Around 1 in 20 Territorians were victims of an assault with more than 1 in 20 the victim of a property crime.
When broken down, NT residents have witnessed an uptick in assaults (up 21.3 percent in 2022-23), domestic violence-related assault (up 26.7 percent), alcohol-related assault (up 21.4 percent), and sexual assault (up 24.2 percent).
Property damage, motor vehicle theft, and break-ins were up 10.4 percent over the same period, with 19,337 individual incidents reported.
Around 1 in 20 Territorians were victims of an assault with more than 1 in 10 a victim of a property crime, such as a break-in or theft, during 2022-23.
Crime was relatively stable from 2009, the starting point of publicly available police data, through the end of 2020. However, from 2021 onwards crime has spiked and is currently at 15-year highs.
Cause of High Crime
Homelessness, mental illness, intergenerational trauma, poverty, rising living costs, and the lifting of alcohol restrictions in some Indigenous communities have all been attributed as reasons behind the crime wave.
The lifting of alcohol bans that prevented the sale of grog in Aboriginal town camps and remote communities in central Australia resulted in a surge in crime. These bans were re-imposed in February 2023 following intervention from the federal government.
Criminology expert Professor Ross Homel said inflation is another reason behind rising crime levels, claiming the “combination of family stress, cost of living, and the market for stolen goods is what is at least partly behind that increase in crime that we’re seeing.”
Charles Darwin University Law Lecturer Shelley Eder said that the NT’s crime issue is a social problem, and that “people have grown up in poverty, there’s a lot of mental illness, there’s a lot of things like people being disconnected from school, illiteracy—all those things can contribute to rates of crime.”
Local Territorians are concerned about the antisocial behaviour with local businesses having to fortify their places of work.
Bar and grill owner Cormac MacCarthy who operates out of Palmerston said he has never seen the crime situation so dire and remarked that authorities did not “seem to be doing anything about it.”
Several owners have indicated they would shut down their businesses and leave the Territory if crime was not brought under control.
“There are stories behind these posts of people living in fear, unable to sleep, moving back in with parents, losing their livelihood, suffering with long-term injuries.”
Community tensions recently came to a head following the stabbing death of 20-year-old BWS worker Declan Laverty in March 2023, with the Northern Territory government unveiling several new initiatives in an effort to address public safety concerns.
These measures include providing security guards with capsicum spray, conducting a review of bail laws, granting additional powers to the police, and deploying high-visibility police patrols to address known hotspots.
The proposed increase in police powers were welcomed by NT Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Murphy who said it would “allow police to stop, search, detain and seize anyone suspected of carrying edged weapons, or [any] weapons for that matter.”
He also warned the public not to resort to vigilantism, stressing that “I’d urge people not to take matters into your own hands” and calling police was still the best option.
The Epoch Times has contacted Chief Minister Natasha Fyles and the Minister for Police, Fire, and Emergency Services Hon. Kate Worden for comment.
They have a night patrol service that runs three vehicles, seven nights a week, looking after Aboriginal people in Darwin and Palmerston.