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Sexual Assaults Spike, Regional Crime Up Across Most Of NSW

While most crime rates have fallen, sexual assault and crime in regional areas remain a concern in NSW, according to the latest state statistics.

The latest crime data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) showed in the two years to December 2018, 15 of the 17 major crime categories did not rise.

Break and enters and stealing from a person were, on average, down 7.7 percent and 7.2 percent respectively across the state.

Minister for Police Troy Grant welcomed the latest figures, and commended the NSW Police Force.

"Our incredible police officers have worked tirelessly alongside the community to keep crime rates low," Grant said.

IMAGE: NSW Police

However, crime trends weren't as positive in regional NSW.

  • The Far West & Orana reported an almost 30 percent increase in domestic assault;
  • This is largely due to increases in Dubbo and Narromine LGAs (which were up up 64.5 percent and 48.2 percent respectively);
  • The Mid North Coast reported increases in break and enter-dwelling (up 28.3 percent ), steal from vehicle (up 24.2 percent ), steal from dwelling (up 19.4%) and fraud (up 49.9 percent );
  • Coffs Harbour-Grafton also saw significant rises in vehicle theft steal from vehicle, retail theft and fraud.

Don Weatherburn from BOCSAR told 10 daily that regional NSW never got the full benefit of the economic boom that Sydney enjoyed from 2000 until 2010, which may contribute to spiking crime figures.

"There are chronic rates of unemployment and petrol prices are higher," he said.

Weatherburn said a trend of number plate theft to use in order to steal petrol has contributed to growing rates of both fraud and vehicle offences.

"That act is technically a fraud, but it also includes steal from a vehicle so it's getting recorded and captured both ways," he said.

Sexual Assault Trends

Looking over a five year period, sexual assault statewide is up by 3.9 per cent and indecent assault (act of indecency and other sexual offences) is up by four percent.

In the past 24 months, the number of incidents of indecent assault and other sex offences recorded in Baulkham Hills and Hawkesbury rose by 59.5 percent -- from 84 to 134 incidents.

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Weatherburn said in May 2018 the number of these offences increased significantly. He says it's not uncommon for this to be the result of a single offender.

"A particular individual could be charged for multiple offences so while the numbers grow quickly, it could be that the single individuals has offended numbers times," he said.

Possession Of Drugs

Meanwhile, the number of arrests for cocaine possession and use rose by more than 23 percent. Sydney's eastern suburbs and inner city were once again the two major hot spots.

READ MORE: Australia Has A Cocaine And Meth Problem, U.N. Says, As Drug Deaths Spike

A Sydney suburban lab making ice. IMAGE: NSW Police

The number of recorded possession and use of amphetamines rose by 9.7 percent. Grant said the statistics relating to drug possession remain a concern and he acknowledged the challenges ahead.

Illegal drug use is a significant problem and a scourge on our society, Grant said.

He said a recent boost in Region Enforcement Squad resources would help address drug possession numbers.

Weatherburn said that -- unlike heroin nearly two decades ago --  regional NSW has a bigger ice problem than Sydney.

"This is another part of the reason we are seeing the crime rates we have in regional areas," he said.

Election Promises To Tackle Crime

In February the NSW Labor opposition pledged to spend $80 million over four years upgrading security at police stations statewide. It's also promised an extra $12 million funding for a rehabilitation program to assist injured officers if it wins government.

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In November, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced her government would spend $583 million over four years to hire an extra 1500 police, saying it represented the single biggest increase for the force in more than 30 years.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au