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Selected offender profiles

  • ISBN 978 1 921185 30 4 ; ISSN 1832-228X
  • Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2007

The ABS does not yet publish offender data but is working towards developing an offender-based collection. Until this new dataset becomes available, examination of offenders and some of their characteristics is possible only by compiling data from other sources. This chapter brings together information on profiles of offenders from three sources: police annual reports from the three jurisdictions that release offender statistics, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and the AIC's Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program.

Alleged offenders

An alleged offender is a person who has allegedly committed a crime and has been processed for that offence by arrest, caution or warrant of apprehension.

Official data on gender and age of alleged offenders are published by the police services of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia and refer to persons who are alleged to have committed a criminal offence and have been processed for that offence. Police statistics on alleged offenders are not published by the remaining states and territories.

This chapter presents data on alleged offenders classified according to gender and age. These data should be interpreted with caution as they only reflect police processing of offenders in three states and may not be representative of national trends. The main purpose is to give an indicative view of major issues relating to offenders, particularly the following:

  • What is the age at which offender rates peak?
  • How does the age pattern of male offender rates compare with that of females?
  • Are female offender rates increasing?

The number of alleged offenders does not equal the number of individual offenders during a year because police may take action against the same individual for several offences, or the individual may be processed on more than one occasion

for the same offence type. Nor does it equate to the total number of crimes cleared during a given period, as one crime may involve more than one offender.

Throughout this chapter, the terms 'offender' and 'offender rate' refer to alleged offenders and the alleged offender rate.

The term 'total offender population' refers to the total number of (not necessarily distinct) individuals aged 10 years and over processed by police for any of the offences listed below in the states of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. The rates of total offenders included in the tables and graphs in this chapter are calculated relative to the total population aged 10 years and over in these jurisdictions (reference 2). The data are presented on a financial year basis.

The offender data included here are for the following major types of crime:

  • homicide and related offences (murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, infanticide and driving causing death)
  • assault
  • sexual assault
  • robbery
  • UEWI
  • MVT
  • other theft (theft from a vehicle, theft from shops, other theft)
  • fraud and deception related crime.

Sources:

  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Age

Persons aged 15 to 19 years are more likely to be processed by police for the commission of a crime than any other population group. In 2004-05 the offending rate for persons aged 15 to 19 years was four times the offender rate for the remainder of the population (5,841 and 1,417 per 100,000 relevant persons respectively).

Figure 52 : Offenders, by age, 1995-96 to 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Over the past 10 years, offender rates generally increased to a maximum in 1999-2000 and declined from then on. A peak offender rate for 10-14 year olds occurred earlier, in 1995-96.
  • Declines were greatest among the 15-19 and 20-24 year age groups.
  • Offender rates have been highest among persons aged 15-19 years and lowest among those aged 25 and over.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Gender

In 2004-05, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia processed a total of 162,055 offenders, of whom 126,776 were male and 35,279 were female. Females made up 21% of all offenders in 2004-05, a similar proportion to previous years.

Figure 53 : Offenders, by gender, 1995-96 to 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Between 1995-96 and 2004-05, males were 3 to 4 times more likely than females to be identified as offenders. In 2004-05, the rate of offending by males was 2,790 per 100,000 compared with a rate of 758 for females.
  • Offending rates for both males and females were highest between 1999 and 2001 and have since declined.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Figure 54 : Male offenders, by age, 1995-96 to 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Since 1995-96, the rate for male offenders has consistently been highest among the 15-19 year old age group, at between 9,300 and 13,400 per 100,000 relevant population.
  • Rates were also high during this period among males aged 20-24, ranging between 6,000 and 9,200 per 100,000 relevant population. Males in the other age groups offended at much lower rates, generally less than 4,500 per 100,000.
  • Since 1999-2000 there has been a significant decrease in rates for male offenders in the 10-14, 15-19 and 20-24 age groups. However, offender rates among males aged 25 and older changed comparatively little over this period.
  • Offender rates for 10-14 and 15-19 year old males were highest in 1995-96. For the other age groups offender rates peaked in 1999-2000.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Figure 55 : Male offenders, by offence type, 1995-96 and 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • In 1995-96 and 2004-05, male offender rates were highest for the offences of other theft, assault and UEWI.
  • Rates were lowest for robbery, sexual assault and homicide.
  • Compared with 1995-96, in 2004-05 male offending rates increased for assault and declined for other theft, UEWI and MVT.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Females

Figure 56 : Female offenders, by age, 1995-96 to 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Similar to male offending rates, rates among females since 1995-96 have been consistently highest among the 15-19 year old age group.
  • For all age groups, the female offender rate peaked in the period 1999-2001 and has since declined. The largest decrease has occurred in the 15-19 year old age group.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Figure 57 : Female offenders, by offence type, 1995-96 and 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Female offender rates were highest for other theft, fraud/deception and assault in both 1995-96 and 2004-05 and lowest for robbery, homicide (less than 2%) and sexual assault (less than 1%).
  • Between 1995-96 and 2004-05, female offending rates increased for assault: 32% compared with 12% for males.
  • Rates for other theft dropped by 40%.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Juveniles

There are differences among the states in the definition of a juvenile. Data in this section include alleged offenders aged between 10 and 17 years.

Figure 58 : Juvenile and adult offenders, 1995-96 to 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • The offender rate among juveniles declined from 4,092 per 100,000 juveniles in 1995-96 to 3,081 in 2004-05.
  • The adult rate increased from 1,820 per 100,000 adults in 1995-96 to 2,105 in 2000-01 before dropping to 1,600 per 100,000 adults in 2004-05.
  • Juvenile rates of offending are generally double the rates for adults.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Figure 59 : Juvenile offenders, by gender, 1995-96 to 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • There were differences in the patterns of offending by male and female juveniles.
  • Rates of male juvenile offending have dropped by 27% since 1995, with an 18% drop in the past four years.
  • The rate of female juvenile offending increased until 2000-01 then declined by 28% to 2004-05.
  • Both male and female juvenile offending rates rose slightly between 2003-04 and 2004-05.
  • There has been a slight increase in the percentage of juvenile offenders who are female, from 21% in 1995-96 to 23% in 2004-05.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Figure 60 : Juvenile offenders, by offence type, 1995-96 and 2004-05 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Juvenile offender rates were similar in 1995-96 and 2004-05 for the offences of homicide and robbery. Rates for assault have increased by 14%.
  • Juvenile offender rates have decreased by 50% for other theft and 25% for MVT and UEWI.

Sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002-2005. Population by age and sex, Australian states and territories (various issues). ABS cat. no. 3201.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Victoria Police 1992-2005. Victoria Police crime statistics (various issues). Melbourne: Victoria Police
  • South Australia Police 1996-2005. Statistical review/Annual report (various issues). Adelaide: SAPOL
  • Queensland Police Service 1992-2005. Annual statistical review (various issues). Brisbane: QPS

Federal offenders

The DPP publishes annual statistics on summary and indictable offences against Commonwealth law dealt with in the preceding year. These statistics are presented as charges dealt with against various Commonwealth Acts and Regulations, specifically, the Criminal Code Act 1995 and Crimes Act 1914.

In 2004-05 the DPP dealt with 6,123 people for a total of 9,447 charges.

Source:

  • Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions 2005. Annual report 2004-05. Canberra: DPP
Table 6 : Offences against Commonwealth legislation, charges dealt with, 2004-05 (number)
SummaryIndictable
Crimes Act 1914228164
Criminal Code Act 19953,347216
All Acts and Regulations8,3451,102
  • In 2004-05, there were 8,345 charges relating to summary offences and 1,102 charges relating to indictable offences against various Commonwealth Acts and Regulations.
  • The most common summary charge dealt with was for offences against the Criminal Code Act 1995 (40%), followed by the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (26%) and the Social Security Act 1991 (9.3%).
  • For indictable offences, the most common charges dealt with were related to the Customs Act 1901 (24%) and the Criminal Code Act 1995 (20%).
  • Within the Crimes Act, 29% of summary charges referred to imposition, 26% to telecommunications offences and 23% to fraud. For indictable offences, 71% of charges related to fraud.
  • For summary charges referring to the Criminal Code Act 1995, the overwhelming majority dealt with fraudulent conduct offences (94%). This was also the case for indictable offences (64%).

Source:

  • Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions 2005. Annual report 2004-05. Canberra: DPP

Drug use by offenders

Police detainees

The AIC's DUMA program monitors illicit drug use among police detainees in several sites across Australia on a quarterly basis. DUMA provides a reasonable and independent indicator of drug related crime within these specific areas. Two methods are used to obtain this information: questionnaire and urine sample. As an ongoing monitoring system, DUMA enables law enforcement agencies to track long term changes in drugs and crime. Funding is provided by the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department and South Australian Attorney-General's Department.

By 2002 seven sites were being monitored: East Perth in Western Australia, Southport and Brisbane City in Queensland, Bankstown and Parramatta in New South Wales, and Adelaide City and Elizabeth in South Australia. Brisbane City, Adelaide City and Elizabeth began participating in 2002.

Data are collected quarterly and presented in the following figures as annual averages. Data are presented for males only, who represent the majority (around 85%) of police detainees in the DUMA collection.

The percentage of police detainees testing positive to methylamphetamine (speed), cocaine, cannabis and heroin differed across the seven sites.

Source:

Figure 61 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to methylamphetamine, 1999-2005 (percent)

  • Methylamphetamine use increased at all long term sites between 1999 and 2003 before decreasing over the next two years.
  • Methylamphetamine use has been consistently lower in Sydney than other sites, and consistently higher in East Perth.
  • Of the sites participating since 2002, methylamphetamine use remained relatively steady at the two Adelaide sites but decreased in Brisbane after an initial increase. Use at all three sites was higher than at the long term sites except East Perth.

Source:

Figure 62 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to cocaine, 1999-2005 (percent)

Note: The scale for this chart is 0 to 30 as the percentages involved are comparatively small

  • The proportion testing positive to cocaine was very low at all sites during 1999 and 2000.
  • In 2001 an increase was observed at the two NSW sites, but use declined in 2002 and 2003 before increasing again in 2004.
  • In all other sites, the proportion testing positive has consistently remained low.

Source:

Figure 63 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to cannabis, 1999-2005 (percent)

  • The percentage of detainees testing positive to cannabis ranged from 29% to 72%.
  • In 2005, cannabis use was greater among detainees at East Perth, Adelaide and Elizabeth than the other sites.
  • Between 1999 and 2005, the percentage of detainees testing positive to cannabis decreased at both Sydney and Brisbane sites but increased at the two Adelaide sites.

Source:

Figure 64 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to heroin, 1999-2005 (percent)

  • The two NSW sites registered a substantial decline in the percentage of detainees testing positive to heroin in 2001. Since then there has been a slight upward trend, although Bankstown decreased again in 2005.
  • The percentage of detainees testing positive to heroin at the East Perth site declined steadily between 2000 and 2004, with a slight increase in 2005.
  • All other sites have remained relatively stable in the percentage of detainees testing positive to heroin.

Source:

Figure 65 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to any drug, 1999-2005 (percent)a

a: Any drug is defined as testing positive to cannabis, heroin, methylamphetamine, cocaine or benzodiazepines

  • Sites routinely show around 60-80% of detainees testing positive to any drug. The exceptions were Bankstown and Parramatta where 49% and 58% detainees respectively tested positive to any drug in 2005.
  • In the other sites, the percentage of detainees testing positive to any drug has remained relatively steady or increased since monitoring began at each site.
  • The drop in Bankstown and Parramatta sites is largely explained by the drop in heroin at both sites and the drop in cannabis at Bankstown.

Source:

Figure 66 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to selected drugs, four long term sites, 1999-2005 (percent)

  • Between 1999 and 2005 the percentage of detainees testing positive to any drug or to cannabis has remained relatively steady.
  • The percentage of detainees testing positive to heroin decreased over the period.
  • Methylamphetamine use increased until 2001 but has since levelled off.
  • The percentage of detainees testing positive to cocaine increased until 2001 but has since decreased.

Source:

Figure 67 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug, by most serious offence, 2005 (percent)

a: Methylamphetamine

b: Benzodiazepines

  • Detainees charged with a property offence were more likely to test positive to drugs than violent offenders.
  • Overall, 80% of all offenders charged with property offences and 66% of those charged with violent offences tested positive to a drug.

Source:

Characteristics of police detainees

Figure 68 : Adult police detainees, by age, 2005 (percent)

  • More than one-quarter of male and female offenders detained were aged 36 years or more. Another 23% were aged 21-25.
  • Proportionally more males than females were aged 18-20 (15% compared with 12%) while more females were aged 31-35 (19% compared with 16%).

Source:

  • Extracted from unpublished data from AICDUMA 2005 data

Figure 69 : Adult police detainees, by education level, 2005 (percent)

  • Almost half of male (48%) and female (47%) police detainees completed Year 10 or less, and around one-fifth had completed Years 11 or 12.
  • In terms of tertiary education, 18% of male detainees had completed a TAFE qualification and 4% had completed a university qualification.
  • A similar proportion of female detainees had completed a university qualification (3%) but less had completed a TAFE qualification (14%).

Source:

  • Extracted from unpublished data from AICDUMA 2005 data

Figure 70 : Adult police detainees, by source of income (non-crime generated) in past 30 days, 2005 (percent)

Note: Figures 70 and 71 refer to the same question on source of income and add up to 100%

  • One-third of male detainees (33%) and almost half of female detainees (48%) received welfare or a government benefit as their main source of income.
  • Income derived from a full time job was the next most common income source for male detainees (20%), followed by money obtained from friends and family (16%).
  • Female detainees' next most common sources of income were family or friends (17%) and a part time job (9%).

Source:

  • Extracted from unpublished data from AICDUMA 2005 data

Figure 71 : Adult police detainees, by source of income (crime-generated)a in past 30 days, 2005 (percent)

a: Sex work is decriminalised in some states and territories

Note: Figures 70 and 71 refer to the same question on source of income and add up to 100%

  • 14% of male detainees and 17% of female detainees sourced their income from criminal activity.
  • Drug dealing and other drug related crimes were reported by 6% of male detainees as their main source of income.
  • 6% of females relied on income derived from shoplifting as their main source of income, and 4% on drug related crimes and sex work respectively.

Source:

  • Extracted from unpublished data from AICDUMA 2005 data

Figure 72 : Adult police detainees, by previous experience of homelessness, arrest and imprisonment, and mental illness, 2005 (percent)

  • More than half of male detainees (58%) and female detainees (55%) had been arrested in the 12 months prior to their current arrest. Male detainees were more likely (16%) than female detainees (12%) to have spent time in prison in the previous 12 months.
  • A similar proportion of male and female detainees (6% and 5% respectively) experienced homelessness in the month before their arrest, either living on the street or having no fixed address.
  • Female detainees were more likely than male detainees to have been admitted to a psychiatric facility (21% compared with 16%).

Source:

  • Extracted from unpublished data from AICDUMA 2005 data

Most serious offence

Table 7 : Adult male police detainees, by most serious offence, 2002-05 (percent)
2002200320042005
Violent offences24.926.325.525.3
Property offences27.730.628.224.0
Drug offences5.95.96.56.9
Drink driving offences4.44.95.94.4
Traffic offences10.110.19.311.7
Disorder offences6.36.05.76.0
Breaches15.713.515.317.7
Other offences5.22.93.64.1
Table 8 : Adult female police detainees, by most serious offence, 2002-05 (percent)
2002200320042005
Violent offences15.515.716.517.6
Property offences41.047.340.736.9
Drug offences8.26.56.66.6
Drink driving offences3.12.42.83.4
Traffic offences5.96.88.39.9
Disorder offences7.16.66.17.0
Breaches13.511.913.213.3
Other offences5.72.85.95.4
  • Between 2002 and 2005, property offences were the most common serious offence for which both adult male and female police detainees were detained. Proportionally, females were more commonly detained for property offences than males.
  • The next most serious offence was violent offences followed by breaches.
  • Since 2003, there has been a decrease in the percentage of male and female detainees whose most serious offence was a property offence.

Source:

  • Extracted from unpublished data from AICDUMA 2005 data