Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Chapter 1: Recorded crime

Data on recorded crime as published by the ABS for the period 1996 to 2010 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 and abduction, unlawful entry with intent (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 among jurisdictions in recording, 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 Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) used these data to compile the Australian totals for assault included in this chapter.

Caution must also 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 considered a more serious offence than the theft.

Table 1: Victims of selected violent crimes, 1996–2010 (n)
Homicidea Assault Sexual assault Robberyb Kidnapping/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
2010 260 171,083 17,757 14,582 603

a: Comprises the offences of murder and manslaughter

b: Comprises the offences of armed and unarmed robbery. Robbery is classified as a violent crime, as the use or threat of violence is considered more serious than the property offence

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

  • Of the five categories of violent crime, four recorded a drop in the number of victims between 2009 and 2010. These were homicide, assault, sexual assault and robbery.
  • The number of victims of kidnappings/abductions increased between 2009 and 2010 by 39 people. However, the number of kidnappings/abductions in 2010 represents a 23 percent decrease since a peak in 2008, when 788 kidnapping/abductions were recorded.
  • Overall, the number of victims of homicide has been in decline since 1996. In 1996, there were 354 victims of homicide in Australia compared with 260 in 2010. This is a decrease of 27 percent.
  • Since 1996, assault has been the category of violent crime with the greatest number of victims annually. In 2010, 171,083 people were the victim of assault in Australia.
  • The number of victims of robbery in 2010 is the lowest on record since 1996, with 14,582 victims. Robbery victim numbers peaked in 2001 with 26,591 victims.
  • Sexual assault victim numbers have been decreasing since 2008, by approximately four percent per year.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 1: Annual change in number of victims of selected violent crimes, 2003–10 (%)

 Annual change in number of victims of selected violent crimes, 2003–10 (%)

  • Over the seven year period 2003 to 2010, the number of victims across all violent crimes has fluctuated, with no consistent pattern of increase or decrease being evident.
  • Between 2009 and 2010, the number of victims of homicide in Australia decreased by 11 percent.
  • In 2008, the number of kidnapping/abduction victims decreased by 28 percent; the largest percentage decrease of any violent crime over the seven year period. However, in 2010 the numbers of victims rose by seven percent, although continue to remain lower than those recorded in 2007.
  • In 2010, sexual assault and robbery experienced a decline in the number of victims compared with 2009. Sexual assault victim numbers decreased by six percent, while robbery numbers fell by four percent.

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 crime 1996–2010 (n)
Unlawful entry with intent Motor vehicle theft 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
2010 216,886 54,736 461,169

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

  • Despite the number of victims decreasing since 2009 across all three categories, Australia still experienced high levels of property crime in 2010.
  • There were 17,638 fewer victims of ‘other’ theft in 2010 than were recorded in 2009; a four percent decrease.
  • The number of victims of MVT has been in a state of decline since 2001, when there were 139,984 recorded victims compared with 54,736 victims in 2010. This is a total decrease of 61 percent.
  • The 185,193 difference between the numbers of recorded victims of UEWI in 1996 and those in 2010 represented a 46 percent decline over the 15 year period.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 2: Annual change in number of victims of property crime, 2003–10 (%)

 Annual change in number of victims of property crime, 2003–10 (%)

  • In 2010, MVT experienced the largest percentage decrease in victims compared with the other two categories of property crime; decreasing by eight percent from the previous year.
  • UEWI recorded the smallest percentage decrease in victims in the past two years, with the number of victims only decreasing by three percent between 2009 and 2010.
  • Overall, the category of ‘other’ theft has decreased by 26 percent since 2003.

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, 1996–2010 (rate per 100,000 persons)

Violent crimes, 1996–2010 (rate per 100,000 persons)

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 graph

  • Since 1996, the rate of assault in Australia has been far higher than any other type of violent crime. At its peak in 2007, the assault rate was 840 per 100,000 population. In 2010, the rate fell to 766 victims per 100,000 population.
  • Homicide and kidnapping/abduction are low volume crimes; in 2009 and 2010 the rates continued to be very low. The homicide rate was 1.2 per 100,000 population, while the kidnapping/abduction rate was 2.7 per 100,000 population.
  • The rate of sexual assault has been declining by an average of three percent per year since 2006. Since 2004, robbery has been occurring at a lower rate than sexual assault; declining on average by two percent per year.

Source: References 1 and 2

Property crime rate

Figure 4: Property crimes, 1996–2010 (rate per 100,000 persons)

 Property crimes, 1996–2010 (rate per 100,000 persons)

  • In 2010, the rate of MVT was 245 per 100,000. This represents a 10 percent decrease from the previous year. However, the most rapid decline occurred between 2001 and 2004, when MVT fell, on average, by eight percent per year.
  • The rate of ‘other’ theft increased rapidly between 1996 and 2000 rising from 2,850 to 3,557 per 100,000, before starting to decline. Between 2004 and 2010, the rate of ‘other’ theft declined by 24 percent or, on average, three percent per year.
  • In 2010, the rate of UEWI was 971 per 100,000, an overall decline of 56 percent since 1996.

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.

Table 3 shows a select number of violent offences that occurred within each type of location.

Table 3: Location type of violent crimes, 2010 (n)
Murder Sexual assault Kidnapping/abduction Robbery
Residential
Residential dwelling 138 11,183 170 913
Outbuilding/residential land 7 300 9 160
Other residential 9 250 0 21
Total residential 154 11,733 179 1,094
Community
Transport 0 599 29 1,325
Street/footpath 30 1,213 276 6,704
Other community location 14 1,466 25 513
Total community 44 3,278 330 8,542
Other location
Retail 7 745 36 3,355
Recreational 11 814 38 1,107
Other 6 322 11 309
Unspecified 3 865 6 175
Total other 27 2,746 91 4,946
Overall total 225 17,757 600 14,582
  • Murder and sexual assault occurred most frequently within residential settings. Specifically, of the 225 murders that occurred in 2010, 61 percent occurred in a residential dwelling. Of the 17,757 sexual assaults in 2010, 63 percent occurred in a residential dwelling.
  • Greater numbers of robberies and kidnapping/abductions occurred in community locations; specifically on the street/footpath. In 2010, 46 percent of robberies and 46 percent of kidnapping/abductions occurred on the street/footpath.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 5: Selected violent crimes by type of location, 2005–10 (n)a

Selected violent crimes by type of location, 2005–10 (n)

a: Excludes assault

  • In line with the decrease in the overall number of violent crimes, the number of violent crime by location also generally decreased in 2010. While the number of violent crimes has decreased in some locations (eg dwellings, street/footpath), others have remained relatively stable since 2005 (eg transport and recreational locations).
  • The number of crimes committed in recreational settings has increased, rising by two percent since 2005. However, between 2009 and 2010, the number of violent crimes occurring in recreational settings decreased by six percent.
  • The number of violent crimes that occurred on the street/footpath peaked in 2007. Since then, the number of violent crimes that occurred on the street/footpath has decreased by approximately four percent per year, with the greatest decrease between 2008 and 2009 (11%).

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, 2010 (n)
Unlawful entry with intent Motor vehicle theft Other theft
Residential
Residential dwelling 131,759 0 45,185
Outbuilding/residential land 15,856 23,127 85,325
Other residential 3,694 0 3,072
Total residential 151,309 23,127 133,582
Community
Transport 426 3,554 30,426
Street/footpath 0 18,814 62,718
Other community location 13,291 819 25,266
Total community 13,717 23,187 118,410
Other location
Retail 24,888 3,527 151,238
Recreational 5,788 739 18,555
Other 19,596 3,201 27,622
Unspecified 1,588 955 11,762
Total other 51,860 8,422 209,177
Overall total 216,886 54,736 461,169
  • Due to the nature of the crime, no MVTs occurred in a residential dwelling or in a location classed as other residential. Similarly, no UEWI offences occurred on the street/footpath.
  • There was little difference between the total numbers of MVTs that occurred in either residential or community locations. In 2010, 23,127 MVTs occurred in outbuilding/residential land (under the overall category of Residential), while 18,814 occurred on the street/footpath.
  • The greatest number of ‘other thefts’ occurred in retail settings in 2010 (n=151,238).
  • Apart from residential dwellings, where the most number of UEWI occurred (n=131,759), the next most common location for UEWI in 2010 was retail locations, where 24,888 offences occurred.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 6: Property crime by location, 2010 (%)

 Property crime by location, 2010 (%)

n=601,717. Excludes residential locations that could not be classified as a dwelling, outbuilding/residential land and locations not further defined

  • In 2010, property crimes most commonly occurred in retail (31%) residential (29%) and street/footpath (13%) locations.
  • Property offences were least likely to occur in recreational (4%), transport (6%) and other (11%) settings.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 7: Property crime by location, 2005–10 (n)

 Property crime by location, 2005–10 (n)

  • Overall, the number of property crimes has decreased across all locations since 2005. The location with the largest percentage decrease in the occurrence of property crimes is transport. In 2005, 59,875 property crimes occurred in transport locations compared with 34,406 in 2010—a decrease of 43 percent.
  • Over the past six years, there has been a shift from residential dwellings to retail settings as the most common location for property crime. For the first time in 2009, a larger number of property crimes occurred in retail locations than residential settings.
  • The number of property crimes occurring on the street/footpath and in recreational settings has decreased steadily over the six years. Specifically, the number of property crimes occurring on the street/footpath has decreased by approximately four percent per year, while those occurring in recreational settings have decreased by approximately five percent per year.

Source: Reference 1