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Selected offender profiles

In 2009, for the first time, the ABS published a report on offender characteristics, entitled Recorded Crime—Offenders, Selected States and Territories, 2007–08. This publication includes national data on offender age and gender for four key offence categories:

  • acts intended to cause injury;
  • theft and related offences;
  • illicit drug offences; and
  • public order offences.

It also contains information on offender characteristics for other offences on a state-by-state basis.

This chapter brings together information on offenders from three sources:

  • police annual reports from the three jurisdictions that release offender statistics;
  • the AIC's DUMA program; and
  • the first issue of the ABS Recorded Crime—Offenders, Selected States and Territories, 2007–08.

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

Official data on sex and age of alleged offenders are published by the police services of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Police statistics on alleged offenders are unavailable from the remaining states and territories.

This chapter presents data on alleged offenders classified according to sex 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 findings of guilt. 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 offenders compare with that of female offenders?
  • Are female offender rates increasing?

The number of alleged offenders does not equal the number of distinct alleged 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 term total offender population refers to the total number of (not necessarily distinct) individuals aged 10 years and over in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia who have been processed by police for any of the offences listed below. The rates of total offenders included in the tables and figures in this chapter are calculated relative to the total population aged 10 years and over in these jurisdictions (see Reference 2). The data are presented by financial year.

In addition, in 2007–08, the classification of 'other theft' has been updated to a more inclusive figure. This has caused an increase in the number of offenders in 2007–08 which is partially explained by the re-classification of 'other theft' to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included 'theft (other)' for Victoria. This edition's inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of 'other theft'.

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; and
  • 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 are members of any other population. In 2007–08, the offending rate for persons aged 15 to 19 years was almost four times the rate for total offenders (6,387 and 1,818 respectively per 100,000).

Figure 47: Offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by age in years (per 100,000 of that age per year)

Figure 47 Offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by age in years

Notes: 'All' refers to all offenders aged 10 years and over. The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the re-classification of 'other theft' to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included 'theft (other)' for Victoria. This edition's inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of 'other theft'

  • Offender rates have been consistently highest among persons aged 15 to 19 years and lowest among those aged 25 years and over.
  • Rates have declined from 1996–97 for the 20 to 24 year age group and 15 to 19 year age group, declining by 18 percent and 12 percent respectively. Rates of offenders aged 10 to 14 years and 25 years and over increased in this same period (7% and 21% respectively).

Source: References 2 and 7–9

Figure 48: Offenders, 2007–08, by selected principal offence and age in years for Australia (excluding Western Australia)

Figure 48 Offenders, 2007–08, by selected principal offence and age in years for Australia

Note: In the Australian Capital Territory, only 4 categories of selected principal offences have been reported by ABS. Therefore, to get a national figure (excluding Western Australia), only these 4 categories across states and territories could be aggregated into a national figure

  • For these selected offences, the number of offenders peaks for persons aged between 15 to 21 years and substantially declines thereafter.
  • For acts intended to cause injury:
    – those aged 18 years made up the majority of offenders for this offence type;
    – public order offenders reaches a high at age 17 years;
    – theft and other related offences peaks earlier, aged 15 years; and
    – illicit drug offenders is highest among those aged 20 years.

Source: Reference 27

Sex

In 2007–08, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia processed a total of 178,046 alleged offenders, 137,163 of whom were male and 40,883 were female. Females made up 23 percent of all offenders in 2007–08, a proportion similar to that of previous years.

Figure 49: Offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by sex (per 100,000 of that sex per year)

Figure 49 Offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by sex

Note: The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the re-classification of 'other theft' to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included ‘theft (other)' for Victoria. This edition's inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of ‘other theft'

  • Between 1996–97 and 2007–08, males were three times more likely than females to be identified as offenders. In 2007–08, the male offender rate was 2,833 offenders per 100,000 males aged 10 years and over; the female offender rate was 826 per 100,000 females aged 10 years and over.
  • Offender rates for both males and females reached a peak in 2000–01. Since then, rates have declined by 22 percent for both males and females.

Source: References 2 and 7–9

Males

Figure 50: Male offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by age in years (per 100,000 males of that age group per year)

Figure 50 Male offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by age in years

Notes: 'All' refers to all male offenders aged 10 years and over. The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the re-classification of ‘other theft' to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included ‘theft (other)' for Victoria. This edition's inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of 'other theft'

  • From 1996–2008, the rate for male offenders was consistently highest in the 15 to 19 year age group. In 2007–08, the offender rate of males aged 15 to 19 years was 9,781 per 100,000, following a peak of 13,087 per 100,000 in 1999–2000.
  • Rates were also high during this period among males in the 20 to 24 year age group, ranging between 5,320 and 9,160 per 100,000 relevant population.
  • Since 1999–2000, there has been a substantial decrease in male offender rates in 15 to 19 years and 20 to 24 year age groups. These decreases have been of one-quarter or more. In this period, the rates of male offenders aged 10 to 14 years and 25 years and over decreased by more than 10 percent.

Source: References 2 and 7–9

Figure 51: Male offenders, 1996–97 and 2007–08, by offence type (per 100,000 males per year)

Figure 51 Male offenders, 1996–97 and 2007–08, by offence type

  • In 1996–97 and 2007–08, male offender rates were highest for the offences of other theft, unlawful entry with intent and assault. Rates were lowest for robbery, sexual assault and homicide in both years.
  • Compared with 1996–97, male offending rates in 2007–08 increased for all violent crimes except homicide (ie for assault, robbery and sexual assault) and declined for motor vehicle theft, unlawful entry with intent, 'other theft' and particularly for fraud/deception.

Source: References 2 and 7–9

Females

Figure 52: Female offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by age in years (per 100,000 females of that age group per year)

Figure 52 Female offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by age in years

Notes: 'All' refers to all female offenders aged 10 years and over. The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the re-classification of 'other theft' to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included 'theft (other)' for Victoria. This edition's inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of 'other theft'

  • Similar to male offending rates, rates among females since 1996–97 have been consistently highest in the 15 to 19 years age group.
  • In all age groups, the female offender rate peaked in 2000–01, followed by a general decline. Offender rates began to increase again in the three years prior to 2008 in the 10 to 14 years, 15 to 19 years and the 25 years and over age groups.

Source: References 2 and 7–9

Figure 53: Female offenders, 1996–97 and 2007–08, by offence type (per 100,000 females per year)

Figure 53 Female offenders, 1996–97 and 2007–08, by offence type

  • Female offender rates were highest for 'other theft', fraud/deception and assault in both 1996–97 and 2007–08, and lowest for robbery, homicide (fewer than 2 per 100,000) and sexual assault (fewer than 1 per 100,000).

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 54: Juvenile and adult offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by age group (per 100,000 of that age group per year)

Figure 54 Juvenile and adult offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by age group

Note: The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the re-classification of 'other theft' to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included 'theft (other)' for Victoria. This edition's inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of 'other theft'

  • Juvenile offender rates are generally twice as high as adult rates.
  • The offending rate among adults peaked in 2000–01, at 2,105 per 100,000. In 2007–08, it was 1,495 per 100,000—the second lowest rate recorded.
  • The offender rate among juveniles decreased overall from 1996–97 to 2003–04 from 3,965 to 3,024 per 100,000. It increased in 2004–05, 2006–07 and again in 2007–08 to 4,006 per 100,000.

Source: References 2 and 7–9

Figure 55: Juvenile offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by sex (per 100,000 juveniles of that sex per year)

Figure 55 Juvenile offenders, 1996–97 to 2007–08, by sex

Note: The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the re-classification of 'other theft' to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included 'theft (other)' for Victoria. This edition's inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of 'other theft'

  • Since 1996–97, offender rates have declined by 13 percent for juvenile males, but have increased by 46 percent for juvenile females. This increase is primarily due to the re-classification of 'other theft' in 2007–08 to be more inclusive. Although the inclusion of more crime types in 'other theft' also affected the figures for juvenile males, their rates still registered a decline.
  • Female juvenile offenders comprised 20 to 29 percent of all juvenile offenders in any given year from 1996–97 to 2007–08.

Source: References 2 and 7–9

Figure 56: Juvenile offenders, 1996–97 and 2007–08, by offence type (per 100,000 juveniles per year)

Figure 56 Juvenile offenders, 1996–97 and 2007–08, by offence type

Note: The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the re-classification of 'other theft' to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included 'theft (other)' for Victoria. This edition's inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of 'other theft'

  • From 1996–97 to 2007–08, juvenile offender rates for sexual assault, robbery and assault and other theft rose by 96 percent, 78 percent, 47 percent and 27 percent respectively.
  • Juvenile offender rates decreased for fraud and deception (49%), homicide (40%), UEWI (28%) and motor vehicle theft (15%).

Source: References 2 and 7–9

Drug use by offenders

Police detainees

The AIC's DUMA program monitors illicit drug use by police detainees at several sites around Australia on a quarterly basis. DUMA provides a reasonable and independent indicator of drug-related crime at these locations. Two methods are used to obtain information—questionnaire and urine sample.

By 2008, 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 in South Australia; Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory; and Footscray in Victoria. Brisbane City and Adelaide City began participating in 2002, Darwin and Footscray in 2006 and Alice Springs in 2007.

Data collection at a tenth site in Elizabeth, South Australia ceased as at the end of Quarter Four 2007 and therefore, there is no data for Elizabeth in 2008.

Data are collected quarterly and presented in the following figures as annual averages. Data is presented here for males only, unless otherwise stated, as they represent the majority (more than 80%) of police detainees in the DUMA collection.

The 10 sites differed in the percentage of police detainees testing positive to each of cannabis, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 57: Adult male police detainees testing positive to cannabis, 1999–2008, by DUMA location (%)

Figure 57 Adult male police detainees testing positive to cannabis, 1999–2008, by DUMA location

  • The proportion of adult male detainees testing positive to cannabis in 2008 ranged from 24 percent (Alice Springs) to 65 percent (Darwin).
  • Since 2004, most sites have registered a decrease in the percentage of detainees testing positive to cannabis.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 58: Adult male police detainees testing positive to methamphetamine, 1999–2008, by DUMA location (%)

Figure 58 Adult male police detainees testing positive to methamphetamine, 1999–2008, by DUMA location

  • The proportion of adult male detainees testing positive to methamphetamine in 2008 ranged from two percent (Darwin) to 30 percent (East Perth). No detainees tested positive to methamphetamine at Alice Springs.
  • Methamphetamine use increased at all long-term sites from 1999 to 2001. The majority of sites recorded a general peak in methamphetamine use in 2001 and then from 2001, reported an overall decline in the following years. The exception to this trend were Sydney sites.
  • Sydney sites recorded a peak in methamphetamine use in 2007 and have declined thereafter.
  • Methamphetamine use by police detainees has been consistently higher in East Perth and Adelaide, and lower at the Sydney sites.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 59: Adult male police detainees testing positive to heroin, 1999–2008, by DUMA location (%)

Figure 59 Adult male police detainees testing positive to heroin, 1999–2008, by DUMA location

  • Most sites have registered either a decline or remained relatively stable in heroin use. The proportion of adult male detainees testing positive to heroin in 2008 ranged from no positive result (Alice Springs) to 48 percent (Footscray).
  • In 2008, nearly half the detainees at the Footscray site tested positive to heroin.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 60: Adult male police detainees testing positive to cocaine, 1999–2008, by DUMA location (%)

Figure 60 Adult male police detainees testing positive to cocaine, 1999–2008, by DUMA location

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

  • The proportion of adult male detainees testing positive to cocaine is very low at all sites, but consistently higher at Bankstown and Parramatta than at the other sites.
  • Cocaine use has fluctuated at the two Sydney sites; the greatest proportion of detainees there testing positive in 2001.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 61: Adult male police detainees' positive testing to a druga, 1999–2008, by DUMA location (%)

Figure 61 Adult male police detainees' positive testing to a druga, 1999–2008,by DUMA location

a: A drug is defined as cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, or benzodiazepines

  • Sites routinely show around 60 to 80 percent of adult male detainees test positive to a drug. Since 2001, the proportion of detainees at Bankstown testing positive to a drug has been 60 percent or less.
  • At the majority of sites, the percentage of adult male detainees testing positive to a drug has remained steady or decreased since monitoring at the site began.
  • The exception to this decline is Alice Springs and Darwin, where there was an increase in the reported percentage of adult male detainees testing positive to any drug since monitoring at these sites began.
  • Before 2007, the proportion of adult male detainees testing positive to a drug was consistently highest at the Adelaide and East Perth sites.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 62: Adult male police detainees testing positive to selected drugs, at four long-term sitesa, 1999–2008 (%)

Figure 62 Adult male police detainees testing positive to selected drugs, at four long-term sitesa, 1999–2008

a: Bankstown, Parramatta, East Perth, Southport

  • The proportion of adult male detainees using any drug and those using methamphetamine was relatively stable between 2005 and 2007, but have since increased between 2007 and 2008.
  • From 1999 to 2008, the percentage of adult male detainees testing positive to cocaine and the percentage testing positive to cannabis have remained relatively steady.
  • The proportion of adult male detainees using heroin increased in 2008 compared with the prior year. This is in contrast to a general decrease between 2000 and 2007.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 63: Adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug, 2008, by type of charge for most serious offence (% of those with that type of charge)

Figure 63 Adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug, 2008, by type of charge for most serious offence

a: Methamphetamine
b: Benzodiazepines

  • Adult male detainees who tested positive for benzodiazepines or cannabis were more likely to be charged with both property offences and violent offences as their most serious offence (MSO) than detainees who tested positive to methamphetamine or heroin.
  • Seventy-four percent of all adult male detainees charged with property offences as their MSO, and 73 percent of those charged with violent offences, tested positive to a drug.

Source: Reference 20

Characteristics of police detainees

Figure 64: Age in years and sex distribution of adult police detainees, 2008 (%)

Figure 64 Age in years and sex distribution of adult police detainees, 2008

  • Nearly one-third of male and female adult detainees were aged 36 years and over. Another 21 percent of males and 19 percent of females were aged 21 to 25 years.
  • There was little difference between the sexes in the proportion of detainees in each age group.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 65: Education level of adult police detainees, 2008 (%)

Figure 65 Education level of adult police detainees, 2008

  • Forty-seven percent of male and 51 percent of female detainees had not completed any education beyond Year 10. Nearly one-fifth of males and 16 percent of females had completed Year 11 or 12.
  • Nineteen percent of adult male detainees had completed a TAFE qualification and five percent had completed a university qualification.
  • A similar proportion of adult female detainees had completed a TAFE (16%) or university qualification (6%).

Source: Reference 20

Figure 66: Non-crime generated sources of income of adult police detainees, 2008, during 30 days before arrest, by sex (%)

Figure 66 Non-crime generated sources of income of adult police detainees, 2008, during 30 days before arrest, by sex

Note: Previous DUMA surveys required respondents to identify their ‘main source of income'. In the 2008 survey, respondents could select more than one source of income. As such, Figure 66 and 67 do not total 100% for each sex

  • More than half (51%) of adult male detainees and more than three-quarters of adult female detainees (78%) received a welfare or government benefit as a source of income in the 30 days prior to arrest.
  • Adult male detainees' next most common income source was a full-time job (38%), followed by money obtained from friends and family (32%).
  • Adult female detainees' next most common sources of income were family or friends (29%) and a full-time job (13%).

Source: Reference 20

Figure 67 Crime-generateda sources of income of adult police detainees, 2008, during 30 days before arrest, by sex (%)

Figure 67 Crime-generateda sources of income of adult police detainees, 2008, during 30 days before arrest, by sex

a: Sex work is decriminalised in some states and territories
Note: Previous DUMA surveys required respondents to identify their ‘main source of income'. In the 2008 survey, respondents could select more than one source of income. As such, Figure 66 and 67 do not total 100% for each sex

  • Twenty-one percent of adult male detainees and 24 percent of adult female detainees obtained a portion of their income from criminal activity.
  • Drug dealing and other drug-related crimes were reported by eight percent of male detainees as a source of income and shoplifting by five percent.
  • Nine percent of female detainees engaged in shoplifting to supplement their income, six percent in drug dealing and drug-related crimes and four percent in sex work.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 68: Previous experience of homelessness, arrest and imprisonment, and mental illness of adult police detainees, 2008 (%)

Figure 68 Previous experience of homelessness, arrest and imprisonment, and mental illness of adult police detainees, 2008

  • Half of adult male (50%) and approximately half of adult female (48%) detainees had been arrested in the 12 months prior to their current arrest. Adult male detainees were more likely (18%) than adult female detainees (13%) to have spent time in prison in the previous 12 months.
  • Adult female detainees (20%) were more likely than adult male detainees (15%) to have been admitted to a psychiatric unit.
  • A similar proportion of adult 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 20

Most serious offence

Table 7: MSO of adult male police detainees, 2004–08 (%)
20042005200620072008
Violent offences 26 25 28 27 28
Property offences 28 24 23 21 20
Drug offences 7 7 7 7 8
Drink-driving offences 6 4 5 6 6
Traffic offences 9 12 9 9 8
Disorder offences 6 6 7 6 7
Breaches 15 18 17 19 20
Other offences 4 4 5 5 4
Table 8: MSO of adult female police detainees, 2004–08 (%)
20042005200620072008
Violent offences 17 18 20 20 18
Property offences 41 37 37 35 36
Drug offences 7 7 7 9 9
Drink-driving offences 3 3 2 4 5
Traffic offences 8 10 10 6 8
Disorder offences 6 7 5 7 5
Breaches 13 13 13 16 15
Other offences 6 5 5 3 4
  • In 2004, the MSO committed by adult male detainees was most commonly a property offence, but in 2005 to 2008, it was most commonly a violent offence.
  • The MSO committed by adult female detainees in each of the five years from 2004 to 2008 was most commonly a property offence. Adult female detainees were twice as likely to have been detained for a property offence as for a violent offence.
  • Since 2004, the proportion of adult female detainees whose MSO was a violent offence increased marginally from 17 percent to 18 percent. The proportion whose MSO was a property offence decreased from 41 percent to 36 percent in the same period.
  • There has been a decrease in the proportion of adult male detainees whose MSO was a property offence, from 28 percent to 20 percent.

Source: Reference 20