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Chapter 4: Selected offender profiles

This chapter brings together information on offenders from three sources:

  • police annual reports from the three jurisdictions that release offender statistics;
  • the AIC's Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program; and
  • the ABS' Recorded Crime—Offenders, Selected States and Territories, 2008–09.

Recorded Crime—Offenders, Selected States and Territories, 2008–09 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.

Alleged offenders

An alleged offender is a person who is suspected of committing a crime and has been processed for that offence by arrest, caution or warrant of apprehension, however, they have not been convicted of the offence in a court of law. Throughout this chapter, the terms offender and offender rate refer to alleged offenders and the offender rate.

Official data on sex and age of offenders are published by the police services of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Police statistics on offenders are not available from the remaining states and territories.

This chapter presents data on 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. Further, as stated above, they do not reflect findings of guilt. The purpose here is to describe 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 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 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 2007–08, the classification of 'other' theft was updated to a more inclusive figure. This caused an increase in the number of offenders in 2007–08, which is partially explained by the reclassification 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;
  • UEWI;
  • MVT;
  • other theft; and
  • fraud and deception-related crime.

Source: References 5–12

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 cohort. In 2008–09, the offending rate for persons aged 15 to 19 years (6,550 per 100,000 population) was almost four times the rate for offenders of all ages (1,822 per 100,000 population).

Figure 49: Offenders by age group, 1996–97 to 2008–09 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

Note: 'All' refers to all offenders aged 10 years and over

  • The offender rates for all ages groups have declined since 1997, except for the over 25 year olds, where the rate has increased from 909 per 100,000 population to 1,107 per 100,000 population; a total increase of 22 percent.
  • Overall, there was little change in the rate of offenders from 2007–08 to 2008–09, increasing from 1,818 to 1,822 per 100,000 population (0.2% change).
  • The number of offenders aged 10–14 years decreased in 2008–09 by seven percent. By comparison, offender rates in the 15–19 year old age group rose by three percent.

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Figure 50: Offenders by selected principal offence and age in years, 2008–09

Note: In the Australian Capital Territory, only 4 categories of selected principal offences have been reported by ABS. Therefore, when calculating a national figure, only these 4 categories across states and territories could be aggregated

  • Although offending for all the selected offences peaks between the ages of 16 and 19 years, these peaks are not consistent. For instance, offenders who engaged in theft and related offences had the earliest peak in offending at around 16 years, while the age of those who committed public order offences and acts intended to cause injury peaked at 18 years. The peak rates of offending for illicit drug offences occur later, at around 19 years.

Source: Reference 20

Sex

In 2008–09, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia processed a total of 182,206 offenders, of whom 138,994 were male and 43,289 were female. Females constituted 24 percent of all offenders in 2008–09, a proportion similar to that of previous years.

Figure 51: Offenders by gender and sex, 1996–97 to 2008–09 (per 100,000 of that sex per year)

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  • In 2008–09, the rate of male offenders per 100,000 population was 2,808 compared with 857 per 100,000 population for female offenders; a ratio of three males to every one female.
  • Although both male and female rates have generally declined since peaking in 2000–01, in 2008–09 the rate for female offenders increased by four percent, from 826 per 100,000 population in 2007–08 to 857 per 100,000 population in 2008–09.

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Males

Figure 52: Male offenders by age group, 1996–97 to 2008–09 (per 100,000 males of that age per year)

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Note: 'All' refers to all male offenders aged 10 years and over

  • In 2008–09, the largest proportion of male offenders were aged between 15 to 19 years. This equates to a rate of 9,881 per 100,000 population in this age group.
  • The largest change rate from 2007–08 to 2008–09 occurred in the 10 to 14 year age group, where the number of offenders decreased by 11 percent.
  • Since 2000–01, offending by males has decreased overall by 23 percent. Offending by males in the 20 to 24 year age group decreased by 39 percent and by 17 percent for males aged 25 years and over.

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Figure 53: Male offenders by offence type, 1996–97 and 2008–09 (per 100,000 males per year)

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  • Compared with 1996–97, rates of offending by males have decreased in 2008–09 for all categories except assault, sexual assault and robbery. In the category of robbery, the rate has increased from 58 per year to 80 per year per 100,000 males, a 38 percent difference. Assault has increased by 20 percent from 664 to 795 per year per 100,000 males, while sexual assault has increased by 38 percent from 23 to 32 per 100,000 males per year.
  • The category of fraud and deception has experienced the largest percentage change compared with other crimes since 1996–97, decreasing in 2008–09 by 42 percent. Other crimes to experience decreases included MVT (37%), homicide (28%) and UEWI (25%).

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Females

Figure 54: Female offenders by age group, 1996–97 to 2008–09 (per 100,000 females of that age group per year)

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Note: 'All' refers to all female offenders aged 10 years and over

  • Overall, the rate of female offending increased by four percent in 2008–09 from the previous year.
  • Female offending rates were the highest for 15–19 year olds with 3,040 offenders per 100,000 relevant population. Since 2000–01, this rate has decreased by 10 percent.
  • It should be noted, however, that since 2006–07 the rates of female offending for those aged 10–14 years and 15–19 years increased by 35 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Figure 55: Female offenders by offence type, 1996–97 and 2008–09 (per 100,000 females per year)

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  • Crime categories that saw the highest rate of female offending in 2008–09 were 'other' theft (470 per 100,000 per relevant population) and assault (180 per 100,000 per relevant population).
  • There is minimal difference between the female offending rates involving 'other' theft between 1996–97 and 2008–09 (a decrease of only 0.2 percent in 2008–09). By contrast, the female offending rate for assault has increased by 44 percent, while female offending involving fraud and deception has decreased by 43 percent.

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Juveniles

The definition of what constitutes a juvenile differs among jurisdictions. In all states and territories, except Queensland, a juvenile is a person under the age of 18 years. In Queensland, a juvenile is a person less than 17 years of age. Data in this section include offenders aged between 10 and 17 years.

Figure 56: Juvenile and adult offenders by year, 1996–97 to 2008–09 (per 100,000 relevant population)

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  • Currently, juveniles are offending at the highest rate since 1996–97; 4,218 per 100,000 juvenile population. After peaking in 2001–02, the number of juvenile offenders per 100,000 population decreased to 2004–05 before again increasing each year. Throughout the period where data has been available, the rate of juvenile offenders has always exceeded that of adults.
  • The increase in juvenile offending is different to the offending pattern for adults, which is in decline. Since peaking in 2000–01, adult offending has decreased, on average, by three percent per year.

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Figure 57: Juvenile offenders by sex, 1996–97 to 2008–09 (per 100,000 juveniles of that sex per year)

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  • The rate of offending was almost three times greater for juvenile males than for juvenile females, although both rates have increased since 2007–08; continuing a trend evident since 2006–07. The offending rates of female juveniles has increased by 11 percent per year and for males, rates have increased by five percent per year.

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Figure 58: Juvenile offenders by offence type, 1996–97 and 2008–09 (per 100,000 juveniles per year)

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  • Juvenile offending was highest for other theft (1,971 per 100,000 population), UEWI (875 per 100,000 population) and assault (732 per 100,000 population).
  • Fraud and deception, and MVT are two crimes that have decreased between 1996–97 and 2008–09 by 46 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Source: References 2 and 6–8

Drug use by offenders

Police detainees

The AIC's DUMA program monitors illicit drug use by police detainees on a quarterly basis at a number of sites around Australia. 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 from offenders arrested by police (henceforth referred to as police detainees).

By 2009, nine sites were being monitored—East Perth (Western Australia), Southport and Brisbane City (Queensland), Bankstown, Parramatta and Kings Cross (New South Wales), Adelaide City (South Australia), Darwin (Northern Territory) and Footscray (Victoria). Brisbane City and Adelaide City began participating in 2002, Darwin and Footscray in 2006 and Kings Cross in 2009.

Data collection at the Elizabeth (South Australia) site ceased at the end of Quarter Four in 2007, while the Alice Springs site was discontinued in 2008. Therefore, there is no data for either Elizabeth or Alice Springs in 2009.

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

As the DUMA data deals with percentage of drug use, as opposed to the numerical count (frequency), changes and comparisons between years are reported in percentage points.

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

Source: Reference 21

Figure 59: Adult male police detainees testing positive to cannabis by DUMA location, 1999 to 2009 (%)

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  • The number of males testing positive to cannabis in 2009 was highest at the East Perth site (55%) and lowest at the Parramatta site (36%).
  • Across the nine DUMA sites, an average of 45 percent of male detainees tested positive for cannabis.
  • Most sites recorded a decrease in the number of male detainees testing positive for cannabis. The greatest decrease between 2008 and 2009 was recorded at the Darwin site (20 percentage points).

Source: Reference 21

Figure 60: Adult male police detainees testing positive to methamphetamine by DUMA location, 1999 to 2009 (%)

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  • The Kings Cross site recorded the highest percentage of adult male detainees testing positive to methamphetamine in 2009 (21%). Darwin, Footscray and Bankstown had the lowest recordings with five, six and seven percent respectively.
  • In 2009, an average of 11 percent of male detainees tested positive for methamphetamine across all DUMA sites. This represents a four percentage point decrease from 2008 where the average was 15 percent.

Source: Reference 21

Figure 61: Adult male police detainees testing positive to heroin by DUMA location, 1999 to 2009 (%)

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  • Two of the sites did not record a change in heroin use by adult male police detainees. At the East Perth site, six percent tested positive (the same as for 2008), while in Brisbane, the figure held at 11 percent. At the Adelaide site, nine percent of adult male police detainees tested positive for heroin (the same as for 2008).
  • Twenty-eight percent of detainees tested positive to heroin use at the Kings Cross site.
  • Footscray recorded the largest percentage of heroin users among its detainees, with just over half testing positive in 2009 (53%).

Source: Reference 21

Figure 62: Adult males police detainees testing positive to cocaine by DUMA location, 1999–2009 (%)

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  • Cocaine use among adult male detainees has remained relatively low across the DUMA sites over the past 10 years. However, 25 percent of detainees at the Kings Cross site tested positive to cocaine.
  • No male detainees have tested positive to cocaine at the Darwin site over the five years represented. Over the past 10 years at the East Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide sites, less than two percent of detainees at each site have tested positive to cocaine.

Source: Reference 21

Figure 63: Adult male police detainees testing positive to any druga by DUMA site, 1999–2009 (%)

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

  • In 2009 across all DUMA sites, over half of adult male detainees tested positive to some form of illicit drug. This figure fluctuated between 50 percent at the Darwin site and 80 percent at the Footscray site, averaging 62 percent over all sites.
  • Sixty-eight percent of the male detainees at the Kings Cross site tested positive to a drug in 2009, the second largest proportion of any DUMA site.

Source: Reference 21

Figure 64: Adult male police detainees testing positive to selected drugs at four long-term sitesa, 1999–2009 (%)

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a: Bankstown, Parramatta, East Perth and Southport

  • Since 2007, the percentage of adult male detainees testing positive to cocaine has remained steady at two percent.
  • Heroin was the only category of drug that experienced a percentage increase from 2008 to 2009 (7–8%). Both cannabis and methamphetamine declined by one and five percentage points respectively.

Source: Reference 21

Figure 65: Adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug by type of offence, 2009 (%)

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a: Methamphetamine

b: Benzodiazepines

  • Fifty-six percent of adult male detainees charged with a violent offence as their most serious offence (MSO) tested positive to some form of drug compared with 68 percent of those charged with property offences.
  • Almost half of adult male detainees tested positive to cannabis—45 percent of those detained for violent offences and 48 percent for property offences tested positive.
  • A greater percentage of adult male detainees tested positive to heroin (20%) when their MSO was a property crime compared with those whose MSO was a violent crime (6%).

Source: Reference 21

Characteristics of police detainees

Figure 66: Age group and sex distribution of adult police detainees, 2009 (%)

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  • In 2009, the majority of adult police detainees were aged over 26 years. Furthermore, 25 percent of female and 22 percent of male detainees were aged between 21 and 25 years.

Source: Reference 21

Figure 67: Adult police detainees by education level, 2009 (%)

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  • A large proportion of adult police detainees had only attained the lowest level of education. Forty-eight percent of males and 51 percent of females had completed Year 10 or less.
  • Only four percent of male adult police detainees and five percent of female detainees had completed a university degree or higher.
  • There was no difference in the proportion of males and female adult police detainees whose highest level of education was the completion of Year 11 or 12 (19% for both).

Source: Reference 21

Figure 68: Adult police detainees by source of income (non-crime generated) in the past 30 days, 2009 (%)

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Note: Previous publications of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures required respondents to identify their 'main source of income'. While in the 2008 survey, respondents could select more than 1 source of income. Therefore, Figures 66 and 67 may not total 100 percent for each sex

  • For both male and female police detainees, the most common source of income was welfare or government benefit (55% and 74% respectively).
  • 'Friends and family' was the second most common source of non-crime generated income for males and female adult police detainees (32%).
  • By comparison, nine percent of male police detainees and eight percent of female police detainees collected income from superannuation or savings.

Source: Reference 21

Figure 69: Adult police detainees by source of income (crime generated) in past 30 days, 2009 (%)

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a: Sex work is decriminalised in some states and territories

b: Includes theft, fraud, burglary and robbery

Note: Previous publications of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures required respondents to identify their 'main source of income'. From 2008 survey, respondents could select more than 1 source of income. Therefore, Figures 66 and 67 may not total 100 percent 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

  • The most common sources of crime-generated income for males were drug dealing or 'other drug crime' (7%) and 'other income-generating crime' (7%).
  • For females, more than 10 percent received income from shoplifting; over five percent received income from illegal sex work.

Source: Reference 21

Figure 70: Adult police detainees by previous experience of homelessness, arrest, imprisonment and mental illness 2009 (%)

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a: Discontinued at the end of the Third Quarter of 2009

b: Introduced Third Quarter 2009

  • Over half of males and females reported being previously arrested in the past 12 months.
  • A greater proportion of females (53%) compared with males (36%) reported being diagnosed with, or receiving treatment for, a mental illness.
  • Five percent of males and five percent of females reported experiencing homelessness in the past 30 days.

Source: Reference 21

Most serious offence

  • Since 2006, there has been a decline in the number of property offences listed as the MSO for adult male police detainees. In 2009, 588 (19%) of adult male police detainees had a property crime as their MSO, a 29 percent decrease since 2006.
  • Property crime remained the most common MSO for adult female police detainees. However, it accounted for only 31 percent in 2009 compared with 41 percent in 2004.
  • For adult male detainees, violent offences were the most common MSO at 27 percent.
  • The proportion of females whose MSO was a drug offence (10%) was greater than that of males (8%), however, this pattern was reversed for breaches, with 12 and 16 percent for females and males, respectively.

Source: Reference 21