Grand Theft Auto Doesn’t Cause Crime, But Poverty And Alienation Will

Grand Theft Auto Doesn’t Cause Crime, But Poverty And Alienation Will

Auto related crimes have increased 20 per cent in Melbourne over the last five years with police citing 16,000 cars stolen in 2015. And Victoria’s Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton is reportedly attributing a rise in thefts and burglaries to the “Grand Theft Auto generation”.

Video games are an easy scapegoat for youth crime rates, but the evidence just isn’t there. GTA V, Videogame Photography

Victorian police, like many other politicians and police chiefs, cite violent films such as the Fast and the Furious series and video games such as Grand Theft Auto V as factors inciting youths to commit “stylised” crimes.

Mind you, Commissioner Ashton went on to tell 3AW that, “We’re not actually dealing with more youth offenders but the youth offenders we’ve got are committing more and more offences.”

There seems to be more to this story than just violent video games.

Violence and video games

First person shooter games such as Call of Duty – where violence is viewed from the player’s perspective – are often used to explain violent gun crimes.

And the Grand Theft Auto series is commonly used to explain crimes such as auto theft because the game revolves around three criminals who drive around and steal cars. Grand Theft Auto V was the fastest-selling entertainment product in history, selling over 60 million copies.

Regardless of the crime, violent video games are commonly used as a scapegoat to explain youth violence because it’s easy to draw mental comparisons between what an individual does on screen and what they do in real life.

Although studies show that playing violent video games does increase short term aggression, there’s no evidence that the effect is greater than other aggressive triggers (like getting cut off in traffic). And it’s important to remember studies exploring aggression only asked players to undertake relatively trivial acts, like blasting another player with a loud horn or making them eat chilli peppers. Although uncomfortable, these are far from being acts of violence.

Studies exploring the relationship between actual violent acts and video games show a very different story.

By exploring the sales of violent video games along with patterns in violent crimes, US researchers have shown that violent crimes actually decreased in areas where video games were more popular.

Another study found no evidence of an increase in crime associated with increased playing of video games and perhaps even a decrease.

A similar relationship was found when exploring violent crimes and movies.

There’s no evidence linking games like GTA to increased crime or violence. ReneSchroeder, CC BY

When delving deeper into relationships, researchers often find that video games alone aren’t enough to trigger long-term aggressive behaviour and that violent video games often need to be paired with family violence and innate aggression, as well as poor communication with parents to have an impact on a child. Thise means that things are more complicated.

Victoria’s Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill is also quoted saying that burglars were taking inspiration from movies including Fast and the Furious and Grand Theft Auto. But there is no evidence supporting the claim that games like Grand Theft are the cause of increased violence.

What’s going on?

The increase in car thefts in the Melbourne area is reportedly attributed to the Apex gang.

Police say the Apex gang largely comprises of individuals between the ages of 12 and 19 of South Sudanese, Pacific Islander, Maori, and Anglo-Australian decent. They come largely from the Dandenong, a relatively poorer suburb compared to say, Templestowe, where some of the crimes are occurring.

A recent ABC interview with “James”, reportedly an Apex gang member, indicated that he viewed life in Dandenong as hard. There were, he said, “no jobs”. The gang, he said, “is just a group of youths. Everyone’s got to have friends, you know. It means brotherhood. Everyone looks after each other.”

Although Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has said that that neither he nor Victorians are interested in “these ‘poor me’ stories” of disadvantage, there is plenty of evidence that wealth disparity is a fundamental cause of increases in violent crimes.

Ground breaking studies by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson in the 1980’s demonstrated that those who had fewer opportunities and lacked viable options to increase their status in life were more likely to commit violent crimes. They went further to demonstrate that income inequality could explain the high variation in homicide rates between the US and Canada.

What needs to be done?

What’s currently happening in Melbourne is unacceptable. But blaming video games is a pathetic attempt to steer the public’s eyes away from larger problems: disparity in wealth, youth unemployment, lack of decent schooling and general societal detachment.

But understanding the relationships between poverty, family relationships, education and crime is much more complicated. And more importantly, it requires more serious solutions such as the reorganisation of social and educational systems.

It’s far easier and simpler to blame the so-called “Grand Theft Auto Generation”.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


  • Seriously though, when i use my stolen bike to backflip into a military base, steal a jet fighter, abandon it midair to coast back to land and set alight pedestrians with my jerry can of fuel, I think to myself:
    ‘I’d love to do this in a videogame’

  • But… but… if the scapegoat isn’t the answer, responsible leaders might have to do something hard like tackle income inequality (which the wealthy and powerful DEFINITELY don’t want to do) instead of doing the easy thing of shitting on stuff they don’t like!

    That’s not how politics/leadership works AT ALL.

    • Actually, I was being sarcastic, but I genuinely don’t believe that the leadership and power in this country actually wants to address income inequality.

      There are many problem areas in the country that won’t see improvement without reducing that inequality, but those who are at the top seem to genuinely believe there has to be a better way than possibly having a slight reduction in their dominance in wealth and power.

      And as the purse-holders and gatekeepers, this means it will never happen.
      (As the old saying goes: It’s lonely at the top, and those at the top want to keep it that way.)

      • I feel you on this one, The last time I remember actual change being implemented for the betterment of society without regard to political status repercussions was Howard’s gun control being implemented.

        Every time some clip of the senate or house of reps plays or some article in the paper catches my interest, I can’t help but thinking, often out loud, “You’re adults, you hold seats of power over other people, you are responsible for deciding the direction of an entire fucking country. Act like it and stop bickering like a pack of fucking children and pull your heads out of your collective asses”

        • It’s a good example. It was hard, it cost the party seats, but they did it anyway and it worked.

          • It’d be great to see more of it… Politicians willing to do things for the good of the country even when they know it might cost them.

            And when ‘for the good of the country’ is basically the whole reason they’re in those positions in the first place… It’s pretty infuriating that they’re mostly all tied up in what is largely a game of personal gain.

  • youth offenders causing more offenses Thats not a crime related issue… that means nothing is stopping them from doing more offenses and the courts aint punishing them enough. My uhhdads shop got broken into, before the police arrived they already knew who the suspect was cause he just got off scott free by a judge that morning… got caught, faced the same judge was off scott free two days later time served… the police couldnt even touch him eithout being sued and the judge was so soft the kid just had to wear a suit and pout to get off.

    People have to offend more nowadays before even seeing the inside of a jail.

  • Considering every Victorian Police Commissioner in the last 20 years has resigned in disgrace, I’d be very fucking careful what I’d say if I were Robert Hill… after all, half the problems of the world of GTA is because of the corrupt cops.

  • Although it is a more complicated issue than just blaming ‘Grand Theft Auto’, there are still some simpler questions I’d be asking, such as why at 12 to 19 years old they aren’t focused on schooling, or why does the interviewed Apex member say there are ‘no jobs’ in Dandenong.

    I’m quite familiar with Dandenong, and can say there are plenty of schools in that area just like any other populated residential area. As for jobs, Dandenong South is one of Melbourne’s biggest industrial areas, even with a lack of skills, good work ethic can lead to a simple warehouse job somewhere there.

    Not necessarily going anywhere with this, but those are things worth considering.

  • The data isn’t being reported properly. I’m guessing the police commissioner got his data from the crime statistics agency. And his referring to this:
    But this same agency then produces this little bit about youth crime in decline:
    This is also supported by the ABS here:[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/4519.0~2014-15~Main%20Features~Youth%20Offenders~4

    If you dive into the data what you find is that youth (10-19 years of age ) crime is in decline by approximately 3% nationally. This group is also gets overly emphasised, as the ABS groups youth into two columns 10-14 & 15-19, whilst every age after that is separated into 4 year period increments. This means that they “youth” group looks bigger but if you lump all the adults into one column, it isn’t the biggest group.
    Furthermore if you look at table 5.10 Alleged offender incidents over here:
    It’ looks pretty bad, but open the accompanying spreadsheet “Data tables – Steal from motor vehicles spotlight (XLSX, 238 KB)” and got to table 12, and you’ll notice a spike in automotive offences for youth aged 10-14, but look at the previous years and you’ll see bigger spikes and an overall trend that goes down.

    In the end of the day, this is all hype by the police, they are taking advantage of a situation to get political backing for their own purposes, but the problem is that there is a problem, they are just looking at in the wrong place. Trying to hint that this a problem with games is wrong, this is a social/cultural problem. If you put immigrants and disadvantaged youth in the extreme edges of our society and ignore them and don’t provide them with the help and services they and their families need. Of course you’re going to have problem duh!

    What annoys me the most is the lack of research a lot of journalists are doing, and this is a prime example of that. It didn’t take me too long to find this info as it’s all open to the public. Journalists should have shot this down as soon as these statements were made public.

  • The whole idea is to create extreme inequality so that one day everyone works for the super companies (for free) and governments help them regulate it. It will be neatly labeled work for the doll program and people will be paid below minimal wage, this is the future, hope you all enjoy it!

    PS. The work will be cleverly hidden under “pseudo charity work” system

  • Crime happens, need to blame something.. Video Games

    GTA 4 :

    GTA 3

    Vice City

    Without these games, these kids would still have access to the tools and situations they are in. Don’t blame the games, blame yourselves for failing the youth of today.

  • I live on $100 food a month while at uni and you don’t see me going around stealing cars or killing people.

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