Are Sudanese Offenders ‘Unique’?

Much has been written about the overrepresentation of Sudanese communities within Victorian crime statistics, but not a lot has been written about why that may be the case.

For the record: individuals born in Sudan and South Sudan committed 1.1 per cent of offences in Victoria in 2017/18, despite the fact that the Sudanese community compromises only 0.13 per cent of the Victorian population.

This is an overrepresentation, but why?

Firstly, Sudanese migrants shift disproportionately younger – 42 per cent are under the age of 25 compared to 30 per cent of the general Australian population.

Younger men (particularly those aged between 18 – 25) are more likely to commit crimes. There is a sweet spot where a lack of supervision meets peak testosterone and peak stupid.

These younger offenders also tend to commit offences which are attention-seeking, public and gregarious – meaning they are more likely to get caught (Cunneen & White 2007).

Break and enters and drunken brawls are pretty consistent with what we would expect from a young male demographic (and this is what we see with Sudanese offenders). It should also be noted that generally, the most likely victims of youth offending, are other young people.

Sudanese migrants are more likely to be unemployed than other migrant groups, and this also plays a role.

Unemployed young men are a recipe for disaster in terms of risk of offending. Monotonous boredom leads to “thrill seeking” behaviour, substance use and – inevitably – crime.

Finally, given the tendency of migrant populations to live and socialise with one another, there is a risk of a ‘peer contagion’ to also play a role. Basically, if all your friends are doing crime – why not? 

All of the above risk factors likely also play a role in the risk of children of parents from Sudan, which we have no firm statistics on but anecdotally  appear to potentially also be overrepresented.

Despite all of this, nothing about the risk profile of Sudanese migrants (and, presumably, their children) is a cause for too much concern. Offending by Sudanese populations in Victoria is certainly not a “crime wave”, nor is there any evidence of actual gangs existing in these communities.

The great thing about youth offenders is that most of them grow out of it without the need for much targeted interventions. Appropriate diversion options for young offenders are also very effective.

In the meantime, there is a need for targeted evaluations in communities at risk to  identify, develop and implement local solutions addressing economic and social determinants and risk factors behind offending.

Are Sudanese offenders in Victoria unique? Not really.

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