Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Chapter 1: Recorded crime & selected crime profiles

Data on recorded crime as published by the ABS for the period 2003 to 2013 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 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 due to changes in the way the ABS have collected the data, the 2013 assault figure does not include information from Victoria, Queensland or Tasmania and is significantly lower than the expected national figure. Therefore, the 2013 assault figure should not be compared with figures prior to 2011.

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;
  • number of victims of UEWI prior to 2006 because of an overstatement of victims in New South Wales;
  • sexual assault numbers for Western Australia and MVTs for South Australia as these may be understated; and
  • kidnapping/abduction figures for New South Wales as they may be slightly inflated.

General trends, however, appear not to be affected.

In 2010, there was a break in the Recorded Crime—Victims series due to changes in police recording practices, implementation of revisions to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification and implementation of the National Crime Recording Standard, a set of business rules developed by the ABS in collaboration with state and territory police to standardise recording practices. Therefore, comparisons with data should be treated with caution.

Source: Reference 1

Recorded crime

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

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, 2003–13 (n)
Homicidea Assaultb Sexual Assault Robberyc Kidnapping/abduction
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 296 116,160 18,494 13,163 638
2013 273 119,235 19,907 11,698 601

a: Comprises offences of murder and manslaughter

b: 2011, 2012 and 2013 figures do not include information from Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. Therefore the assault figures cannot be compared with those prior to 2011

c: Comprises the offences of 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

  • Of the five categories of violent crime, three recorded a drop in the number of victims between 2012 and 2013. These were homicide, robbery and kidnapping.
  • The number of victims of sexual assault increased between 2012 and 2013 by eight percent.
  • The number of kidnappings/abductions in 2013 represents a 24 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 2003. In 2003, there were 341 victims of homicide in Australia compared with 273 in 2013. This is a decrease of 20 percent.
  • The number of victims of robbery in 2013 is the lowest on record since 2003, with 11,698 victims.

Violent crime victimisation rate

Figure 1 Victims of violent crimes, 2003–13 (rate per 100,000 population)

Figure 001

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

  • The overall victimisation rate of robbery has been declining since 2003, decreasing to a 10 year low of 51 per 100,000 in 2013.
  • The rate of sexual assault increased from 81 per 100,000 in 2012 to 86 per 100,000 in 2013.
  • Homicide and kidnapping/abduction are low-volume crimes. In 2013, the rates continued to be low. The homicide rate was 1.2 per 100,000, while the kidnapping/abduction rate was 2.6 per 100,000. Since 2003, the homicide rate has not surpassed two per 100,000.

Source: References 1 and 2

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, 2003–13 (n)
UEWI MVT Other theft
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 214,241 58,556 500,892
2013 203,438 52,979 482,900

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

  • Property crime victimisation continued to be reported at a higher volume than violent crime.
  • There were 17,992 fewer victims of other theft in 2013 than were recorded in 2012; a four percent decrease.
  • The number of victims of MVT has been declining since 2003, when there were 98,298 recorded victims compared with 52,979 in 2013. This is a total decrease of 46 percent.
  • There was a 43 percent decrease in UEWI between 2003 and 2013, from 354,020 to 203,438 victims for this property crime type.

Property crime victimisation rate

Figure 2 Victims of property crimes, 2003–13 (rate per 100,000 population)

Figure 002

  • The rates of UEWI, MVT and other theft continued to decline in 2013. UEWI victimisation occurred at a rate of 879 per 100,000, while the rates for MVT and other theft were 229 and 2,087 per 100,000 respectively.
  • Victimisation rates for UEWI, MVT and other theft are the lowest on record since data collection began in 1996.

Source: References 1 and 2

Selected crime profiles

Homicide

The definition of homicide used by the ABS is the unlawful killing of another person. Homicide statistics discussed here include the following categories of offences:

  • murder—the wilful killing of a person either intentionally or with reckless indifference to life; and
  • manslaughter—the unlawful killing of a person:
    • without intent to kill, usually as a result of a careless, reckless, or negligent act; or
    • intentionally, but due to extreme provocation; or
    • when in a state of mind that impairs the capacity to understand or control one’s actions.

This reflects categories recorded by police at the time of the homicide and does not necessarily take into account the final outcome of the court case.

Homicide does not include:

  • attempted murder—the attempt to unlawfully kill another person by any means, act or omission; and
  • driving causing death—the unlawful killing of a person without intent to kill, caused through culpable, dangerous or negligent driving.

In 2011, the AIC changed the format of the National Homicide Monitoring Program so that it reports biennially rather than annually. As a result, Australian Crime: Facts & figures no longer reports information regarding the relationship between offender and victim or long-term trends in firearm-related homicides.

According to the ABS, there were 273 homicides in Australia in 2013, with 1.2 victims per 100,000 population. In 2013, murder accounted for 249, or 91 percent, of the homicide victims recorded. The remaining 24 victims, or nine percent, were victims of manslaughter.

Source: Reference 1

Victims of murder

Figure 3 Murder victimisation rates by age group and sex, 2013 (per 100,000 population of that age group and sex)

Figure 003

Note: National data on the age and sex of manslaughter victims (n=24) cannot be presented here as it was in previous years, due to incompleteness of published data, particularly regarding the breakdown of manslaughter by age categories

  • Due to the relatively small numbers of murders each year, victimisation rates for murder are uniformly small across the age groups.
  • Males experienced the highest rate of victimisation in the 25–44 year age group at 2.5 per 100,000 population, while females experienced the highest rate of victimisation in the 15–24 year age group at 1.3 per 100,000 population.
  • In 2013, there were no victims of murder aged between 10 and 14 years.
  • For females, the rate of victimisation was less than one per 100,000 for 0–9 years and over 65 years age groups.
  • For males, the rate of victimisation was less than one per 100,000 for those aged 0–9 years and 15–24 years of age. The rate of victimisation was 1.3 per 100,000 for males aged 45–64 years and 1.1 per 100,000 population for males aged 65 years and over.

Source: References 1 and 2

Location of murders

Figure 4 Murder location by type, 2013 (%)

Figure 004

a: Includes unspecified location

Note: n=234. National data on the location of manslaughter victims (n=24) cannot be presented here as it was in previous years, due to incompleteness of ABS published data, particularly regarding the breakdown of manslaughter by residential and community locations

  • In 2013, just under two-thirds (62%) of all murders occurred in a residential dwelling.
  • The street/footpath was the second most common location for murders in 2013 (15%).
  • Murders were least likely to occur in recreational settings. No one was murdered in 2013 on transport.

Source: Reference 1

Weapon use

Figure 5 Type of weapon used to commit murder, 2013 (%)

Figure 005

Note: n=186. nfd=not further defined. Does not include information from Tasmania or the Australian Capital Territory. Does not include instances where no weapon was used. Data presented in Figure 5 is derived from ABS information regarding use of weapon in the commission of the offence of murder

  • In 2013, the most common weapon used to commit murder was a knife. Knives were involved in 43 percent of all murders.
  • Firearms were used in 25 percent of murders.

Source: Reference 1

Trend in homicide

Figure 6 Homicide victims, 1999–13 (n per year)

Figure 006

  • Since 1999, when there was a peak of 344 victims, the number of murder victims has been declining. The 2013 figure represents a 28 percent decrease in the number of victims of murder compared with 1999.
  • In 2013, the 24 manslaughter victims recorded were the lowest annual number recorded since 1993.

Source: Reference 1

Assault

The ABS defines assault as the direct infliction of force, injury or violence upon a person, including attempts or threats. This definition excludes sexual assault.

The ABS does not provide national data on victims of assault due to differences in business rules, procedures, systems, policies and recording practices between states and territories. In 2011, the ABS updated the way assault information is collected from each of the states and territories. This has resulted in incomplete information being received and data was not available for Queensland, Victoria or Tasmania. This has important ramifications for the number of assaults reported in the current edition of Australian Crime: Facts & figures. Therefore, any decrease in assault figures should be interpreted with consideration to this change in recording practice.

In 2013, there were 119,235 victims of assault, constituting 515 victims per 100,000 population. This is based on data from New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory only.

The data for the following Figures on the location of incidents and the age and sex of victims of assaults are presented here as an aggregation of ABS data for all Australian states and territories where information was available.

Source: Reference 1 and 2

Victims of assault

Figure 7 Assault victims by age group and sex, 2013 (per 100,000 of that age group and sex)

Figure 007

Note: Due to changes in ABS recording practice, the data reported does not include Queensland, Victoria or Tasmania

  • The victimisation rate was highest for both sexes in the 15–24 years age group. In 2013, the rate for females aged 15–24 years was 2,465 per 100,000 population; for males it was 1,874 per 100,000 population.
  • The rate of female assault victimisation was greater than the rate of male assault victimisation in the 15–24 and 25–44 years age groups.
  • In 2013, the oldest and youngest age groups had the lowest rate of assault victimisation. This equated to 146 per 100,000 population for people aged 0–9 years and 177 per 100,000 population for people aged 65 years and over.

Source: References 1 and 2

Assault victim-offender relationship

Figure 8 Assault victims by relationship to offender and sex, 2013 (per 100,000)

Figure 008

a: Includes known non-family member and known but not further defined, which may include some family members

Note: Due to changes in ABS recording practice, the data reported does not include Queensland, Victoria or Tasmania. Further information regarding relationship to victim was not available for Western Australia

  • In 2013, for females, victims were most commonly assaulted by a family member, at a rate of 192 per 100,000 female population. By contrast, females were least likely to be assaulted by strangers at a rate of 54 per 100,000 female population.
  • The opposite pattern was observed for male assault victims. Males were assaulted by a stranger at a rate of 172 per 100,000 male population compared with a rate of 79 per 100,000 male population when the offender was a family member.

Source: Reference 1

Location

Figure 9 Assault location by type, 2013 (%)

Figure 009

a: Includes private and non-private dwellings and outbuilding/residential land

b: Includes educational, transport, open space and street/footpath

c: Includes administrative, retail and recreational

Note: Due to changes in ABS recording practice, the data reported do not include Queensland, Victoria or Tasmania

  • In 2013, 52 percent of victims were assaulted in residential locations, followed by 30 percent who were assaulted in community locations.
  • The smallest proportions of victims were assaulted in other (3%) and recreational (4%) locations.

Sexual assault

The ABS defines sexual assault as a physical assault of a sexual nature, directed toward another person who:

  • does not give consent, or
  • gives consent as a result of intimidation or fraud; or
  • is legally deemed incapable of giving consent because of youth or incapacity.

In 2013, there were 19,907 recorded sexual assaults, with 86 victims per 100,000 population.

Source: Reference 1

Victims of sexual assault

Figure 10 Age and sex of sexual assault victims, 2013 (rate per 100,000 population)

Figure 010

  • In 2013, females were sexually assaulted at a higher rate than males across all age groups.
  • The rate of sexual assault victimisation was highest for females aged 10–14 years at 559 per 100,000 female population. For females aged 15–24 years, the rate of sexual assault victimisation was 419 per 100,000 female population compared with 48 per 100,000 for males.
  • For males, children under the age of 15 years experienced the highest rate of victimisation. The rate was highest in the 10–14 years age group (114 per 100,000 male population) followed by those aged 0–9 years (65 per 100,000 male population).

Source: References 1 and 2

Sexual assault victim–offender relationship

Figure 11 Sexual assault victims’ relationship to offender by age of victim, 2013 (%)

Figure 011

a: Includes known non-family members and known but not further defined, which may include some family members

Note: Excludes Western Australia (information not available)

  • In 2013, ‘known other’ was the most common relationship between victims of sexual assault and offenders. This ranged from 51 percent of victims aged 25–44 years of age to 59 percent of victims aged 0–19 years of age.
  • The proportion of victims sexually assaulted by a stranger was highest in the 20–24 years age group at 25 percent.
  • Where the relationship was known between victim and offender, persons aged 0–19 years were least likely to be victimised by a stranger (10%) and more likely to be victimised by a family member (25%) or known other (59%).

Source: Reference 1

Location of sexual assaults

Figure 12 Location of sexual assault, 2013 (%)

Figure 012

a: Includes unspecified location

  • Of the sexual assaults recorded in 2013, 63 percent occurred in private dwellings.
  • Sexual assault was least likely to occur in recreational/retail settings (4%) or on transport (3%).

Source: Reference 1

Robbery

Robbery is defined by the ABS as the unlawful taking of property, without consent, accompanied by force or threat of force. Robbery victims can be persons or organisations.

Types of robbery

Robbery is divided into two categories:

  • armed robbery—robbery conducted with the use of a weapon. A weapon is any object used to cause fear or injury and includes imitation weapons and implied weapons; for example, where a weapon is not seen by the victim but the offender claims to possess one; and
  • unarmed robbery—robbery conducted without the use of a weapon.

Of the 11,698 robberies recorded during 2013, 6,070 percent were unarmed, while 5,628 percent were committed with some type of weapon.

Source: Reference 1

Victims of robberies

Figure 13 Robbery victims by age group and sex, 2013 (per 100,000 population of that age group and sex)

Figure 013

  • In all age categories, males were at a higher risk than females of being a victim of robbery. Males aged 15–19 years and 20–24 years were victimised at a rate of 196 per 100,000 population and 170 per 100,000 population respectively.
  • Females at highest risk of victimisation from robbery were also aged between 15–24 years. The rate of robbery victimisation for females aged 20–24 years was 55 per 100,000 and for those aged 15–19 years, it was 53 per 100,000.

Source: References 1 and 2

Location of robberies

Figure 14 Robbery by location type, 2013 (%)

Figure 014

a: Includes dwellings and other residential locations

b: Includes unspecified locations

  • Victims were most commonly robbed on the street/footpath (40%) in 2013, followed by retail locations (28%).
  • Robberies were least likely to occur in other community and other locations (3%).

Source: Reference 1

Armed robbery

Figure 15 Types of weapons used in armed robbery, 2013 (%)

Figure 015

a: Includes ‘chemical’ weapon and unspecified type of weapon

  • In 2013, just over half of armed robberies were perpetrated using a knife (52%), followed by other weapons (20%) and firearms (18%).
  • Collectively, bats/bars/clubs, bottles/glasses and syringes were used in 10 percent of all armed robberies.

Source: Reference 1

Motor vehicle theft

Motor vehicle theft (MVT) involves the taking of a motor vehicle unlawfully or without permission. It excludes damaging, tampering with or interfering with motor vehicles. The theft of motor vehicle parts or contents is included under the offence category of ‘other theft’. Motor vehicle is defined as cars, motorcycles, campervans, trucks, buses and plant/equipment vehicles.

In 2013, according to the ABS, there were 52,979 motor vehicles reported stolen to police, with 289 vehicles stolen per 100,000 registered vehicles.

Source: References 1 and 3

Recovery rates

This section presents data on recovery rates of stolen vehicles from the National Comprehensive Auto–theft Research System (CARS) project. CARS classify motor vehicle thefts in two ways. Vehicles that are recovered are classified as short-term thefts and are primarily used for opportunistic purposes. Vehicles that are not recovered are classified as profit-motivated thefts. In these instances, offenders on-sell the car, either as a whole vehicle or as separate parts.

In 2012–13, 38,302 thefts were classified as short term. This equates to a national recovery rate for stolen vehicles of 70 percent.

Source: Reference 3

Figure 16 Short-term and profit-motivated motor vehicles thefts, 2005–06 to 2012–13 (n)

Figure 016

  • The number of short-term MVTs has declined since 2005–06. There were 38,302 short-term MVT in 2012–13, compared with 42,296 in 2011–12; a decrease of nine percent.
  • The number of profit-motivated thefts decreased by eight percent between 2011–12 and 2012–13, from 17,578 to 16,092 thefts.

Source: Reference 4

Theft and recovery by vehicle type

Figure 17 Short-term and profit-motivated motor vehicle thefts by type of vehicle, 2012–13 (%)

Figure 017

a: Includes motor homes

b: Includes heavy plant and equipment and unknown heavy vehicles

  • In 2012–13, the category of vehicle with the most number of cars stolen was small passenger vehicles. Specifically, 11,078 were stolen, while 9,161 (83%) were recovered. Only 17 percent of small passenger vehicle thefts were considered profit motivated.
  • The greatest proportion of profit-motivated thefts involved other heavy vehicles (59%). Specifically, of the 774 other heavy vehicles stolen in 2012–13, only 318 were recovered (41%)

Source: Reference 4

Other theft

The ABS defines other theft as the taking of another person’s property with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of the property illegally and without permission, but without force, threat of force, use of coercive measures, deceit or having gained unlawful entry to any structure even if the intent was to commit theft.

The offence includes such crimes as pick pocketing, bag snatching, stealing (including shoplifting), theft from a motor vehicle, theft of a motor vehicle parts/accessories or petrol, theft of stock/domestic animals and theft of non-motorised vehicles/boats/aircraft/bicycles. It is the largest of all the crime categories included in the national statistics.

There were 482,900 victims of other theft in 2013—a rate of 2,087 per 100,000 population.

Source: Reference 1

Location of other theft

Figure 18 Location of other thefts, 2013 (%)

Figure 018

a: Includes unspecified location

  • Thirty-eight percent of victims of other theft in 2013 were victimised in retail locations. A further 21 percent were victimised in outbuildings/other residential land.
  • Only four percent of victims were victimised in recreational settings, while one percent were victimised in other community locations.

Source: Reference 1