Does Mortgage stress leads to crime?
November 24, 2007 7:11am CST
SYDNEY'S Bible belt is known for its McMansions, aspirational voters and enthusiastic church-goers. But the conservative, affluent Hills District is also in the grip of a crime wave - and mortgage stress may be behind it. Over the past four years, Baulkham Hills Shire has experienced rising rates of violence and robbery. Domestic violence has risen by almost 20 per cent, assault is up by almost 10 per cent and harassment by 23 per cent. There have been five murders in the past two years; there were none in the five years before that. Earlier this year, a massive liquid ecstasy seizure was made at Castle Hill Industrial Estate, and in September two eight-year-old girls were sexually assaulted behind a basketball stadium in the Fred Caterson Reserve. Figures from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research also show a rise in the number of break and enters, malicious damage, breaching of bail conditions, stealing from motor vehicles and cannabis charges in the four years to June 30. Baulkham Hills Shire has been one of the fastest-growing in the country, and has experienced a massive development boom. Businesses have moved to centres such as Norwest Business Park, and the M7 has improved access. Murray Lee, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Sydney, said this growth could be fuelling the crime wave. Between 2001 and 2006, 30 per cent of the population moved from elsewhere, changing the demographic. Many families in the area are also struggling financially, which can influence domestic violence statistics. "What you have in the Hills District is more people paying more off home loans than the rest of Sydney," Dr Lee said. "You've got 50 per cent of home owners paying more than $2000 a month off a home. That's at least 10 per cent more than the average. I'm not saying it's causal, but I think it's an interesting figure." The Local Area Commander, Superintendent Sue Waites, also suggests a link between financial stress and domestic violence. She also attributes the violence to greater use of recreational drugs and possible mental health issues arising from drug abuse. Domestic violence problems could also be fuelling the 23.2 per cent rise in harassment, threatening behaviour and private nuisance charges. "[Incidents] include sending inappropriate text messages to persons via mobile phones," she said. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/11/23/1195753310068.html