “age out of offending” was also continuing and only 49 per cent of actions against young offenders proceeded to court.

“This goes to the importance of diversion programs,” Ms Cook said.

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