Meme: (Noun) - an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.
I've lived, worked, and run businesses in many regional towns and cities around Australia. In that time I have observed a strange phenomenon. Regardless of the facts, there are people in every city who have lived there a long time who believe their particular city is the worst in Australia, the councillors are corrupt, and that crime is out of control.
Case in point:
I moved to Mandurah from Geraldton and decided to suss out what suburbs were safest and what suburbs to avoid. I obtained all the burglary stats from the WA Police, and compared it to the number of homes in each suburb to create a ratio that showed me how likely you were to be robbed in each suburb. (Here's a link to an article I wrote from around that time.)
To my surprise, the WORST suburb in Mandurah was way safer than the SAFEST suburb in Geraldton. I laughed. I realised that folks in Mandurah complaining about high crime had never lived in Geraldton, Carnarvon, Kununurra, or any other regional city that experienced real out of control crime.
What's more, most Mandurah suburbs were safer than most of Perth.
But despite the numbers clearly showing there was nothing to worry about, the wonderful tool of social media where people get to keep repeating nonsense with no stats to back it up keeps perpetuating the meme that crime is high in Mandurah.
Now, to be clear, I do think crime is too high in Mandurah. I would like to see some decent efforts made to reduce the crime. And I haven't seen anything from our state or local government that indicates to me they understand the underlying causes of crime and how to address it.
But that said, over-reacting and pretending crime rates are increasing, when they're not, is not going to help.
Here's a question we posted a little while ago to find out the public's perception of crime in Mandurah. Link.
As you can see from the comments, the majority of those who responded feel that crime has increased.
Yet, here's an article we posted showing the actual crime statistics for Mandurah for the last 7 years. Link. You can see clearly that there's no increase in crime in that period.
Why do we repeat baseless claims that crime is increasing in Mandurah, or even that crime levels are high?
I believe it's because there is zero incentive for most people to look at the facts and report the truth.
1. People don't click on articles to read about how crime levels haven't really changed in the last decade. It's just not human nature. We're designed to stay alert for danger. We notice the lion sitting next to the tree, but we don't notice the tree. It's a great survival technique, but skews our mind's perception of reality. There's virtually no monetary incentive for any media brand to report the good news.
2. Aspiring politicians have no incentive to say that crime levels aren't that bad. They need to feed on people's nagging fear that things are getting worse and the only way to change it is if you vote for them.
3. People who are positive about how things are and live rich and fulfilling lives aren't spending much time on Facebook complaining about their city. They're too busy running their businesses, taking their family out on the boat, and I've observed that these people are simply less inclined to post comments on Facebook in the first place. They value their privacy and their peace of mind over having their say on some social media platform. Unfortunately, those whose opinions are really the least informed are the ones most likely to comment incessantly in all the Facebook groups.
"But if we don't complain about the crime then the politicians won't do anything about it?"
This is a good point. The reality is in the political world the squeaky wheel gets the oil. We certainly need to be effective at changing laws and increasing funding to make our city safer. But if we aren't careful we'll begin to believe our own propaganda, and attracting the brightest and best to our city will become a challenge because of the reputation we will have created for our home. This could in turn cause the meme that 'crime is increasing in Mandurah' to become a self fulfilling prophesy.