For the past few months the capitalist press has bombarded us with stories about alcohol-fuelled street violence in Australia’s major cities. Socialists accept that crime and late night anti-social behaviour is a problem in many areas. We wholeheartedly understand people’s concerns.
After all it is working class people that are most likely to be victims of anti-social behaviour and therefore they are rightly worried about safety on our streets. However if we are serious about reducing anti-social behaviour we first need to look at the facts and understand the reasons why it occurs.
The first point to make is that according to the latest police statistics, crime in many major cities has actually decreased. For example statistics released by the Victoria Police earlier this year show that crime has gone down for the last eight years running.
The overall crime rate has now fallen 25.5 per cent since 2000/01. While assaults have risen by 5.4 per cent in 2008/09, half of the increases were related to family violence and not street violence.
There has been a statistical increase in public behaviour offences but even the Police Commissioner Simon Overland admits that these increases are due to increased enforcement and the introduction of Penalty Infringement Notices for a range of minor offences.
In a nutshell there is no evidence to suggest a real increase in street crime or anti-social behaviour in the city centres. While the capitalist media has been happy to run an unsubstantiated fear campaign about working class anti-social behaviour, criminal activity carried out by the capitalist class continues to go unreported.
The theft of workers wages, big business tax fraud and people being killed at work due a negligent bosses are much less important than drunken youths according to the mainstream papers. Even the pubs and nightclubs who profit from selling excessive amounts of alcohol have mostly avoided criticism.
Most commentators have also failed to look at the root causes of crime and alcohol fuelled violence. Studies have shown that the biggest factors likely to trigger violence and criminal activity were prolonged economic deprivation, family stress, school exclusion and drug or alcohol abuse. All of these issues effect working class people disproportionately and are getting worse as a result of the economic downturn.
It is clear that the best way to undermine crime and anti-social behavior is to improve people’s living conditions. Unfortunately government policies are perpetuating a system which will let more people fall into poverty. ‘Anti-social’ policies like cuts and privatisation continue unabated under both State and Federal governments.
All of the main parties are united in their calls for a law and order approach to the ‘problems’. Many papers are urging governments to put more police on the streets while some states like NSW have introduced new laws against public drunkenness. Local laws are also being considered by some Councils in Victoria.
New laws and more police on the streets do absolutely nothing to undermine the conditions which lead to crime and anti-social behaviour. The law and order approach is more about shifting responsibility for social problems onto ordinary people. Socialists argue that those who determine the quality of housing, schools and healthcare should take responsibility for the social problems that exist.
A program of investment in public services would be much more effective at reducing anti-social behaviour and crime than law and order. Free 24 hour public transport in the city centres would be a good start as it would ensure people could get home quickly and safely. Other options like providing free quality entertainment for young people in the suburbs should also be implemented.
But ultimately if we are to seriously reduce crime and anti-social behaviour it will be necessary to build an alternative form of society. A socialist society that can meet the needs of all and eradicate poverty and alienation would be the best way to cut across drunken behaviour and the many other social problems that exist.