Australia is hardly synonymous with high rates of crime.
In fact, a recent survey showed more than 2 million of us leave our doors unlocked.
That said, this is no reason to be complacent when purchasing a property.
One in five Australian homes will be robbed at some point.
As recently as 2015, Australia had the fifth highest burglary rate in the world.
Whether you’re looking to purchase a family home or a second investment property, it’s important to get a good understanding of how safe your local area is.
Aside from keeping your family and belongings safe, knowing the crime rate of a neighbourhood before buying into it can potentially save you hundreds of dollars on your home and contents insurance.
In addition to bushfire and storm-damage susceptibility, insurance providers take factors such as neighbourhood crime rates into account when determining the likelihood of future claims.
This means that if you live in a suburb with higher rates of car theft or break-ins, you can almost certainly expect to pay more for your premiums.
As part of their methodology, insurers typically sort crime into separate categories such as malicious acts (vandalism and property damage), theft (stolen possessions and break-in damage), and riot and civil commotion (damage caused by activists or authorities).
In most cases, insurers won’t cover theft or damage caused by people living in the property itself.
With all this in mind, it pays to do your homework.
Look up your local crime statistics
The best place to start is by researching the most recent crime statistics for your area.
The Australian Police Force keeps a digital record of all criminal offences that occur throughout the country, and you can easily access these online.
Data is categorised by state or territory, and is best analysed by suburb to give the most accurate indication of future upward or downward trends.
Many online resources also provide interactive crime maps which detail the nature, frequency and severity of crimes in a particular area.
Another good way of accessing credible information regarding neighbourhood crime is via the ABS.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) contains an extensive backlog of data on crimes committed throughout Australia, with socio-economic status often a linking factor.
It also provides extensive data on a region’s unemployment rate and average household income.
Property or real-estate websites can also be a good source, as many will put together an in-depth profile of their local precinct.
These will typically include factors such as population demographics, rental yields and average income amount.
Pay a visit
There’s only so much knowledge that you can gain from behind a screen.
If you really want to get a good feel for an area, pay it a physical visit.
Go for a drive around the local streets and explore the area on foot if possible.
It’s worth visiting the suburb a handful of times, both day and night as well as weekends and weekdays to get an accurate perception of the area.
Speak to locals
Word of mouth can be highly reliable if you’re unfamiliar with a particular city or suburb.
Speak with friends and family or chat to residents at a local park or coffee shop.
Local knowledge can be invaluable for this sort of thing.
If you’re uncomfortable speaking with local residents, or unsure about just how safe an area might be, an experienced real estate agent should be your go-to.
Researching a neighbourhood’s rate of crime may feel like a slightly vexing task, but it’s a smart move that will potentially save you money – and heartache – down the track.