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 2012 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 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 AIC used these data to compile the Australian totals for assault included in this chapter. It is important to note that since 2011, assault figures from the ABS do not include information from Victoria, Queensland or Tasmania and are therefore significantly lower than the expected national figure. Hence, the assault figures for 2011 and 2012 should not be compared with those of previous years.

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 victims of crime

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 selected violent crimes, 1996–2012 (n)
Homicidea Assaultb Sexual assault Robberyc 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 261 171,083 18,027 14,631 608
2011 276 117,992 17,592 13,653 675
2012 297 116,105 18,153 13,155 636

a: Comprises the offences of murder and manslaughter

b: 2011 and 2012 figures do not include information from Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. Therefore these assault figures cannot be compared with those prior to 2011

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

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

Continuing the trend of recent years, robbery offences decreased in 2012.

  • Assaults continue to represent the majority of recorded violent crimes. The number of assault victims fell from 117,992 to 116,105 between 2011 and 2012 (based on data available from all jurisdictions except for Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania).
  • In 2012, the number of homicides and sexual assaults increased. There were 21 more homicides and 561 more sexual assaults (3% increase) compared with figures recorded in 2011.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 1 Annual change in victims of selected violent crimes, 2002–12 (%)

ff13_001.ai

  • Homicide incidents have been generally decreasing through the last decade. However, in 2012 there was an additional 21 incidents of homicide, representing an eight percent increase over 2011. The 297 incidents recorded in 2012 is still 16 percent lower than the 385 incidents of 1999, the highest number of homicides recorded since 1996.
  • Kidnapping/abduction totals have fluctuated over the 10 year period. The greatest percentage decrease was recorded in 2008–09 at 28 percent. In 2011–12, there were 39 fewer victims of kidnapping/abduction, a decrease of six percent from 2011.
  • Between 2011 and 2012, robbery decreased by four percent continuing a trend of a decreasing number of incidents evident form much of the last 10 years.

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, 1996–2012 (n)
UEWI MVT 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 217,030 54,821 465,547
2011 218,285 55,310 490,059
2012 214,222 58,574 500,552

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

  • Property crime continued to be reported at a much higher volume than violent crime.
  • The number of MVTs increased from 55,310 in 2011 to 58,574 in 2012.
  • The number of ‘other’ theft victims (n=500,552) also increased in 2012 compared with 2011, where there were 490,059 recorded victims.
  • By contrast, there were 4,063 fewer victims of UEWI offences in 2012 than were recorded in 2011; a two percent decrease.

Source: Reference 1

Figure 2 Annual change in victims of property crime, 2002–12 (%)

ff13_002.ai

  • Despite a small increase in 2011, UEWI victimisation continued an overall downward trend in 2012 that has been evident since the 1990s.
  • Conversely, MVT and to a lesser extent other theft victimisation, increased in 2012.
  • Following a small increase in MVT in 2011, the six percent increase in the number of victims of MVT in 2012 is the greatest percentage increase on record for the last 10 years. Overall however, MVT still remains half as prevalent as it was in 1996.
  • Other theft victimisation increased by two percent.

Source: Reference 1

Recorded crime victimisation 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 of the population per year.

Violent crime victimisation rate

Figure 3 Victims of violent crimes, 1996–2012 (rate per 100,000 population)

ff13_003.ai

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

  • In the last six years, the rate of robbery victimisation has steadily declined from 86 per 100,000 in 2007 to 58 per 100,000 in 2012. Generally, the rate of robbery victimisation has been declining since 2001.
  • The rate of sexual assault victimisation increased to 80 per 100,000 in 2012. The last increase in the rate of victimisation was seen in 2006. The rate of victimisation in 2012 is at a similar rate to what it was in 1996, when the rate was 79 per 100,000.
  • The rate of homicide victimisation has never exceeded two per 100,000 in the 17 years for which data are available. Victimisation has stayed at one per 100,000 since 2007.
  • In 2012, like 2011, the rate of kidnapping/abduction was three per 100,000 population; much lower than the peak of four per 100,000 in 1999.

Source: References 1 and 2

Property crime victimisation rate

Figure 4 Victims of property crimes, 1996–2012 (rate per 100,000 population)

ff13_004.ai

  • The rate of ‘other’ theft victimisation reached its lowest point since data were available at 2,064 per 100,000 in 2010, before rising modestly to 2,206 per 100,000 in 2012.
  • The rate of UEWI victimisation has generally declined since 2001. In 2012, the victimisation rate was 944 per 100,000 population—the lowest on record since the collection of data in 1996.
  • Between 2011 and 2012, the rate of MVT victimisation increased by five percent; from 245 to 258 per 100,000 population.

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.

The number of victims of selected violent offences that occurred within each type of location is presented in Table 3.

Table 3 Location type of violent crimes, 2012
Murder Sexual assault Robbery Kidnapping/abduction
Residential
Residential dwelling 134 11,215 1,064 237
Outbuilding/residential land 11 234 171 8
Other residential 12 248 27 0
Total residential 157 11,697 1,262 245
Community
Transport 5 607 1,121 15
Street/footpath 38 1,197 5,128 250
Other community location 20 1,527 383 48
Total community 63 3,331 6,632 313
Other location
Retail 10 767 3,809 33
Recreational 8 839 988 30
Other 6 253 262 8
Total other 24 1,859 5,059 71
Unspecified 10 1,193 138 7
Total 254 18,080 13,091 636
  • Sexual assault and murder victimisation occurred most frequently in the home. Specifically, 11,215 sexual assaults (62% of all sexual assault victims) and 134 murders (53% of all murder victims) occurred in a residential dwelling.
  • Instances of robbery most commonly occurred on the street/footpath, accounting for 39 percent of all robbery victims. Retail and transport settings were the second and third most common robbery locations (29% and 9% respectively).
  • For kidnapping/abduction, the most common location for victimisation was on the street/footpath (39%), followed by residential dwellings (37%) and other community locations (8%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 5 Victims of violent crimesa by type of location, 2000–12 (n)

ff13_005.ai

a: Excludes assault

  • Residential dwellings remain the most common location for violent crime victimisation. In 2012, the number of victims of violent crime in the home increased by six percent to 12,650.
  • The number of victims of violent crimes committed on the street/footpath has decreased by 34 percent since 2007, reaching a low of 6,613 victims in 2012.
  • Violent crimes occurring in recreational settings rose by four percent between 2011 and 2012; from 1,787 to 1,865.
  • The number of victims of violent crimes in retail settings increased by eight percent between 2011 and 2012, from 4,297 to 4,619 victims.
  • The number of violent crimes occurring in retail, recreational and transport settings has remained relatively stable since 2005.

Source: Reference 1

Table 4 Location type of property crimes, 2012
UEWI MVT Other theft
Residential
Residential dwelling 131,709 0 52,978
Outbuilding/residential land 16,494 26,512 94,226
Other residential 3,716 26 3,169
Total residential 151,919 26,538 150,373
Community
Transport 422 3,507 31,499
Street/footpath 3 18,527 61,876
Other community location 10,959 854 24,485
Total community 11,384 22,888 117,860
Other location
Retail 24,358 3,605 171,753
Recreational 5,567 656 18,446
Other 19,601 4,002 28,869
Total other 49,526 8,263 219,068
Unspecified 1,394 884 13,251
Total 214,223 58,573 500,552
  • UEWI victimisation most commonly occurred in residential settings. Sixty-one percent (n=131,709) of victims of UEWI were victimised in dwellings and eight percent (n=16,494) occurred on outbuilding/residential lands.
  • In 2012, the highest proportion of MVTs occurred on outbuilding/residential lands, which represented 45 percent of all MVT offences. A further 32 percent of victims had their motor vehicles stolen on the street/footpath.
  • The greatest number of ‘other’ thefts occurred in retail settings (34%), followed by outbuilding/residential land (19%) and on the street/footpath (12%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 6 Property crime by location, 2012 (%)

ff13_006.ai

Note: n=621,649. Excludes residential locations that could not be classified as a dwelling, outbuilding/residential land and locations not further defined

  • The largest proportion of all property crimes in 2012 occurred in retail settings (31%), followed by residential dwellings (29%).
  • Property offences were least likely to occur on transport (6%), other community settings (6%) and recreational settings (4%).

Source: Reference 1

Figure 7 Property crime by location, 2000–12

ff13_007.ai

  • Since 2009, property crimes were most often committed in retail settings. In 2012, 199,716 property offences occurred in retail settings compared with 178,098 offences in residential settings.
  • There has been an overall decline in offence numbers for all property offence types since 2000. For example, there has been a 63 percent decrease in property crimes at transport locations, a 59 percent decline in community locations and a 54 percent decline on the street/footpath.
  • Despite an overall decline, property crimes in retail locations increased by six percent between 2011 and 2012.

Source: Reference 1