Safe as houses Part 2 - Melbourne's Western suburbs

In Keilor East and Keilor the burglary rates are escalating and in Albion, Sunshine, Point Cook and Werribee it is on the rise. Even in Essendon, where the burglary rate has been low, it is beginning to creep up.

These suburbs, part of Victoria’s Western Metropolitan region, saw a massive drop in home burglaries in late 2000, which in the case of Keilor, took the rate from one in 25 homes burgled on average in 1997, to one in 164 homes in 2009. Since then, rates have crept back up to one in 82 in Keilor and one in 50 homes in Keilor East.

The relatively new Williams Landing was the most burgled suburb in 2012, with one in 15 homes burgled on average. There was improvement this year, with the rate dropping to one in 26 homes.

Western Metropolitan Region MLC Cesar Melhem says burglaries in the region can only be understood in the context of the complex diversity of the region.

The factors include population growth, socio-economic diversity, decreasing economic growth, and a locking out of the regional population (particularly the region’s youth) from the local economy.

Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS) chief executive Emma King says there are multiple factors that lead people to being disconnected and turning to crime.
“People are drawn to growth corridors because of cheap house prices or rent, but there is a lack of services, lack of jobs and poor public transport options,” she says.
“Often people are one change in circumstance from falling behind in payments, and increases in utilities or petrol prices has a huge impact on growth corridors.”

Archicentre general manager Cameron Frazer says that visible security can help drive down the burglary rate.
“In some areas such as Sanctuary Lakes Resort in Point Cook, private security guards patrol the estates 24 hours a day,” he says.
However, burglary is a big issue in areas where new estates are being built and there are fewer neighbours around, according to Craigieburn Acting Sergeant Chris Kenny.
“Sometimes people go inside and take the whole bathroom, it’s not a case of everything but the kitchen sink, but the kitchen sink too,” he says.
Chris says burglars often knock on the front door and if no one answers will go around the back, and in some cases the residents are home.
“Even if you don’t want to answer the door, call out ‘who is it?’ and if you aren’t satisfied, don’t open the door. That is a deterrent to burglars,” he says.

RACV general manager home services Peter Brindley says it is important to secure your home if you are either building or renovating.Whether you’re hiring a construction company or building yourself, it’s important to get to know your neighbours early, not just for when you move in, so you can look out for each other.
“Theft from building sites is all too common. It’s important to ensure deliveries are well timed, so valuable items are not left lying around the site unprotected. Appliances in particular should not be delivered and installed until you’re about to walk in the door and move in,” he says.
If you’re renovating or building yourself, it is important to have good security in place right from the start.
“It’s never too early to install a monitored alarm, but make sure you get one designed for the harsh conditions on a building site,” he says.

For the Western Metropolitan Region MP Cesar Melhem says the answer is for a government to be sensitive and informed of the socio-economic and cultural nuances of the region, and offer policies which both engage growth in the local economy and ensure jobs created from the growth go to the regional population.
“It is also critical that we see investment in social infrastructure, such as in public parks, meeting spaces, community centres, and sporting facilities,” he says.
“Naturally, the greater number of social facilities available further discourages anti-social behaviour.”
Cesar says the western suburbs are a great place to live and raise a family, and there are great organisations in the west tackling the factors which contribute to crime, including burglary.  
YouthNow and others who operate out of the Visy Cares Hub in Sunshine, are every day attempting to re-engage our region’s youth with the local economy.”

Brimbank Council director community wellbeing Neil Whiteside said improving safety is an ongoing priority.
“Council is working to improve safety through good urban design, improving the quality of the public realm, increasing activity within the streets and liaising with local police,” he says.
“Council has also been working with the Regional Rail Link Authority to ensure that there are fundamental safety improvements to the Sunshine Station.”

Emma King says there are organisations, such as Good Shepherd Microfinance, doing good things to help people living below the poverty line, or just above it. 

This is the second in a series on burglary statistics in Victoria since 1997. Next is the Northern Metropolitan electoral region, including suburbs such as Broadmeadows, Heidelberg West, Thomastown, Epping, Whittlesea and Hurstbridge.

How does your suburb compare? Search your suburb and find out. Find out more about RACV home security.

In 1997 there was, on average, a burglary every 11 minutes. RACV has been analysing the crime statistics back to this time to inform members about what was happening in their suburbs and to give them some ways to protect themselves and their homes.  The base data, which RACV Home Services now analyses each year, comes from Victoria Police crime statistics, and is matched with the number of occupied houses according to census and local government data.

Written by RACV
November 13, 2016