Victoria crime statistics show that Sudanese immigrants are overrepresented in criminal arrests. About 1.5 percent of offenders in Victoria are Sudanese, though Sudanese and South Sudanese immigrants only make up about half a percent of the state’s population, according to a parliamentary inquiry conducted last year.
The vast majority of crimes in Victoria are committed by Australian-born offenders. Between June 2016 and June 2017, 1,462 serious assaults were committed by Australian-born youth offenders, compared to 45 for those born in Sudan. Data from the same time period shows that 98 aggravated burglaries were committed by Sudanese youth offenders, compared to 540 by those born in Australia.
Though crime in Victoria has risen by nearly 20 percent in the past five years, the government’s Crime Statistics Agency reported a 4.9 percent drop in overall crime there in 2017.
Both police officials and Victorian citizens balked at Mr. Dutton’s characterization of the issue. Lisa Neville, Victoria’s acting police minister, described the home minister’s comment as “a new low.” On social media, a number of Victorians ridiculed Mr. Dutton, posting photos of themselves eating in restaurants with the hashtag #MelbourneBitesBack.
Many have pointed out that the attacks on Mr. Andrews, the Victorian premier, coincide with an upcoming state election, which Mr. Turnbull hopes will swing the state back under the control of his Liberal Party.
Stephane Shepard, a forensic psychology professor working at Johns Hopkins and Swinburne University, said that the demography of the Sudanese population in Victoria was crucial to understanding the recent crimes.
“It goes back to the migration,” Professor Shepard said. “There’s a disproportionate amount of young males coming over, as part of the humanitarian intake. Half of the Sudanese population in Australia is 25 or under.”
Professor Shepard said the state’s Sudanese population represented broad family fragmentation that could explain the disproportionate crime data.
Community leaders said they were disappointed in Mr. Turnbull and Mr. Dutton’s comments.
“I’m really disappointed in the media coverage, but particularly appalled by the way this issue has become partisan,” said Carmel Guerra, chief executive for the Center for Multicultural Youth, a Victorian organization that provides assistance for young migrants. “Rather than scapegoating these young people, we should try to work out what’s going on.”
Ms. Guerra, who also sits on the Youth Parole Board of Victoria, said there were similar anxieties and political efforts when Australia previously experienced large migrations from Vietnam and the Middle East.
“We have seen situations before when new communities struggle initially, then tend to integrate into the broader community,” she said. “I don’t want to downplay it: there are some real issues that we have to deal with. But that can be done without the hysteria and the racial profiling.”
An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the crime rate in Victoria State over the past five years. It has risen nearly 20 percent, not fallen nearly 20 percent.