Six suspicious deaths in WA in the space of a week may seem like Perth is heading the way of some Mexican or Brazilian cities but despite the astounding numbers the facts are the murder rate Australia-wide has been decreasing over the last 20 years.

A report released by the Australian Institute of Criminology earlier this year found the number of deaths per 100,00 people has decreased from 1.8 in 1990-91 to 1.2 in 2009-10.

An AIC senior research analyst Tracy Cussen agrees that the spike in one week is highly unusual but she remains cautious about drawing any conclusions.

"I don't know that anything really could be drawn from that, it depends entirely on what ends up happening with those suspicious deaths," she said.

"They may not in fact be homicides and obviously that will come to the fore with whatever police investigation is going on.

"It would be very strange if that did occur or that was the case that they were all actually homicides or something that could be investigated as a murder or manslaughter."

At the time of reporting, police had charged two people with three counts of murder and one person with causing grievous bodily harm.

GBH isn't included among murder reporting statistics.

Ms Cussen says the important thing to note is that homicide is still a very rare occurrence in Australia, especially when compared with other countries.

"You might have every now and again a bit of a spike either on a monthly basis or even on a weekly basis but overall it sort of averages out to a fairly standard ratio over the course of the year," she said.

"And, in WA that's been like every other jurisdiction [in that it's] very consistent over the last 10 year period really."

That's not to say the spike in numbers should be completely disregarded.

"You want to look at the circumstances and see what's happening and obviously you know any change is a change for the better or the worse and we'd like to know what that's about," Ms Cussen said.

"Obviously in one week six deaths, that is a lot but it could be that there aren't any for the rest of the year and then of course what happened in this particular week we'll probably never really know.

"Because we're monitoring trends we're trying to see whether there's actual 'real fluctuations' or whether certain years are just an anomaly or whether certain types of events are anomalies.

"And, we certainly haven't seen anything that points to any particular profile that is different for WA or that is different nationally than what is occurring anywhere else."

No particular reason

The University of Western Australia's Crime Research Centre's Kevin Morgan says the spike might not affect the long term trend but it draws attention to a problem.

"It's not a bad thing for people to get concerned about levels of violence even if there's not a trend because if people react, they start to think 'well what can we do?'

"You know you get used to a certain level of violence so I guess one way to think about it is where have we come from with respect to this decrease that's been identified.

"And, if it's to do with decreases in domestic violence and firearms but there's still high levels of alcohol-related homicides then we might want to think about what else we can do."

While the WA Police service is all too familiar with investigating suspicious deaths, divisional Forensics Superintendent Tony Flack says the most recent spate is baffling.

"There's no patterns, there's no connections, they're all different and unique in their own way," he said.

Police have had to allocate extra resources for the number of closely spaced investigations.

"The homicide in Halls Head was problematic because the person of interest had been seen potentially at 17 or 18 different locations which means that 17 or 18 different locations needed to be forensically examined," Superintendent Flack said.

He has had to draw on forensic officers from other districts to help with the massive workload.

"Fatigue is always an issue because if you're working as they have been for long hours there's the potential to miss something," he said.

"That's why we work in teams; it's very structural so the forensic response will have a person who's doing this but over the top of them there are senior supervisors and forward forensic coordinators.

"We're swapping them all the time so we've got a fresh pair of eyes over the working of the whole lot to try and minimise the chance of making a mistake."

While the heavy workload is out of the ordinary, Superintendent Flack says he's not ruling out a similar situation occurring again.

He says that's because it's impossible to predict when the murder figures will spike.

"They occur in such different circumstances," he said.

"Who knows when the deterioration of a personal relationship is going to cause someone to pick up a knife off the kitchen bench and stab their partner.

"You can forecast anti-social behaviour based on weather and patterns but things like homicide when they're generally done in the spur of the moment, you're never going to be able to predict it."

 

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