Australian Institute of Criminology

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Director's introduction

This compendium of information is a ready reference for those wanting to inform themselves about current trends and patterns in crime and criminal justice in Australia. It covers different types of recorded crimes, their place of occurrence, victim details, responses of criminal justice agencies and government resources directed to deal with crime.

National statistics on some major crimes have become more widely available in recent years. However, we still lack nationally consistent data on many emerging crimes such as cybercrime or particular categories of crime such as fraud and family violence. There have also been recording and reporting issues surrounding crimes such as assault and sexual assault. This has significant implications for building an evidence base on the overall level of violent crime in Australia and whether those levels are increasing, decreasing or stable.

The recent report by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission (Source: Reference 32) has also highlighted the need for more comprehensive and accessible data on transnational and organised crime. We are unable to report any statistics in this area, yet the impact of crime on the community is substantial. In 2005-06, Australia's recurrent expenditure on the criminal justice system was around $8.5 billion; there were 25,790 persons in prisons on 30 June 2006; on any day during 2005-06 an average of 53,243 offenders were serving a community corrections order, and there were 46,058 sworn state and territory police officers and 13,529 personnel working in Australian law enforcement agencies on 30 June 2006.

To produce insightful criminal justice research that effectively informs policy and practice, it is necessary to use both administrative and survey-based information. This issue of Australian crime: facts and figures draws from both. It primarily comprises national figures; where national data are not available, other sources are used. In particular, we have used data from our Drug Use Monitoring in Australia project to provide details on the characteristics of offenders, as we lack national and accessible data on known offenders.

Criminological research has consistently shown that a small group of offenders account for a large proportion of crimes. The measurement of recidivism is a critical issue if we are to understand the nature of crime, as well as the capacity to assess the performance of the criminal justice system in changing the behaviour of those who repeatedly commit crime. In this report, we have provided some measures of recidivism, but further work that builds on our recent publication Recidivism in Australia: findings and future research needs to be undertaken.

Readers looking for additional information should consult the appropriate publications and websites included in the reference section of this document. The Australian Institute of Criminology is Australia's leading national criminal justice research agency. This publication is one of many publications we produce, from fact sheets to detailed reports, on a wide range of issues. Further information may be obtained by visiting the website, or contacting the AIC directly.

Toni Makkai
December 2007