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Weatherill: Adelaide's safe but not sure

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Adelaide is the safest capital city in Australia, Premier Jay Weatherill told a police conference today.

Despite widespread declines in crime rates, the Premier acknowledged that safety is still one of the principal concerns in the community.

“Crime rates are the area of government policy where reality – even when comprehensively verified by statistics – is the poor cousin of perception,” he told the 2013 Police Association Annual Delegates’ Conference.

“Crime and community safety continues to rank as one the principal concerns in the community.

“In reality, we have an excellent recent record in respect to the reduction of crime rates.

“When compared to 2002, our streets are much safer.”

The Premier quoted statistics that showed victim-reported crime down by 39 per cent, robbery  down 31 per cent, serious assaults by 59 per cent and minor assault down 10 per cent

“These figures are emphatic,” Weatherill said.   “They represent genuine achievement.”

Weatherill quoted a national report released earlier this year that found Adelaide to be Australia’s safest of the nation’s 30 largest cities in respect to crime rates.

“Adelaide had the lowest crime rate at 2,365 incidents per 100,000 people.

“This rate was significantly lower than the next capital city, Hobart, which was the fourth safest of Australia’s 30 largest cities.

“This reality has unfortunately not altered the popular perception that crime continues to rise.

“If perception alone measured our success in tackling crime, we would all be disappointed at the results achieved.   “What we do understand is that statistics can never quantify the personal impact of being a victim of crime.

“In that sense, perception of crime is every bit as important as reality. Confidence is as relevant as experience.”

The Premier said public confidence is at its highest in areas where police are a constant, visible presence – where they make themselves easily accessible, take time to tell people what they are doing to tackle crime in the area, and listening and responding to people’s concerns.

State Liberal Leader Steven Marshall also spoke at the conference and promised his party will change access to South Australia’s drug diversion program if elected to Government in March next year.

Alleged offenders are given the opportunity to participate in a drug diversion program to avoid all charges for simple possession drug offences.

“In the 2011/12 financial year there were 3,400 drug diversions – 2,325 of these had already been through the program once, 339 had been through it twice, 137 had been through it three or more times and one person had been through the program 14 times,” Marshall said.

Under his policy offenders will be limited to participating in a police ordered drug diversion program a maximum of two times.

“We do not support these programs as a “get out of jail free” card for offenders,” he said.

“Unlimited access to drug diversion programs ties up police in paperwork, ties up resources for genuine rehabilitation and encourages serial offenders to avoid sentencing.

“This adds to a series of measures that have already been announced by the State Liberals to reduce the burden on South Australia’s police force, including reducing red tape and paperwork to allow police to get on with their job of policing and a repeal day to repeal outdated legislation.”

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