Reporting Of Minor Crimes Online Leaves Some Wavell Heights Locals Worried

Wavell Heights locals, who are living in one of the city’s bluechip suburbs, are worried about their safety, due to crimes being reported online.

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New research revealed that the reporting of minor crimes on social media community pages make people feel their neighbourhood is less safe, even when statistics show actual crime is low.

Based on the Online Crime Map, there were around 42 offences reported between 11 September and 10 October 2022 in Wavell Heights. The top three types of offences in the suburb are drug offences, traffic-related offences, and unlawful entry.

Photo credit: QLD Police Service Online Crime Map

In the same period, nearby suburbs recorded far more total number of offences. Virginia had a total of 43, Zillmere had 71, Nundah had 69, and Chermside had a total of 195 offences.

Wavell Heights happens to be one of the city’s blue-chip suburbs, which are regarded as one of the most in-demand locations across Brisbane. 

The research team at University of Queensland’s School of Social Science, led by Dr Renee Zahnow, surveyed a cross-section of Brisbane residents about their perceptions of crime in their suburb and compared it with crime data.

Dr Renee Zahnow (Photo credit:

Dr Zahnow said the type of behaviours commonly mentioned are people loitering, littering, tipping over rubbish bins and not picking up dog waste.

Other common community online posts were calls to ‘watch out’ for a particular group of people.

“It can be passively racist, insinuating certain people are linked to crime when all they might be doing is walking down a street,” she said.

It’s a case of digital vigilantism, a process where citizens are collectively offended by other citizen activity, and coordinate retaliation on mobile devices and social platforms. 

Dr Zahnow revealed the same thing happens with posts about young people, or someone wearing a cap or hoodie.

Photo credit: Wokandapix from Pixabay 

“It means we become more and more suspicious and intolerant of particular groups in society and this can affect people’s real-life interactions with them.”

Dr Zahnow said the chatter on these pages can create an impression of criminal or deviant behaviours that really are reports of minor incidents.”

“If they’re intervening offline that’s probably good for crime prevention and community cohesion, but if they’re just venting online and creating a sense of panic then there’s no benefit for the community.”

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Dr Zahnow is planning to expand her research, after receiving a UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award, which recognises excellence and the promise of future success in research for UQ’s early to mid-career researchers.