Australian Institute of Criminology

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Selected offender profiles

  • ISBN 978 1 921185 68 7 ; ISSN 1832-228X
  • Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2008

The ABS does not yet publish offender data but is 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 offenders from three sources: police annual reports from the three jurisdictions that release offender statistics, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and the AIC's Drug Use Monitoring in Australia 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. Police statistics on alleged offenders are not available from 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. They also do not reflect court outcomes. The main purpose here is to give an indicative view of major issues relating to offenders, particularly the following:

  • At what age do offender rates peak?
  • How does the age pattern of male offending compare with that of females?
  • Are female offender rates increasing?

The number of alleged offenders does not equal the number of distinct 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. Neither 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 more, processed by police for any of the offences listed below, in 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 more in these jurisdictions (reference 2). The data are presented on a financial year basis.

The offender data 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
  • unlawful entry with intent
  • motor vehicle theft
  • other theft (theft from a vehicle, theft from shops, other theft)
  • fraud and deception related crime.

Source: References 7-9

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 2005-06 the offending rate for persons aged 15 to 19 years was more than three times the rate for offenders aged more than 19 years (5,918 and 1,581 per 100,000 relevant persons respectively).

Figure 52 : Offenders, by age, 1995-96 to 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Offender rates reached a maximum in 1990-2000 and have since declined for most age groups. The rate of offending among persons aged 10-14 years peaked earlier, in 1995-96.
  • Offender rates have been consistently highest among persons aged 15-19 years and lowest among those aged 25 and more.
  • Declines were greatest among the 15-19 and 20-24 year age groups.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

Gender

In 2005-06, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia processed a total of 165,538 offenders, of whom 129,595 were male and 35,943 were female. Females made up 22% of all offenders in 2005-06, a similar proportion to previous years.

Figure 53 : Offenders, by gender, 1995-96 to 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Between 1995-96 and 2005-06, males were 3 to 4 times more likely than females to be identified as offenders. In 2005-06, the rate of offending by males was 2,800 per 100,000 compared with 760 for females.
  • Offending rates for both males and females have declined since 2001.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

Males
Figure 54 : Male offenders, by age, 1995-96 to 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Since 1995-96, the rate for male offenders has consistently been highest among the 15-19 year age group. In 2005-06 the rate was 9,400 per 100,000 of the relevant population.
  • Rates were also high during this period among males aged 20-24, ranging between 5,800 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.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

Figure 55 : Male offenders, by offence type, 1995-96 and 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • In 1995-96 and 2005-06, male offender rates were highest for the offences of other theft, assault and unlawful entry with intent.
  • Rates were lowest for robbery, sexual assault and homicide in both years.
  • Compared with 1995-96, in 2005-06 male offending rates increased for assault and declined for unlawful entry with intent, motor vehicle theft, fraud/deception and particularly for other theft.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

Females
Figure 56 : Female offenders, by age, 1995-96 to 2005-06 (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. The largest decrease has occurred in the 15-19 year-old age group. Some stabilisation in offending rates has occurred since 2003-04, with the exception of the 10-14 year age group.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

Figure 57 : Female offenders, by offence type, 1995-96 and 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Female offender rates were highest for other theft, fraud/deception and assault in both 1995-96 and 2005-06. They were lowest for robbery, homicide (less than 2 per 100,000) and sexual assault (less than 1 per 100,000).
  • Between 1995-96 and 2005-06, female offending rates increased only for assault; an increase of 40% compared with 15% for males.
  • Rates for other theft dropped by 39%.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

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 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Juvenile rates of offending are generally around 50% higher than rates for adults.
  • The offender rate amongst adults peaked in 2000-01 at 2,100 per 100,000 adults, and has since declined to an 11 year low at 1,581 per 100,000 in 2005-06.
  • The offender rate among juveniles declined from 4,092 per 100,000 juveniles in 1995-96 to 3,081 in 2004-05. Juvenile offending rates increased again in 2005-06 to 3,207 per 100,000.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

Figure 59 : Juvenile offenders, by gender, 1995-96 to 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Rates of juvenile offending have dropped by 24% for males and by 11% for females.
  • Both male and female juvenile offending rates increased after 2003-04.
  • There has been a slight increase in the percentage of juvenile offenders who are female, from 21% in 1995-96 to 24% in 2005-06.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

Figure 60 : Juvenile offenders, by offence type, 1995-96 and 2005-06 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

  • Juvenile offender rates for assault increased by 14% between 1995-96 and 2005-06.
  • Juvenile offender rates decreased by 54% for other theft, 19% for motor vehicle theft and 22% for unlawful entry with intent. Rates were similar for the offences of homicide and fraud/deception.

Source: References 2 and 7-9

Federal offenders

The Australian Government Director of Public Prosecutions 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 Commonwealth Acts and Regulations, and specifically, the Criminal Code Act 1995 and Crimes Act 1914.

In 2005-06 the DPP dealt with 6,255 people for a total of 8,784 charges.

Source: Reference 19

Table 6 : Offences against Commonwealth legislation, charges dealt with, 2005-06 (number)
Summary Indictable
Crimes Act 1914 147 139
Criminal Code Act 1995 3,719 217
All Acts and Regulations 7,904 880
  • The most common summary charge was for offences against the Criminal Code Act 1995 (47%), followed by the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (18%) and the Fisheries Management Act 1991 (10%).
  • In 2005-06 charges made under the Criminal Code Act 1995 accounted for 7% more summary offences than in 2004-05.
  • The most common indictable charges were related to the Criminal Code Act 1995 (25%) and the Customs Act 1901 (24%).
  • 33% of summary offences under the Crimes Act 1995 dealt with fraud, 31% with imposition and 9% with telecommunications offences. 76% of charges for indictable offences under this Act related to fraud.
  • Fraudulent conduct offences comprised 93% of all summary charges and 59% of indictable offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995.

Source: Reference 19

Drug use by offenders

Police detainees

The AIC's Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (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 locations. 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. By 2006 nine sites were being monitored: East Perth in Western Australia, Southport and Brisbane City in Queensland, Bankstown and Parramatta in New South Wales, Adelaide City and Elizabeth in South Australia, Darwin in the Northern Territory and Footscray in Victoria. Brisbane City, Adelaide City and Elizabeth began participating in 2002, and Darwin and Footscray in 2006.

Data are collected quarterly and presented in the following figures as annual averages. Data are presented for males only, as they represent the majority (84%) of police detainees in the DUMA collection.

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

Source: Reference 20

Figure 61 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to methylamphetamine, 1999-2006 (percent)

  • Methylamphetamine use increased at all long term sites between 1999 and 2003 before decreasing again over the next three years. The exceptions were Bankstown and Parramatta where the initial decrease was followed by another increase in 2006.
  • East Perth continues to be the site with the highest percentage of detainees testing positive to methylamphetamine. The Sydney sites have the lowest use.
  • Methylamphetamine use at the South Australian sites decreased in 2006 after a relatively steady period, while in Brisbane an initial increase was followed by a decrease.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 62 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to cocaine, 1999-2006 (percent)

Note: The scale for this chart is different from that of the other three charts as the percentages involved are comparatively small

  • The proportion of detainees testing positive to cocaine is very low at all sites, and consistently higher at Bankstown and Parramatta than the other sites.
  • An increase in cocaine use at the two Sydney sites occurred in 2001, 2004 and 2006.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 63 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to cannabis, 1999-2006 (percent)

  • The percentage of detainees testing positive to cannabis in 2006 ranged from 41% (Bankstown) to 67% (Elizabeth).
  • In 2006, cannabis use was greatest at both South Australian sites and East Perth.
  • Since 2004, most sites have registered a decrease in the percentage of detainees testing positive to cannabis. The exceptions were Bankstown and Parramatta which experienced a marked increase in 2006.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 64 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to heroin, 1999-2006 (percent)

  • The two NSW sites have registered a substantial decline in the percentage of detainees testing positive to heroin since 2001. A slight increase occurred in the subsequent year although use decreased again in 2006, particularly at Bankstown.
  • The percentage of detainees testing positive to heroin at East Perth has declined steadily since 1999.
  • In 2006 more than twice as many detainees at the Footscray/Sunshine site than at other sites tested positive to heroin.
  • All other sites have remained relatively stable in the percentage of detainees testing positive to heroin.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 65 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to any drug, 1999-2006 (percent)(a)

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

  • Sites routinely show around 60-80% of detainees testing positive to any drug. Since 2001, the proportion of detainees at Bankstown testing positive to any drug has been 60% or less.
  • The percentage of detainees testing positive to any drug varies from site to site. At East Perth it has remained relatively stable whereas at Southport, Brisbane and the two South Australian sites, a decrease in use has followed an initial increase. A general decrease at the Sydney sites was reversed in 2006.
  • The proportion of detainees testing positive to any drug was consistently highest at the Adelaide and Elizabeth sites.
  • The drop in detainees testing positive for any drug at Bankstown and Parramatta could largely be explained by the drop in heroin at these sites and the drop in cannabis at Bankstown. The increase observed in 2006 is probably attributable to an increase in cannabis use.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 66 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to selected drugs, four long term sites(a), 1999-2006 (percent)

a: Bankstown, Parramatta, East Perth, Southport

  • Between 1999 and 2005 the percentage of detainees testing positive to any drug or to cannabis has remained relatively steady. In 2006 both registered an increase in use.
  • Heroin use has decreased over the period. Most of this decrease occurred between 2000 and 2001.
  • Methylamphetamine use increased until 2001 but has since levelled off.
  • The percentage of detainees testing positive to cocaine increased until 2001, decreased until 2004 and rose slightly again in 2006.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 67 : Adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug, by type of charge, 2006 (percent)

a: Methylamphetamine

b: Benzodiazepines

  • Detainees charged with a property offence were more likely to test positive to drugs than were violent offenders, however the difference is not as substantial for cannabis users.
  • Overall, 75% of all offenders charged with property offences and 66% of those charged with violent offences tested positive to a drug.

Source: Reference 20

Characteristics of police detainees

Figure 68 : Adult police detainees, by age, 2006 (percent)

  • More than one-quarter of both male and female offenders detained were aged 36 years or more. Another 23% of males and 21% of females were aged 21-25.
  • Male detainees were more likely than female detainees to be aged 21-25 years (23% compared with 21%), while females were more likely to be aged 31-35 (18% compared with 16%).

Source: Reference 21

Figure 69 : Adult police detainees, by education level, 2006 (percent)

  • Half the female (50%) and almost half the male (48%) police detainees in 2006 had completed Year 10 or less, and one-fifth had completed Years 11 and 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 TAFE (17%) or university qualification (5%).

Source: Reference 21

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

Figure 70 : Adult police detainees, by source of income (non-crime generated) in past 30 days, 2006 (percent)

  • One-third of male detainees (34%) and almost half the female detainees (47%) received a welfare or 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 (19%), followed by money obtained from friends and family (17%).
  • Female detainees' next most common sources of income were family or friends (19%) and a part time job (7%).

Source: Reference 21

Figure 71 : Adult police detainees, by source of income (crime-generated)(a) in past 30 days, 2006 (percent)

a: Sex work is decriminalised in some states and territories

  • 12% of male detainees and 17% of female detainees sourced their income from criminal activity.
  • Drug dealing and other drug-related crimes were reported by 5% of male detainees as their main source of income.
  • 6% of female detainees relied on shoplifting as their main source of income; 5% on drug dealing and drug-related crimes and 3% on sex work.

Source: Reference 21

Figure 72 : Adult police detainees, by previous experience of homelessness, arrest and imprisonment, and mental illness, 2006 (percent)

  • Around half the male (56%) and female (54%) detainees had been arrested in the 12 months prior to their current arrest. Male detainees were more likely (18%) than female detainees (15%) to have spent time in prison in the previous 12 months.
  • Female detainees (20%) were more likely than male detainees (15%) to have ever been admitted to a psychiatric unit.
  • 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.

Source: Reference 21

Most serious offence

Table 7 : Adult male police detainees, by most serious offence, 2002-06 (percent)
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Violent offences 25 26 26 25 28
Property offences 28 31 28 24 23
Drug offences 6 6 7 7 7
Drink driving offences 4 5 6 4 5
Traffic offences 10 10 9 12 9
Disorder offences 6 6 6 6 7
Breaches 16 14 15 18 17
Other offences 5 3 4 4 5
Table 8 : Adult female police detainees, by most serious offence, 2002-06 (percent)
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Violent offences 16 16 17 18 20
Property offences 41 47 41 37 37
Drug offences 8 7 7 7 7
Drink driving offences 3 2 3 3 2
Traffic offences 6 7 8 10 10
Disorder offences 7 7 6 7 5
Breaches 14 12 13 13 13
Other offences 6 3 6 5 5
  • Between 2002 and 2005, property offences were the most common serious offence for adult male detainees, but in 2006 it was violent offences.
  • Property offences were the most common serious offence for adult female detainees over the five year period. Female detainees were 2-3 times more likely to be detained for a property offence than a violent offence.
  • Since 2002, the percentage of female detainees whose most serious offence was a violent offence has increased from 16% to 20%.
  • There has been a decrease in the percentage of male detainees whose most serious offence was a property offence, from 28% to 23%.

Source: Reference 21