The South Australian Office of Crime Statistics & Research (OCSAR), which was established within the Attorney General's Department in 1978 to monitor and report on crime trends within the state. It has three key objectives:
To provide timely, accurate and comprehensive statistical information on crime and criminal justice, with particular focus on providing relevant data for policy development and legislative change;
To conduct research into crime and criminal justice issues, including evaluations of the impact of legislative change and the introduction of new criminal justice practices; and
To disseminate information on crime and criminal justice to Government, members of Parliament, relevant agencies and the community in order to increase the general level of understanding and to inform public debate and policy development in these areas.
OCSAR's activities are grouped into five key work areas:
Data management and application development;
Research into crime and criminal justice issues;
Evaluations of criminal justice initiatives;
In addition to the above five areas, OCSAR also collaborates with the National CARS Project which is externally funded but functions within the Strategic Policy and Organisational Performance division of the Attorney General's Department.
Each of these areas are described further below.
Data Management and Application Development
The Data Management Team is responsible for the acquisition, storage and maintenance of a wide range of data to service the Office’s extensive data requirements. To fulfil its data requirements, OCSAR accesses data from a number of criminal justice and related agencies on both a regular and an ad hoc basis. Some of these are derived from the Justice Information System (JIS) while others involve stand-alone, non-JIS based collections that the Office then has to link to JIS-based systems for analysis.
As a consequence of the Justice Portfolio’s increasing emphasis on evidence-based policy development, OCSAR has experienced a significant increase in demand for criminal justice statistical data, particularly at a regional and local area level. To manage this demand for spatially-based crime statistics, OCSAR identified a need to produce detailed regional profiles and other standard reports in automated format, thereby making them easy to produce and readily accessible to a broad range of stakeholders.
Since the establishment of the Office in 1978, one of its primary functions has been to monitor and report on trends in crime and criminal justice. While individual agencies within the Justice Portfolio maintain and publish their own statistics, these are generally designed to service internal business needs within each agency. In contrast, OCSAR’s mandate is to provide uniform statistics and information to the public and other stakeholders on all components of the criminal justice system, rather than those restricted to a single agency.
The Office’s main statistical publication is the “Crime and Justice in South Australia” report, produced annually.
OCSAR's research staff undertake projects on a wide range of topics to feed into and assess the impact of legislative change and policy development. In recent years, much of OCSAR's research has involved tracking matters through the criminal justice system, from report to policy through to finalisation in court. Although such studies tend to be more complex both conceptually and methodologically, they offer a number of benefits over the more traditional 'snap-shot' statistical monitoring approach.
With the range of new criminal justice initiatives now being introduced in South Australia by the Justice Portfolio, the Office has become more heavily involved in evaluations. The majority of this work focuses on evaluating initiatives that are either instigated by the Justice Portfolio or which involve a strong justice agency input into the implementation process. OCSAR’s work in this area provides a sound evidence base for policy and program development within the Portfolio.
The OCSAR website is a key point of contact for clients and receives an average of around 3,500 visits per month. The website is the primary distribution vehicle for all publicly released OCSAR reports. In addition to its publications, the OCSAR website also provides staff profiles, news items and access to the Crime Mapper application which allows users to produce thematic maps of the spatial distribution of crime.
National CARS Project
The Comprehensive Auto-theft Research System (CARS) was established by OCSAR in late 1994 to service the South Australian Vehicle Theft Reduction Council and other stakeholders’ needs for comprehensive, timely and detailed vehicle theft data. Funding for this project was initially provided by the insurance industry and the RAA of South Australia.
Since 1999 CARS has been fully funded by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) and provides a national statistical monitoring and research service for government and industry in the area of motor vehicle theft. The central feature of the project is a relational database that integrates information from police, insurance companies, registration authorities, vehicle manufacturers and others into a single source that can be used to monitor trends, undertake research, and develop and evaluate effective vehicle theft reduction policies. The project is now recognised internationally as a ‘best practice’ approach for the analysis and research of motor vehicle theft issues.
More detail can be found in our mission statement.