More than one kind of crime

With the federal government now in the crime-fighting business, the prime minister should be encouraged not to restrict her fledgling crackdown on crime to the metropolitan suburbs.

In Tamworth, we have been complaining about crime for years. The crime statistics continue to rise, and despite more police, residents say their city is still not safe.

Law and order always makes a good election issue, and there is probably a tinge of electioneering in the prime minister’s push to clean up the streets of western Sydney. 

Ms Gillard has instructed the Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, to investigate ways to reduce suburban violence and to explore the limits of the federal government’s legal and constitutional responsibilities in combating crime.

But any federal involvement in crime fighting should not be restricted to violence – that is only one issue on a long list of episodes which are impacting on the safety and wellbeing of communities.

Crime does not stop at the Blue Mountains, and if Ms Gillard is serious about combating crime her campaign needs to focus on all the trouble spots.

Any campaign needs to be genuine, and there is already speculation this intervention is about winning votes and not locking up crooks. At this stage the prime minister has not released any details of what the federal government might be able to do, but there will be a limit.

It can provide funding to the states to invest in crime prevention and crime fighting initiatives, but it does not have the resources or the authority to tackle issues head-on.

The federal government’s elected representatives in western Sydney are vulnerable with polling suggesting some seats could fall to non-Labor candidates at the election later this year.

The escalation in the number of drive-by shootings and other incidents of gun crime in some Sydney suburbs is alarming. It is, however, up to the NSW Police Force to investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of gun crime.

The bigger issue for the federal government is investigating what’s behind the deterioration in lawful behaviour. What’s driving the rising crime rate? Is it drugs? Turf wars over drug territories and markets and are the drug-dependent committing crimes to feed their habits?

If illicit drugs are the root cause of the problems then addressing the drugs trade at a national level needs to be the federal government’s priority, not motherhood statements about wholesome intentions.

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