Australia a ‘nation of dobbers’, according to Crime Stoppers data

Australians have increasingly pushed their neighbors to the police since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, dispelling the idea that Australia is a nation of easy-going larrikins.

Instead, new research detailing the number of Crime Stopper reports since 2019 has revealed that Australia may have become a nation of dobbers.

Then-Police Minister David Elliott revived the phrase in 2021 during Sydney’s COVID lockdown, after more than 6,000 reports were sent to Crime Stoppers following an anti-lockdown protest attended by only 3,500 people.

“What we see, looking at the Crime Stopper data, is that when the government creates a state of emergency, it really starts to get policed ​​enthusiastically, including by ordinary people,” the author said. of the report, Catherine Bond.

During the pandemic, Crime Stoppers reports jumped nearly 90%, from 313,000 in 2019 to 584,000 in 2021.

“This increase in the number of reports is really significant and is just huge when you think about it,” Ms Bond said.

Research found that in an emergency, legal frameworks create an environment that encourages ordinary Australians to report each other to authorities in the perceived public interest.

“Under normal circumstances, the police would not expect members of the public to do anything else,” Mr Elliott said last year.

The Minister warned of Australia becoming a nation of dobbers, contradicting NSW Police and the Government, who have encouraged citizens to report people they know are breaking COVID restrictions.

But he rationalized calls for reporting COVID violations by citing the need for collective action to overcome the pandemic.

Ms Bond said Australians felt a duty to relate to each other, similar to the heightened self-policing seen in times of war.

“Like our World War I ancestors, we think we’re doing the right thing and getting the upper hand morally,” she said.

UNSW sociologist Melanie White said a person’s decision to dob or not depends on the context of the situation and whether or not they feel there is a social imperative that overrides the negative stigma of being labeled a dobber.

“Dobbing can certainly contribute to undermining social trust, and the social fallout for the dobber can be greater than any kind of institutional sanctions for the doer,” Ms White said.

“But dobbing can be an important mechanism for social change by pushing values ​​and norms in a new direction…if others see it as a positive contribution to the health of the group.”

Mark M. Gagnon