Link to reports summary:
- NSW Recorded Crime Statistics quarterly update March 2021
- Why did sexual assault reports spike in March 2021?
Latest crime statistics released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) show a sharp and unexpected jump in sexual assaults reported to NSW Police in March 2021. Police recorded 940 sexual assaults in March 2021; 300 more than in February 2021 and 61% more than the monthly average.
The increase appears to be due to a temporary rise in victim willingness to formally report sexual violence. The timing of the increase closely aligns with saturation media coverage of numerous sexual assault allegations in late February and March 2021. This triggered a wide-spread community conversation about sexual violence and consent of a scale not previously seen.
Sexual assaults involving victims aged 13 to 20 years accounted for two thirds of the increase and the vast majority involved female victims. The rise in sexual assault reports was as much to do with an increase in recent contemporary assaults as it was related to reports of historical offences.
General Crime Statistics
In the 24 months to March 2021, two of the 17 major crime categories showed upward trends, ten trended downwards and the remaining five were stable.
The offences trending upward were sexual assault (up 14.4%) and domestic violence related assault (up 1.1%). The offences trending downwards were:
- Robbery without a weapon – Down 21.9%
- Robbery with a firearm – Down 35.2%
- Break and enter dwelling – Down 27.1%
- Break and enter non-dwelling – Down 32.6%
- Motor vehicle theft – Down 16.3%
- Steal from motor vehicle – Down 29.1%
- Steal from retail store – Down 29.0%
- Steal from dwelling – Down 13.8%
- Steal from person – Down 45.2%
- Fraud – Down 17.9%
The large decreases reported in many offences represent falls in crime associated with the response to the pandemic in 2020. Since April 2020 violent offending has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but many property offences, including car theft, break and enter and retail theft are still below pre-pandemic level.
Commenting on the findings, BOCSAR Executive Director, Jackie Fitzgerald, said the spike in reported sexual assault incidents was remarkable and preliminary April data suggests reports have since come back down. “Typically only around 10% or 15% of adult sexual assault victims report to police. The March 2021 increase shows that, under the right conditions, more victims will come forward. More now needs to be done to make sure that victims who reach out are appropriately supported.”