Australian Institute of Criminology

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Recorded crime

Data on recorded crime as published by the ABS for the period 1996 to 2008 are presented in this first chapter. The information is based on police records of crimes from 1 January to 31 December each year. A victim of crime 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 (murder and manslaughter), 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 percent of all crimes recorded by police.

Due to inconsistency among jurisdictions in recording, the ABS has not released aggregated data on assault or sexual assault since 2003. As trends within jurisdictions appear to be consistent, however, the data for each jurisdiction have been released. The Australian Institute of Criminology (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 New South Wales. 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 than the theft.

Table 1 Victims of violent crimes, 1996–2008 (n)
HomicideAssaultSexual assaultRobberyKidnapping
Note: Number of victims presented here represents revised estimates on numbers published in earlier editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures
1996 354 114,156 14,542 16,372 478
1997 364 124,500 14,353 21,305 564
1998 334 130,903 14,689 23,801 707
1999 385 134,271 14,699 22,606 766
2000 362 138,708 16,406 23,336 695
2001 347 152,283 17,577 26,591 767
2002 366 159,548 18,718 20,989 706
2003 341 157,280 18,025 19,709 696
2004 302 156,849 19,171 16,513 768
2005 301 166,507 18,695 17,176 729
2006 321 172,441 19,555 17,375 726
2007 283 176,427 19,781 17,996 733
2008 290 170,277 19,733 16,508 782
  • Assaults continue to represent the majority of recorded violent crimes, with an overall trend of increased offending since 1996. Although a decrease was recorded between 2007 and 2008, there has been a 49 percent increase in assaults between 1996 and 2008.
  • Although sexual assault is one of the least reported types of crime, there was an overall increase over the period 1996–2007 (although the number of assaults decreased between 2007 and 2008). The highest numbers of victims of sexual assault and of assaults in general were recorded in 2007.
  • For violent crime, the trend in the past five years has varied. Variability from year to year is more pronounced in offences that have a smaller number of victims, such as homicide.
  • Recorded homicide declined from 2002 to 2005, increased in 2006, decreased in 2007 and increased in 2008. There were 290 victims of homicide in 2008. Although this represented a two percent increase from 2007, it was still the second lowest incidence recorded in the past 12 years.
  • Contrary to an increasing trend since 2004, robbery offences decreased in 2008 to 16,508.
  • The number of recorded kidnappings fluctuates yearly. Over the period 1996 to 2004, a general increase was recorded for kidnapping. Figures then remained relatively steady in the period 2005 to 2007 and increased in 2008 to 782.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 1: Annual change in number of victims of selected violent crimes, 2002–08 (%)

Figure 1 Annual change in number of victims of selected violent crimes, 2002–08

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

  • Victim numbers have decreased since 2007 for both assault and robbery.

Source: Reference 1

Property crime

Property crime comprises UEWI (also referred to as break and enter or burglary), MVT and 'other theft', which includes offences such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, shoplifting and bicycle theft.

Table 2 Victims of property crimes, 1996–2008 (n)
UEWIMVTOther theft
Note: Number of victims presented here represents revised estimates on numbers published in earlier editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures
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 281,994 80,365 518,335
2006 262,005 75,377 518,734
2007 248,475 70,614 491,935
2008 241,690 68,270 496,697
  • As in previous years, 'other theft' was the most commonly recorded property crime in 2008, accounting for 62 percent of property crime victims.
  • The number of recorded victims of 'other theft' has decreased by 29 percent since 2001, from 700,137 to 496,697.
  • In 2008, there were 241,690 recorded victims of a UEWI, a decline of three percent from the previous year.
  • The number of MVT victims increased by 14 percent from 1996 to 2001, yet has decreased by 51 percent between 2001 to 2008.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 2: Annual change in number of victims of property crime, 2002–08 (%)

Figure 2 Annual change in number of victims of property crime, 2002–08

  • The overall trend in property crime offences in the past five years has been one of decline. Both UEWI and MVT exhibited a decline in 2008, while 'other theft' experienced a slight increase (1%). For victims of property crime, an overall five percent decrease from the previous year was noted.

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 in that 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. In this section, they are calculated per 100,000 persons in the population per year.

Violent crime rate

Figure 3: Violent crimes, 1996–2008 (per 100,000 persons per year)

Figure 3 Violent crimes, 1996–2008

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

  • The trend in the rate of recorded assaults increased steadily from 1996 to 2008, from 623 assaults per 100,000 in 1996 to 796 per 100,000 in 2008. The 2008 rate was the lowest rate recorded since 2005, decreasing from a high of 840 per 100,000 in 2007.
  • The rate for robbery peaked in 2001. Rates have declined by 44 percent since 2001, to 77 per 100,000 per year, with the 2008 rate representing the lowest rate recorded since 1996.
  • From 1996 to 2008, the rate of kidnapping remained between three and four per 100,000 per year.
  • The homicide rate was 1.9 per 100,000 in 1996 (which includes the 35 victims of the Port Arthur massacre) and was at its highest in 1999, at two per 100,000. In 2008, the rate was 1.4 per 100,000, the second lowest recorded (since 1996).
  • The rate of recorded sexual assault increased between 1996 and 2008, from 80 to 92 persons per 100,000 per year. However, between 2007 and 2008 the rate declined from 94 per 100,000 to 92 per 100,000.

Source: References 1 and 2

Property crime rate

Figure 4: Property crimes, 1996–2008 (per 100,000 persons per year)

Figure 4 Property crimes, 1996–2008

  • Property crime rates in 2008 were the lowest recorded in the 12 year period since 1996.
  • The rate of 'other theft' peaked at 3,607 per 100,000 per year in 2001, declining thereafter.
  • The rate of UEWI remained relatively stable from 1996 to 2001 but has since declined.
  • The rate of MVT declined by 52 percent between 1996 and 2008, from 671 to 319.

Source: References 1 and 2

Location of crime

The ABS classifies crime locations according to the function of the site of the crime. There are three broad location types:

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

National data on the location of victims of assault and sexual assault cannot, as it was in previous years, be presented here due to the incompleteness of published data inclusive of all states and territories.

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

Table 3: Location type of violent crimes, 2008 (n)
MurderRobberyKidnapping
a: Total includes locations not further defined
Residential
Dwelling 145 1,013 215
Outbuilding/residential land 14 134 12
Total residentiala 163 1,155 230
Community
Transport 3 1,509 29
Street/footpath 39 7,922 351
Other community 18 500 56
Total communitya 64 9,986 436
Other
Retail 11 3,623 56
Recreational 13 1,265 30
Other location 6 357 13
Unspecified location 3 96 14
Totala 260 16,508 783
  • Of all murders (n=260), 63 percent occurred in a residential location. Of all robberies (n=16,508), 93 percent occurred outside the home.
  • Streets and footpaths represented the most common location for robberies (48% of 16,508) and kidnappings (45% of 783).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 5: Selected violent crimesa, 2003–08, by location type (n)

Figure 5 Selected violent crimes, 2003–08, by location type

a: Excludes assault and sexual assault

  • Between 2003 and 2008, violent crimes declined in all categories of location, except recreational locations.
  • Since 2003, violent crimes perpetrated in retail locations have declined by 21 percent. Declines in violent crimes were also recorded at transport locations (27%), residential (15%) and other community locations (57%).
  • There was an increase from 2007 to 2008 in the number of violent crimes carried out in transport, retail and recreational settings (1%, 1% and 43% respectively).
  • Conversely, violent crime that occurred at residential, street/footpath and other community locations declined between 2007 and 2008.

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: Location type of property crimes, 2008 (n)
UEWIMVTOther theft
Residential
Dwelling 142,640 207 48,987
Outbuilding/residential land 16,372 22,558 81,702
Total residentiala 160,983 24,766 132,917
Community
Transport 788 6,535 44,985
Street/footpath 108 23,643 77,423
Other community 16,916 1,048 26,281
Total communitya 17,839 31,314 149,473
Other
Retail 30,230 5,657 149,862
Recreational 7,008 908 20,444
Other location 21,733 3,549 30,783
Unspecified location 1,898 1,956 11,252
Totala 241,690 68,270 496,697
  • Of all UEWI crimes (n=241,690), the majority (67%) occurred in a residential location and 13 percent in a retail location.
  • Of all MVT offences (n=68,270), most (55%) occurred in a public location.
  • Of all other theft crimes (n=496,697), retail was the most prevalent theft location (30%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 6: Location type of property crimes, 2008 (%)

Figure 6 Location type of property crimes, 2008

a: Includes unspecified location
n=795,473. Excludes residential locations that could not be classified as a dwelling or outbuilding/residential land and locations not further defined

  • Property offences were most likely to occur at a dwelling (24%), retail location (23%) or outbuilding/residential land (15%).
  • Property offences were least likely to occur at recreational locations (4%) or other community (5%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 7: Property crimes, 2003–08, by location type (n)

Figure 7 Property crimes, 2003–08, by location type

  • Between 2003 and 2008, property crimes generally declined in all categories of location.
  • From 2003 to 2008, the greatest relative declines in property crimes were in those which occurred at recreational locations (43%), other community locations (38%) and in dwellings (33%).
  • Property crimes on transport declined by 32 percent and those perpetrated on streets and footpaths declined by 25 percent between 2003 and 2008.

Source: Reference 1