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Chapter 4: Selected offender profiles

The offender information reported in previous editions of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures, Chapter Four, has been drawn from Victorian, Queensland and South Australian police data. Recently, the ABS supplied offender information that encompassed more jurisdictions and was therefore more reflective of national patterns and trends. In 2011–12, the offender data from New South Wales was not comparable with other states and territories due to the exclusion of offenders proceeded against under the NSW Young Offenders Act 1997. Due to the more limited data from New South Wales, offender data from the ABS reported in Chapter Four includes information from all states and territories excluding New South Wales and is therefore no longer comparable with information contained in editions prior to 2013.

This chapter brings together information on offenders from two sources:

  • the AIC’s Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program; and
  • the ABS’ Recorded Crime—Offenders, States and Territories, 2011–12.

Recorded Crime—Offenders, States and Territories, 2011–12 includes national data on offender age and sex 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.

Offenders

This chapter presents data on offenders classified according to sex and age. The main purpose here is to give an indicative view of major issues relating to offenders, particularly the following:

  • At what age do offending rates peak?
  • How does the age/offending 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 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.

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: Reference 18

Age

Persons aged 15 to 19 years are more likely to be processed by police for the commission of a crime than were members of any other age group. In 2011–12, the offending rate for persons aged 15 to 19 years was almost three times the rate for all other offenders (5,340 per 100,000 compared with 1,927 per 100,000 respectively).

Figure 49 Offenders by age, 2008–09 to 2011–12 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

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a: ‘All’ refers to all offenders aged 10 years and over

  • For the past four years, the rate of offending has consistently been highest in the 15 to 19 year age group. In 2011–12, the rate of offending within this age group was 5,340 per 100,000 compared with a rate of offending of 4,479 per 100,000 population for persons aged 20 to 24 years.
  • Between 2010–11 and 2011–12, the overall offending rate remained stable. The largest change in the rate of offending between 2010–11 and 2011–12 occurred in the 10–14 year age group, where offending decreased from 1,541 per 100,000 to 1,253—a total decrease of 19 percent.
  • The rate of offending in the 25 years and over group increased between 2010–11 and 2011–12—from 1,318 per 100,000 persons to 1,384. Offending also increased slightly between 2010–11 and 2011–12 for the 20 to 24 age group, from 4,413 per 100,000 persons to 4,479.
  • Between 2008–09 and 2011–12, the rate of offending in the 10–14 and 15–19 years age groups has been declining gradually. The rate of offending for 15–19 year olds declined from 6,036 per 100,000 in 2009–10 to 5,340 in 2011–12.

Source: Reference 18

Sex

In 2011–12, the total number of offenders was 259,959 nationally (excluding New South Wales). Of these, 201,040 were male and 58,250 were female (669 offenders did not have their sex recorded). The ratio of males to female offenders in 2011–12 was approximately four to one.

Figure 50 Offenders by sex, 2008–09 to 2011–12 (per 100,000 of that sex per year)

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  • Over the four year period from 2008–09 to 2011–12, males have consistently offended at higher rates than females. In 2011–12, the rate of offending for males was 3,019 per 100,000 population compared with 860 per 100,000 for females.
  • The rate of offending for both sexes increased between 2008–09 and 2009–10, before declining between 2009–10 and 2010–11, with male offending decreasing by four percent (from 3,137 to 3,004 per 100,000 population) and female offending decreasing by six percent (from 913 to 862 per 100,000 population). However, between 2010–11 and 2011–12, female offending remained stable while male offending increased by one percent.

Source: References 2 and 18

Offence type

Figure 51 Offenders by offence type, 2010–11 and 2011–12 (per 100,000 per year)

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  • The categories of crime with the highest rate of offending were illicit drug offences, acts intended to cause injury (AICI) and theft. The rate of offending for both AICI and theft declined by one percent between 2010–11 and 2011–12.
  • Illicit drug offences and sexual assault were the only categories of crime where the offending rate increased between 2010–11 and 2011–12. Specifically, the rate of illicit drug offending increased from 323 per 100,000 in 2010–11 to 344 per 100,000 in 2011–12—a total increase of three percent. Similarly, the rate of sexual assault increased by three percent between 2010–11 and 2011–12—from 32 to 33 per 100,000 population.
  • Homicide and robbery/extortion were the two categories of crime with the lowest rate of offending. In 2011–12, the rate of robbery/extortion offending was 18 per 100,000 and the rate of homicide offending was three per 100,000 population.

Source: References 2 and 18

Juveniles

There are differences among the states in the definition of a juvenile. Unless otherwise indicated, data in this section include alleged offenders aged between 10 and 17 years.

Figure 52 Juvenile and adult offenders by age group, 2009–10 to 2011–12 (per 100,000 of that age group per year)

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  • The rate of juvenile offending has been consistently higher than that of adult offending over the three year period. Specifically, in 2011–12, adults offended at a rate of 1,823 per 100,000 population compared with juveniles who offended at a rate of 2,587 per 100,000 population.
  • While adult offending has remained relatively consistent, averaging approximately 1,811 per 100,000 population per year, juvenile offending declined between 2009–10 and 2011–12. In 2011–12, the juvenile offending rate was 13 percent lower than that recorded in 2010–11 (2,973 per 100,000 population).

Source: References 2 and 18

Figure 53 Juvenile offenders by sex, 2009–10 to 2011–12 (per 100,000 juveniles of that sex per year)a

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a: Excludes juvenile offenders with unknown gender

  • Over the three year period from 2009–10 to 2011–12, male juveniles have consistently offended at higher rates than female juveniles. In 2011–12, the rate of offending for males was 3,627 per 100,000 population compared with 1,483 per 100,000 for females.
  • In 2011–12, male juvenile offending had decreased by 24 percent since 2009–10, while female juvenile offending had decreased by 38 percent.

Source: References 2 and 18

Figure 54 Young offenders by age and sex, 2011–12 (rate per 100,000 of that age and sex)

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  • The rate of male youth offending was highest among the 18 year old age group in 2011–12. Specifically, males in the 18 year old age group offended at a rate of 10,218 per 100,000 population compared with females in the 18 year old age group who offended at a rate of 2,748 per 100,000 population.
  • While offending for males gradually increased until a peak at 18 years of age, female offending remained stable between 15 to 18 years—averaging approximately 2,630 per 100,000 population per age group.

Source: References 2 and 18

Number of times offenders were proceeded against by police

An offender can be counted more than once if proceeded against for multiple offences and on separate occasions, where these offences attributed to the offender may result in both court and non-court proceedings. ABS police proceeding data excludes Western Australia and New South Wales, and counts the number of times offenders were proceeded against by police in 2011–12.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 55 Offenders by sex and number of times proceeded against by police, 2011–12 (per 100,000 of that sex)a

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a: Excludes Western Australia and New South Wales

b: Includes offenders with unknown sex

  • In 2011–12, male offenders were four times more likely than female offenders to be proceeded against by police for more than one offence.
  • Offenders of both sexes were most likely to be proceeded against once by police in 2011–12. Specifically, males were proceeded against once by police at a rate of 2,415 per 100,000, while females were proceeded against once at 690 per 100,000.
  • The rate of offenders who were proceeded against by police decreases gradually from one police proceeding to four police proceedings. For both sexes, the rate of offenders proceeded against five or more times was slightly higher than those who were proceeded against four times. The rate for males proceeded against five or more times was 123 per 100,000 while females had a rate of 28 per 100,000.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 56 Offenders by age and number of times proceeded against by police, 2011–12 (per 100,000 of that age group)a

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a: Excludes Western Australia and New South Wales

  • Offenders were most likely to be proceeded against by police only once compared with two or more times in all age groups. The number of times proceeded against by police generally peaks between the ages of 15 and 19 years before declining. However, this decline for offenders who were proceeded against multiple times was more gradual compared with those that were only proceeded against once.
  • Offenders aged 15–19 years were most likely to be proceeded against by police once (4,215 per 100,000), followed by those aged 20–24 years (3,607 per 100,000) before declining sharply for those aged 25–29 years (2,537 per 100,000).

Source: Reference 18

Drug use by offenders

Police detainees

Established in 1999 and operating at selected watchhouses and police stations across Australia, the AIC’s DUMA program is Australia’s largest national survey of the illicit drug use patterns of police detainees. Detainees are interviewed within 48 hours of arrest and asked a series of questions relating to their drug and alcohol use, treatment history, prior contact with the criminal justice system and a range of socio-demographic factors (eg age, Indigenous status and employment status). Detainees are also requested to provide a urine sample for urinalysis to confirm drug use.

DUMA provides a reasonable and independent indicator of drug-related crime at the selected locations. By 2010, nine sites were being monitored—East Perth in Western Australia, Southport and Brisbane City in Queensland, Bankstown, Parramatta and Kings Cross in New South Wales, Adelaide City in South Australia, Darwin in the Northern Territory and Footscray in Victoria. Brisbane City and Adelaide City began participating in 2002, Darwin and Footscray in 2006 and King Cross in 2009.

Data are collected quarterly and presented in the following Figures as annual averages. Data presented in the majority of this section includes males only, who account for approximately 84 percent of adult police detainees in the DUMA collection. As the DUMA data deals with percentage of drug use as opposed to the count, changes and comparisons between years are reported in percentage points. The nine sites differed in the proportion of police detainees testing positive to each of methamphetamine, cocaine, cannabis and heroin.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 57 Adult male police detainees testing positive to any druga by DUMA site, 2008–12 (%)

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a: Includes cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, or benzodiazepines

  • In 2009, 80 percent of detainees tested positive to a drug at the Footscray testing site—the highest of any testing site in the five year period. Conversely, the lowest recorded proportion was 50 percent of adult male police detainees at the Darwin site in 2009.
  • The proportion of detainees testing positive to any drug at the sites of Parramatta, Brisbane and Adelaide has increased in the past four years. Since 2009, the proportion testing positive to any drug in Parramatta increased by 20 percent, while the proportion in Brisbane and Adelaide increased by five and one percent respectively. Test positive rates for Kings Cross and Southport have also increased in the last three years.
  • Between 2011 and 2012, the proportion of detainees testing positive to any drug in East Perth, Darwin and Footscray decreased.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 58 Adult male police detainees testing positive to cannabis by DUMA location, 2008–12 (%)

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  • In some of the testing sites, there was an overall decrease in police detainees testing positive to cannabis. At the Adelaide, Darwin and East Perth sites, the proportion of detainees who tested positive was lower in 2012 than it was in 2008.
  • In 2012, 55 percent of detainees at Southport tested positive to cannabis. This is an eight percentage point increase on the 47 percent recorded in 2011. Similarly, the proportion of detainees testing positive to cannabis in Parramatta increased—from 42 percent of detainees in 2011 to 49 percent.
  • Since 2008, an average of 38 percent of detainees have tested positive at the Bankstown site; the lowest of any long-term site.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 59 Adult male police detainees testing positive to methamphetamine by DUMA location, 2008–12 (%)

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

  • In 2012, the proportion of detainees who tested positive to methamphetamines in Bankstown increased by nine percentage points from the previous year, rising to 22 percent.
  • The sites in New South Wales shared similar increases in the proportions of detainees testing positive to methamphetamine. In 2012, Parramatta recorded the highest proportions of detainees testing positive to methamphetamines (35%) in the six year period. Kings Cross recorded an 11 percentage point increase in the number of detainees testing positive to methamphetamine (32% in 2012) from the previous year.
  • Over the five year period, the Darwin testing site has consistently recorded the smallest proportion of police detainees testing positive to methamphetamine. Specifically, proportions have remained less than nine percent each year and in 2012, only eight percent tested positive.
  • All sites recorded an increase in the proportion of detainees testing positive to methamphetamine between 2011 and 2012 except Footscray. In Footscray, the proportion testing positive decreased by one percentage point to 17 percent in 2012.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 60 Adult male police detainees testing positive to heroin by DUMA location, 2008–12 (%)

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  • The highest proportion of detainees who tested positive to heroin was 53 percent. This was recorded in Footscray in 2009. By 2012, the proportion had decreased to 37 percent.
  • In 2012, the proportions testing positive to heroin at Kings Cross increased to 32 percent from 16 percent in 2011. In Bankstown, the proportions testing positive to heroin has increased in the last three years, while the proportions in Parramatta have decreased in the last three years.
  • The proportions of detainees testing positive to heroin at the East Perth, Adelaide and Darwin testing sites have consistently remained below 10 percent for the five year period.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 61 Adult male police detainees testing positive to cocaine by DUMA location, 2008–12 (%)

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

  • The proportion of detainees testing positive to cocaine at Kings Cross has been decreasing overall since 2009. In 2012, nine percent of detainees in Kings Cross tested positive to cocaine; the highest recorded at any site in 2012.
  • Similarly, the proportions have been declining at the Footscray site since 2009 (11%) and in 2012, only two percent tested positive to cocaine.
  • Since 2008, no detainees have tested positive to cocaine at the Darwin testing site, while both the Brisbane and East Perth sites have remained at around one percent or below.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 62 Adult male police detainees testing positive to selected drugs at four long-term sitesa, 1999–2012 (%)

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a: Bankstown, Parramatta, East Perth, Southport

  • Police detainees tested positive to cannabis (52%) more frequently than any other type of drug in 2012.
  • Over two-thirds of the population of police detainees tested positive to any drug (69%). This is the highest proportion reported since 2004. In 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010, 63 percent of detainees tested positive to any drug—the lowest on record.
  • Since 2006, the proportion of police detainees testing positive to cocaine or heroin has remained less than 10 percent. Specifically, the average proportion of detainees testing positive to cocaine or heroin per year is approximately two and eight percent respectively.
  • Methamphetamine use among police detainees increased by 13 percentage points between 2009 and 2012—from 13 percent to 26 percent.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 63 Adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug by type of offence, 2012 (%)

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a: Methamphetamine

b: Benzodiazepines

  • In 2012, a greater proportion of detainees charged with a property offence (79%) were found to have at least one drug in their system compared with the proportion charged with a violent offence (63%).
  • The most common drug type was cannabis (47% for violent and 52% for property offenders) and the least common was heroin (3% for violent and 22% for property).
  • Thirty-two percent of offenders charged with a property offence tested positive to methamphetamine compared with 21 percent who were charged with a violent offence. Similarly, 35 percent of offenders charged with a property offence tested positive to benzodiazepines compared with 17 percent who were charged with a violent offence.

Source: Reference 19

Characteristics of police detainees

Figure 64 Age group and sex distribution of adult police detainees, 2012 (%)

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  • The greatest proportion of police detainees were aged 36 years and over.
  • Equal proportions of male and female detainees were aged between 26 and 30 years (approximately 19%). While there were more males aged between 21 and 25 years than females, there were more females than males in the 31–35 year age group.
  • The smallest proportions of detainees for both sexes were aged between 18 and 20 years.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 65 Adult police detainees by education level, 2012 (%)

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  • Very few police detainees possessed a qualification at university level or higher. However, the proportion of females who had completed at least a university-level qualification was three percentage points higher than that recorded for males (8% compared with 5%).
  • Near equal proportions of male and female detainees had completed TAFE (22% compared with 23%) or had completed Year 11 or 12 (18% compared with 19%).
  • The majority of detainees, regardless of sex, had only completed education to the Year 10; specifically, 41 percent of male detainees and 39 percent of females.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 66 Adult police detainees by source of income (non-crime generated) in the past 30 days, 2012 (%)

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Note: Survey respondents could select more than one source of income. Therefore, the percentage for each sex may not total 100

  • Both male and female detainees most commonly reported welfare/government benefits as their main source of non-crime generated income. In 2012, 78 percent of females and 58 percent of male police detainees received income from this source.
  • Thirty-one percent of male police detainees reported that they held a full-time job, which was 19 percentage points higher than the proportion of female police detainees. Further, 36 percent of female police detainees compared with 33 percent of male detainees reported receiving non-crime generated financial support from friends/family.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 67 Adult police detainees by source of income (crime generated) in past 30 days, 2012 (%)

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a: Sex work is decriminalised in some states and territories

b: Includes theft, fraud, burglary and robbery

Note: Survey respondents could select more than one source of income. As such, the percentage for each sex may not total 100

  • Sex work was the least common source of crime-generated income for both sexes. However, less than one percent of male detainees reported receiving an income through sex work, compared with three percent for females.
  • Drug dealing/other drug crimes were the most common source of crime-generated income for both sexes, with approximately seven percent of males and nine percent of females receiving an income through this source. Almost nine percent of females received crime-generated income through shoplifting.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 68 Adult police detainees by previous experience of homelessness, arrest and imprisonment, and mental illness, 2012 (%)

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  • Recidivism was quite common for male and female police detainees. Forty-five percent of male detainees and 40 percent of female detainees reported having been arrested on a previous occasion in the last 12 months.
  • Nearly half of female detainees (47%) reported having been diagnosed or treated for a mental health issue. Thirty-two percent of male detainees reported similar issues.
  • Six percent of both male and female detainees reported living on the street or not having a fixed address in the 30 days prior to arrest.

Source: Reference 19

Most serious offence

Table 7 Most serious offence of adult male police detainees, 2008–12 (%)
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Violent offences 28 27 29 29 30
Property offences 20 19 19 17 17
Drug offences 8 8 8 8 9
Drink-driving offences 6 5 5 5 4
Traffic offences 8 7 6 5 4
Disorder offences 7 8 8 11 9
Breaches 20 16 23 22 25
Other offences 4 9 2 3 2
Table 8 Most serious offence of adult female police detainees, 2008–12 (%)
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Violent offences 18 18 23 23 21
Property offences 36 31 29 28 27
Drug offences 9 10 10 8 10
Drink-driving offences 5 5 5 4 3
Traffic offences 8 5 5 5 6
Disorder offences 5 9 8 8 8
Breaches 15 12 18 21 22
Other offences 4 9 3 3 4
  • On average, from 2008 to 2012, the most serious offence (MSO) committed by male police detainees most frequently was a violent offence. Conversely, for females it was property offences.
  • Since 2008, the proportion of detainees whose MSO was a property offence has decreased from 36 percent to 27 percent for females and from 20 percent to 17 percent for males.
  • The top three most serious offences for males and females have been violent and property offences, followed by breaches of court orders. In 2012, 22 percent of female detainees were charged with a breach as their most serious offence compared with 25 percent of males.

Source: Reference 19