Australian Institute of Criminology

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Chapter 1: Recorded crime

Data on recorded crime as published by the ABS for the period 1996 to 2009 are presented in this first section. 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;
  • UEWI;
  • motor vehicle theft (MVT); and
  • other theft.

It is estimated that these crimes account for approximately 60 percent of all crimes recorded by police.

Due to inconsistencies in recording between jurisdictions, the ABS has not released aggregated data on assault since 2003. 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 under-counting 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 theft.

Table 1: Victims of selected violent crimes, 1996–2009 (n)
HomicideAssaultSexual assaultRobberyKidnapping/abduction
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 366 160,118 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 283 176,077 19,954 17,996 733
2008 293 170,720 19,992 16,513 788
2009 293 175,277 18,807 15,238 564

Note: Number of victims presented here represents revised estimates on numbers published in earlier editions of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures

  • Although susceptible to fluctuations, the number of kidnapping/abductions decreased by 28 percent between 2008 and 2009, while there has been an overall increase of 18 percent in the number of kidnappings since 1996.
  • Assaults have been increasing at an average rate of four percent per year since 1996. There were 175,227 cases of assault in 2009, a 2.6 percent rise from 2008.
  • With 293 recorded cases in 2009, homicide figures continue to be the lowest of all violent crime categories in Australia.
  • Sexual assaults have fluctuated since 2003, with a six percent decrease in the number of recorded sexual assaults between 2008 and 2009. Overall, the number of sexual assaults has increased by one-third since 1996.
  • Robberies have continued to decrease since 2007, reducing to 15,238 in 2009 (an 8% decrease since 2008).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 1: Annual change in number of victims of selected violent crimes, 2002–09 (%)

Annual change in number of victims of selected violent crimes, 2002–09 (%)

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

  • In 2009, assault was the only crime to experience an increase, rising by three percent from 2008.
  • Although sexual assault has decreased since 2008, in the past 10 years it has increased by 28 percent.
  • Kidnapping decreased by 28 percent—the largest variation of any violent crime category.
  • There has been a 33 percent decrease in robberies since 1999.

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 pick pocketing, bag snatching, shoplifting and bicycle theft.

Table 2: Victims of property crime, 1996–2009 (n)
UEWIMVT'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 281,994 80,365 518,335
2006 262,005 75,377 518,734
2007 248,475 70,614 491,935
2008 241,760 68,265 497,053
2009 222,664 59,649 478,807

Note: Number of victims presented here represents revised estimates on numbers published in earlier editions of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures

  • Since 2001, the number of recorded victims of MVT has decreased by 57 percent to a low of 59,649 in 2009.
  • 'Other' theft remains the most commonly recorded property crime, accounting for 63 percent of all recorded property crime. Although the incidence of 'other' theft has been variable since 1996, from 2001 onwards there has been a 32 percent decrease in 'other' theft.
  • In 2009, there were 222,664 recorded victims of UEWI, a decline of eight percent from the previous year.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 2: Annual change in number of victims of selected property crimes, 2002–09 (%)

Annual change in number of victims of selected violent crimes, 2002–09 (%)

  • The recorded victims of property crime continued to decrease in 2009, in line with the trend for the past five years.
  • Assessing changes in reported crime since data was first collected in 1996, UEWI has declined by 45 percent, MVT by 51 percent and 'other' theft by eight percent.

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, 1996–2009 (rate per 100,000 population)

Violent crimes, 1996–2009 (rate per 100,000 population)

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

  • Since 1996, the rate of assault per 100,000 population has continued to rise, increasing on average by two percent each year.
  • While overall rates of robbery have declined since 2001, a dramatic decrease in robbery rates occurred between 2007 and 2009, falling by an average of 19 percent each year.
  • Since 1996, the rate of kidnapping has remained at between two and four per 100,000 population per year.
  • The homicide rate was 1.9 per 100,000 population in 1996 (including the 35 victims of the Port Arthur massacre) and was at its highest in 1999, at two per 100,000 population. In 2009, the rate was 1.3 per 100,000 population.
  • Sexual assault continued to fall between 2008 and 2009, decreasing from 93 to 86 persons per 100,000 population.

Source: References 1 and 2

Property crime rates

Figure 4: Property crimes, 1996–2009 (rate per 100,000 population)

Property crimes, 1996–2009 (rate per 100,000 population)

  • Property crime rates in 2009 were the lowest recorded in the 14 year period since 1996.
  • The rate of 'other' theft peaked in 2001 and has been in decline since then, falling to 2,189 persons per 100,000 population in 2009.
  • The rate of UEWI remained relatively stable from 1996 to 2001 but has since declined to a rate of 1,018 per 100,000 population.
  • In 2000, the rate of MVT was 725 per 100,000 and has since decreased by 62 percent to 273 per 100,000 population in 2009.

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.

In previous editions of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures, the location of sexual assaults was not included as the data was not available. This information is included in the current edition and all figures have been updated accordingly.

Table 3 shows the numbers of various violent offences that occurred at each type of location.

Table 3: Location type of violent crimes, 2009
MurderSexual assaultKidnapping/abductionRobbery
Residential
Dwelling 152 12,168 158 945
Outbuilding/residential land 12 286 8 134
Residential location not specified 6 211 0 10
Total residential 170 12,665 166 1,089
Community
Transport 3 649 16 1,373
Street/footpath 38 1,236 255 7,073
Other community location 13 1,488 51 472
Community location not specified 3 81 0 57
Total community 57 3,454 322 8,975
Other
Retail 12 729 32 3,604
Recreational 9 953 24 1,115
Other location 7 301 14 232
Unspecified 9 654 8 154
Total 264 18,756 566 15,169
  • Of all murders, 64 percent occurred in a residential location; of all robberies, only eight percent occurred inside a residential location.
  • Streets and footpaths were the most common location for both robberies (46% of 15,169) and kidnappings (45% of 569) in 2009.
  • Sixty-seven percent of all sexual assaults occurred in a residential setting.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 5: Selected violent crimesa by type of location, 2005–09 (n)

Selected violent crimesa by type of location, 2005–09 (n)

a: Excludes assault

  • With the inclusion of national data on sexual assault, residential settings were the most common location for violent crime between 2005 and 2009, followed by the street/footpath.
  • Two locations for violent crimes saw increases between 2005 and 2009. Residential locations have increased by one percent since 2005, while violent crimes committed in recreational settings have increased by eight percent.
  • Since 2008, violent crimes committed on transport have fallen by six percent, from 2,184 in 2008 to 2,041 in 2009.
  • Of all categories of location, 'other community' experienced the largest decrease over the five year period, declining on average by five percent per year from 2,729 cases in 2005 to 2,024 cases in 2009.

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, 2009
UEWIMVT'Other' theft
Residential
Dwelling 133,889 0 39,646
Outbuilding/residential land 15,592 19,779 87,132
Residential location not specified 1,781 3,913 7,040
Total residential 151,262 23,692 133,818
Community
Transport 455 4,289 34,108
Street/footpath 5 20,589 68,836
Other community location 14,482 852 25,575
Community location not specified 18 83 786
Total community 14,960 25,813 129,305
Other
Retail 27,617 4,486 156,138
Recreational 6,679 814 19,928
Other location 18,671 2,189 22,983
Unspecified 1,737 1,779 11,381
Total 220,926 58,773 473,553
  • The two most common locations of UEWI were residential (68% of all UEWI offences) and retail (12%) settings.
  • Of all MVT offences, most (53%) occurred in a public location.
  • For all 'other' theft crimes, retail was the most prevalent theft location (33%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 6: Property crime by location, 2009

Property crime by location, 2009

a: Includes unspecified location

n=724,734. Excludes residential locations that could not be classified as a dwelling or outbuilding/residential land and locations not further defined

  • The most common locations for property crimes were retail (31%), residential (29%) and on the street/footpath (15%).
  • Property offences were least likely to occur on transport (6%) or at recreational locations (5%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 7: Property crime by location, 2005–09

Property crime by location, 2005–09

  • In 2009, three of the location categories where property crime could occur (street/footpath, other community and retail) saw decreases in offence numbers from 2008. Twelve percent of property crimes occurred in 'other community location' settings.
  • Property crimes occurring in dwellings have declined consistently since 2005, decreasing on average by five percent per year.
  • In 2009, the number of property crimes that occurred in recreational locations fell by five percent from the 2008 figure.
  • Property crimes on transport declined by 26 percent, falling from 52,342 in 2008 to 38,852 in 2009.

Source: Reference 1