Australian Institute of Criminology

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Recorded crime

Data on recorded crime as published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for the period 1996 to 2004 are presented in this first section. Recorded crime is based on crimes reported to or detected by police during the period from 1 January to 31 December each year. A victim can include a person, premises or a motor vehicle.

The ABS has been collecting and publishing data on eight major categories of offences - homicide, assault, sexual assault, robbery, kidnapping, unlawful entry with intent (UEWI), motor vehicle theft (MVT), and other theft - since 1996. It is estimated that these crimes account for about 60% of all crime recorded by police.

The ABS did not report on assault or sexual assault for 2004. They have found that the recording of assault has not been consistent across jurisdictions, although the trend within jurisdictions should be consistent. We therefore assume that the national trend is consistent but that the absolute number may not be accurate. Because assault accounts for the vast majority of recorded violent crime and sexual assault is also a significant crime category they are included from 1996 to 2003 in some of the following tables and figures. However readers should exercise caution in how they interpret the numbers.

Source: Reference 1 and 28

Number of recorded crimes

Violent crime

Violent crime includes homicide, assault, sexual assault, robbery and kidnapping (also sometimes referred to as abduction). Although robbery may include an element of property crime, it is included as a violent crime, as the use or threat of violence is a more serious offence.

Table 1 : Violent crimes, 1996-2004
HomicideAssaultSexual assaultRobberyKidnapping
1996 354 114,156 14,542 16,372 478
1997 364 124,500 14,353 21,305 564
1998 332 130,903 14,336 23,801 707
1999 386 134,271 14,104 22,606 766
2000 363 138,708 15,759 23,336 695
2001 346 152,283 16,897 26,591 767
2002 365 160,118 17,977 20,989 706
2003 341 158,629 18,237 19,709 696
2004 293 na na 16,490 768
na = not available.
  • The number of homicides has usually fluctuated between 340 and 390. In 2004 the number dropped below 300 to 293.
  • Robbery is the second largest violent crime category. The number of robbery offences in 2004 was the lowest recorded since 1996. Robbery offences have been in decline since 2001.
  • The number of recorded kidnappings is small and subject to year to year variation. Over the period 1996-2004 kidnapping registered a slight upward trend. There were 768 recorded victims of kidnapping in 2004.
  • The trend in recorded sexual assaults has shown an increase over the period 1996-2003.
  • Assaults have consistently made up the vast majority of recorded violent crimes. The overall trend has been upward in the period 1996-2003.

Source: Reference 1

Property crime

Property crime comprises unlawful entry with intent (UEWI), also referred to as break and enter or burglary, motor vehicle theft (MVT), and other theft. Other theft includes offences such as pick-pocketing, bag snatching, shoplifting and bicycle theft.

Table 2 : Property crimes, 1996-2004
UEWIMVTOther theft
1996 402,079 122,914 521,762
1997 421,569 130,138 530,881
1998 434,376 131,587 563,482
1999 415,735 129,552 612,559
2000 436,968 138,912 681,268
2001 435,754 139,894 700,137
2002 394,323 113,460 680,799
2003 354,020 98,298 624,036
2004 308,368 87,916 547,800
  • In 2004, other theft was the most commonly recorded property crime, accounting for 58% of property crime victims. The number of recorded victims of other theft increased steadily until 2001, but since then has been decreasing.
  • Between 1996 and 2004, the number of victims of UEWI increased until 2000, but has since declined by 29%. In 2004 there were 308,368 recorded victims of an UEWI.
  • The number of MVT victims increased by 24% between 1996 and 2001; between 2001 and 2004, however, it declined by 37%. In 2004 there were 87,916 recorded victims of a MVT.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 1 : Percentage change in selected crimes, 2002 to 2003 compared with 2003 to 2004

Figure 1

  • Among the offence categories displayed on the chart the overall trend in the past three years has been one of decline.
  • Of offences for which data were released, only kidnapping registered an increase between 2003 and 2004.
  • Homicide (14%), robbery (16%), UEWI (13%), MVT (11%) and other theft (12%) all recorded decreases from 2003 to 2004.

Source: Reference 1

Recorded crime rates

Trends in the number of recorded crimes do not take into account increases in the population over time. As a result an increasing number of recorded crime victims may reflect an increase in the general population over that time period rather than the actual likelihood of a person becoming a victim of crime. Crime rates adjust for changes in the population size and in this section are calculated for every 100,000 persons in the population.

Violent crime rate

Figure 2 : Violent crimes, rate per 100,000 persons, 1996-2004

Figure 2

Note: Homicide and kidnapping occur at rates of under 5 per 100,000 each, and as such are difficult to distinguish on this chart.

  • The rate for robbery peaked at 137 per 100,000 in 2001, the highest recorded since 1996. Rates have declined since 2001 by 40% to 82 per 100,000 in 2004.
  • The rate of kidnapping was subject to substantial year to year fluctuation between 1996 and 2004. In 2004 it stood at 3.8 per 100,000 persons.
  • The homicide rate was 1.9 in 1996 and was at its highest in 1999 at 2.0 per 100,000 before dropping to 1.5 in 2004.
  • The trend in the rate of recorded assault has shown a steady increase from 1996 to 2003.
  • The trend in the rate of recorded sexual assault has displayed a steady and significant increase between 1996 and 2003.

Source: References 1 and 2

Property crime rate

Figure 3 : Property crimes, rate per 100,000 persons, 1996-2004

Figure 3

  • The rate of other theft, which is the largest category of recorded property crime, increased between 1996 and 2001, and has declined thereafter.
  • The rate of UEWI remained relatively stable from 1996 to 2001. Since then it has declined.
  • The rate of MVT declined by 35% between 1996 and 2004, from 671 to 437 per 100,000 population. This decline largely occurred from 2001 onwards.

Source: References 1 and 2

Location of crime

The ABS classifies crime locations according to the function of the site where a criminal incident occurred. There are three broad locations:

  • residential (including houses, garages/carports, motels and hostels);
  • community (including car parks, transport facilities, street/footpaths and schools); and
  • other (including retail premises, recreational facilities, government offices and warehousing/storage).

Table 3 lists the number of selected violent offences that occurred within each type of location.

Table 3 : Number of violent crimes by type of location, 2004
HomicideRobberyKidnapping
Residential
Private dwelling 149 1,121 168
Other residential (a) 13 85 8
Total residential 162 1,206 176
Community
Transport 8 1,634 45
Street/footpath 26 6,793 346
Other community 29 1,025 92
Total community 63 9,452 483
Other
Retail 11 3,958 45
Recreational 4 1,012 31
Other location 8 416 7
Unspecified 9 446 26
Total other 32 5,832 109
Total 257 16,490 768
(a) Includes non-private dwellings, dwellings not further defined, and land and other structures (for example, driveways) that lie within the curtilage of a residential location.
  • The majority of homicides (63%, n=162) occur in a residential location, while most robberies (93%, n=15,369) occur outside the home.
  • In 2004, 41% (n=6793) of robberies and 45% (n=346) of kidnappings occurred on streets or footpaths, compared with 10% (n=26) of homicides.
  • According to data released in previous years assault was likely to occur in both community and residential locations, while sexual assault was overwhelmingly likely to occur in residential locations.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 4 : Number of violent crimes, by type of location, 2000-2004

Figure 4

  • Between 2000 and 2004, violent crimes (homicide, robbery and kidnapping) declined in all categories of location, though the decrease was not uniform across all location types.
  • Violent crimes carried out at transport and retail locations declined the most, by 31% and 36%, respectively.
  • Violent crimes carried out at residential dwellings, the street/footpath and recreational locations decreased by 11%, 17% and 25%, respectively, between 2000 and 2004.

Table 4 lists the number of property offences (UEWI, MVT and other theft) that occurred within each type of location.

Table 4 : Number of property crimes by type of location, 2004
UEWIMVTOther theft
Residential
Private dwelling 182,967 - 64,846
Other residential (a) 18,386 23,251 67,022
Total residential 201,353 23,251 131,868
Community
Transport 1,102 12,122 52,442
Street/footpath - 33,059 86,423
Other community 21,411 2,163 35,256
Total community 22,513 47,344 174,121
Other
Retail 37,551 9,194 151,453
Recreational 7,279 1,193 29,497
Other location 30,132 2,224 30,543
Unspecified 9,540 4,067 23,282
Total other 84,502 17,321 241,811
Total 308,368 87,916 547,800
(a) Includes non-private dwellings, dwellings not further defined, and land and other structures (for example, driveways) that lie within the curtilage of a residential location.
  • Motor vehicle thefts were more likely to occur in a public location (66%, n=58,374) than in or around a residential location (26%, n=23,251).
  • The majority of unlawful entry with intent crimes (65%, n=201,353) occurred in a residential location, and 12% (n=37,551) occurred in a retail location.
  • 32% (n=174,121) of other thefts occurred in a community location and 28% (n=151,453) in a retail location.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 5 : Property crimes by type of location, 2004

Figure 5

(a) Includes unspecified location (n=37,827).

  • Property offences were most likely to occur at a private dwelling (26%), at a retail location (21%) or on the street/footpath (13%).
  • Property offences were comparatively less likely to occur at recreational locations (4%) and on transport (7%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 6: Number of property crimes, by type of location, 2000-2004

Figure 6

  • Between 2000 and 2004, the number of property crimes carried out on transport, on the street/footpath, or in a recreational location declined the most, by 30%, 31% and 43%, respectively.
  • Property crimes at residential locations declined by 22%, and at retail locations by 14% between 2000 and 2004.

Source: Reference 1