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 2006 are presented in this first section. The information is based on crimes recorded by police from 1 January to 31 December each year. A victim can be a person, premises or a motor vehicle.

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

The ABS has not released aggregated data on assault or sexual assault since 2003 due to inconsistent recording across jurisdictions. As trends within jurisdictions appear to be consistent, however, the data for each jurisdiction have been released. The AIC used these data to compile the Australian totals for assault and sexual assault included in this chapter.

Caution must be exercised when comparing the number of robbery victims from different years due to an undercounting of victims in New South Wales prior to 2005. Similarly affected are data on the number of victims of UEWI prior to 2006, because of an overstatement of victims in NSW. General trends, however, appear not to be affected.

Source: Reference 1

Number of recorded crimes

Violent crime

Violent crime includes homicide, assault, sexual assault, robbery and kidnapping (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 : Victims of violent crimes, 1996-2006 (number)
Homicide Assault Sexual assault Robbery Kidnapping
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 341 157,280 18,237 19,709 696
2004 293 156,849 18,400 16,513 768
2005 295 166,499 18,172 16,787 730
2006 319 170,907 18,211 17,284 725
  • Between 1996 and 2003, the number of homicide victims fluctuated between 332 and 386, before dropping below 300 in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, homicide rose above 300 again, to 319.
  • Continuing the trend of recent years, robbery offences increased in 2006.
  • The number of recorded kidnappings fluctuates yearly. Over the period 1996-2004 kidnappings registered a general increase, but decreased between 2004 and 2006, from 768 to 725.
  • The trend in recorded sexual assaults showed a steady increase over the period 1996-2004. A slight decrease in 2005 was followed by another increase in 2006.
  • Assaults continue to represent the majority of recorded violent crimes. The overall trend since 1996 has been upward, with an increase of 50% between 1996 and 2006.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 1 : Percentage change in victims of selected violent crimes, 2002-06

a: Robbery is classified as a violent crime, as the use or threat of violence is more serious than property theft

  • For violent crimes, the trend in the past five years has varied. Recorded homicide declined between 2002 and 2004, but increased slightly in 2004-2005 and then more so in 2005-06.
  • Sexual assault increased in 2003-04, decreased slightly in 2004-05 and remained steady in 2005-06.
  • Kidnapping is the only violent crime that registered a decline in 2006.
  • Assault increased after 2004, with a more substantial rise occurring in 2004-05 than 2005-06.
  • Variability from year to year is more pronounced for offences that have a smaller number of victims, such as homicide.

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 pickpocketing, bag snatching, shoplifting and bicycle theft.

Table 2 : Victims of property crimes, 1996-2006 (number)
UEWI MVT Other 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 308,675 87,939 548,778
2005 284,188 80,738 519,128
2006 261,895 75,115 517,492
  • As in previous years, other theft was the most commonly recorded property crime in 2006, accounting for 61% of property crime victims.
  • The number of recorded victims of other theft has decreased by 26% since 2001, from 700,137 to 517,492 victims.
  • In 2006 there were 261,895 recorded victims of an UEWI, a decline of 8% from the previous year.
  • The number of MVT victims increased by 14% between 1996 and 2001 but decreased by 46% between 2001 and 2006.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 2 : Percentage change in victims of selected property crimes, 2002-06

The overall trend in property crime offences in the past five years has been one of decline.

Source: Reference 1

Recorded crime rates

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

Violent crime rate

Figure 3 : Violent crimes, 1996-2006 (rate per 100,000 persons)

Note: Homicide and kidnapping occur at rates of less than 5 per 100,000 each, and are difficult to distinguish on this chart

  • The trend in the rate of recorded assault increased steadily from 1996 to 2006. The rate in 2006 was 829, compared with 623 per 100,000 in 1996. The 2006 rate was the highest recorded since 1996.
  • The rate for robbery peaked in 2001. Following a subsequent decline, the rate has levelled out to 84 per 100,000 in 2006.
  • The rate of kidnapping remained between 3 and 4 per 100,000 between 1996 and 2006.
  • The homicide rate was 1.9 in 1996 (which includes the 35 victims of the Port Arthur massacre) and was at its highest in 1999 at 2.0 per 100,000. By 2004 it had dropped to 1.5 and has remained stable since then.
  • The rate of recorded sexual assault increased between 1996 and 2006 from 79 to 88 persons per 100,000. However, the increase has been much less marked in more recent years.

Source: References 1 and 2

Property crime rate

Figure 4 : Property crimes, 1996-2006 (rate per 100,000 persons)

  • The rate of other theft, which is the largest category of recorded property crime, increased between 1996 and 2001, and declined thereafter.
  • The rate of UEWI remained relatively stable from 1996 to 2001 and has declined since then.
  • The rate of MVT declined by 45% between 1996 and 2006, from 671 to 367 per 100,000. This includes a decrease of 13% between 2005 and 2006.

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)
  • other (including retail premises, recreational facilities, government offices and warehousing/storage).

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

Table 3 : Selected violent crimes by type of location, 2006 (number)
Murder Assault Sexual assault Robbery Kidnapping
a: Total includes not further defined
n.a.: not available
Residential
Dwelling 171 n.a. n.a. 1,261 237
Outbuilding/residential land 7 n.a. n.a. 132 13
Total residential(a) 184 77,157 12,168 1,411 253
Community
Transport 7 n.a. n.a. 1,427 29
Street/footpath 35 n.a. n.a. 7,767 291
Other community 21 n.a. n.a. 613 39
Total community(a) 68 58,317 3,374 9,864 362
Other
Retail 8 n.a. n.a. 4,173 59
Recreational 9 n.a. n.a. 1,303 37
Other location 4 n.a. n.a. 309 6
Total other(a) 21 34,419 2,021 5,898 105
Unspecified location 6 1,014 648 111 5
(Total) (279) (170,907) (18,211) (17,284) (725)
  • The majority of murders (66%, n=184) occurred in a residential location, while most robberies (92%, n=15,873) occurred outside the home.
  • In 2006, 45% (n=7,767) of robberies and 40% (n=291) of kidnappings occurred on streets or footpaths, compared with 13% (n=35) of murders.
  • Assaults were more likely to occur in residential (45%) and community (34%) locations.
  • The majority of sexual assaults occurred in residential locations (67%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 5 : Selected violent crimes by type of location, 2000-06 (number)

  • Between 2000 and 2006, violent crimes declined overall in most categories of location, although the decrease was not uniform across all location types.
  • Violent crimes carried out at transport and retail locations declined the most, by 49% and 32%, respectively.
  • Violent crimes that occurred on the street/footpath and at recreational locations decreased by 7% and 3% respectively between 2000 and 2006.
  • Violent crime rose by 3% at residential locations.

Source: Reference 1

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

Table 4 : Property crimes by type of location, 2006 (number)
UEWI MVT Other theft
a: Total includes not further defined
Residential
Dwelling 153,319 0 59,292
Outbuilding/residential land 16,375 25,856 81,176
Total residential(a) 171,969 25,856 142,714
Community
Transport 748 5,797 38,059
Street/footpath 3 27,678 78,984
Other community 19,336 1,146 31,021
Total community(a) 20,109 34,681 148,784
Other
Retail 32,558 7,868 154,571
Recreational 7,212 1,339 24,302
Other location 25,408 2,180 29,070
Total othera 66,391 13,360 214,812
Unspecified location 3,427 1,218 11,182
Total 261,896 75,115 517,492
  • Similar to previous years, MVT was more likely to occur in a public location (64%, n=48,041) than in or around a dwelling (34%, n=25,856).
  • The majority of UEWI crimes (66%, n=171,969) occurred in a residential location, and 12% (n=32,558) in a retail location.
  • In 2006, retail locations accounted for 30% (n=154,571) of other theft locations, replacing community areas (29%, n=148,784) as the primary location of such thefts.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 6 : Property crimes by type of location, 2006

a: Includes unspecified location (n=15,827)

  • Property offences were most likely to occur at a dwelling (28%), at a retail location (20%) or on the street/footpath (15%).
  • Property offences were least likely to occur at recreational locations (6%) or on transport (8%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 7 : Property crimes by type of location, 2000-06 (number)

  • Between 2000 and 2006 the number of property crimes carried out on transport, in recreational locations and at other community locations, declined the most, by 52%, 50% and 42%, respectively.
  • Property crimes on the street/footpath declined by 39% and at residential locations by 33% between 2000 and 2006.

Source: Reference 1