Australian Institute of Criminology

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Criminal damage

Estimating the number of incidents

Criminal damage can encompass a wide range of crimes; however, the category most commonly used includes offences such as graffiti and vandalism. The number of incidents of criminal damage was estimated using publicly available recorded crime data from each state and territory. Based on aggregated police recorded offences, there were approximately 249,220 incidents of criminal damage in 2011–12. In order to account for incidents not reported to police, a multiplier of 5.9 was applied. This was calculated using the most recent revisions to the Home Office Integrated Offender Management Value for Money Toolkit based on data from the most recent British Crime Survey compared with crimes recorded by police (Home Office 2011). Using this multiplier results in a total estimated number of criminal damage offences of 1.47m in 2011–12. This figure is only slightly higher than the 1.1 million incidents of malicious property damage reported in the reported in Crime Victimisation, Australia, 2011–12 (ABS 2013a). The ABS survey found that malicious property damage was experienced by 649,900 (7.5%) of Australian households in the 12 months prior to interview in 2011–12. Nearly half (46%) of the victims of malicious property damage reported the most recent incident they experienced to police (ABS 2013a).

Estimating property loss

An estimate of the value of property lost to criminal damage was obtained by synthesising information from a number of sources. Rollings’ (2008) estimate of $500 was inflated to the equivalent price in 2011 ($598). Using updated information from British Crime Survey, the average estimated cost of criminal damage in 2011 would have been the equivalent of $3,346. However, based on previous estimates, only 25 percent of this amount would have been attributable to property loss ($836; Dubourg, Hamed & Thorns 2005). Howard (2006) used NSW crime data and found that the median cost of criminal damage was around $300 ($347 in 2011). Finally, estimates from Victoria Police in 2012 indicate that, on average, an incident of criminal damage cost $1,071, with a median cost of $486 (Victoria Police 2012). The estimate used in this report was calculated by averaging these amounts and totalled $567 per incident. This results in a total estimate of property loss of $833m.

Lost output

Both Mayhew (2003b) and Rollings (2008) considered $50 to be a reasonable estimate of the lost output associated with criminal damage. However, UK figures estimated a slightly lower equivalent amount of $23. The average of these two figures results in a cost of $43 per incident or $63m in total.

Intangible losses

The same method used to estimate the value of lost output associated with criminal damage was applied here. Intangible losses accounted for 49 percent of the total unit cost of criminal damage according to the UK estimate, which is equivalent to $1,650 in 2011 prices. Rollings (2008) estimated approximately $700, which in 2011 would equate to $838. Averaging these two estimates yields a figure of $1,244 per incident. The total estimated intangible losses due to criminal damage were therefore $1.8b in 2011.

Total costs

It is estimated that in 2010–11, criminal damage cost $2.7b or $1,853 per incident (see Table 24). The largest component of this cost attributable to the intangible losses sustained ($1.8b).

Table 24 Summary of criminal damage costs, 2011
Category Unit cost ($) Total cost ($’000)
Property loss 566.8 833.4
Lost output 43.0 63.3
Intangible losses 1,243.6 1,828
Total 1,853 2,724.7