Spatial analysis of juvenile offending in the Brisbane metropolitan area

Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/74)

A report of 172 pages entitled 'Spatial Aspects of Delinquency in Urban Brisbane' provided a descriptive account of the geography of delinquency in urban Brisbane. Five categories of offence (petty theft, grand theft, under age offence, offences against the person and property offences) were derived from police files. The distributions of residences of delinquents were investigated within three sections; the characteristics of offenders and their residence; the areal analysis of shoplifting and the movement patterns of offenders from home location (delinquency residence) to offence location (delinquency occurrence); and an ecological analysis of delinquency data.

The findings relating to offenders may be summarised:

  1. There was some evidence of a delinquency occurrence gradient in the study area.
  2. High delinquency residence areas were observed in the inner city as well as the northern and eastern boundaries of the study area.
  3. Patterns of delinquency occurrence were explainable only by further investigation of specific offence categories particularly shoplifting.
  4. A moderate relationship existed between socio-economic status (S.E.S.) and offence category; High S.E.S. offenders tended to engage in petty theft, lower S.E.S. in grand theft. Lower S.E.S. offenders (unskilled occupation of principal income earner) were more closely associated with person and under age offences.
  5. Offenders from lower S.E.S. groups tended to be charged in Children's Court more frequently than offenders from other S.E.S. groups for the total sample population but not within individual categories of offence.
  6. Under age offences and offences against the person were associated with unstable family environments.
  7. Levels of offence rate fluctuated during the year particularly during school recess periods.
  8. The thirteen year old age group was significantly over-represented in the sample group of offenders;

This areal analysis of shoplifting investigated the distance, directional and sectoral bias in delinquents' movements from residence to the location of the offence in any of the six specified retail establishments included in the study. Findings included:

  1. The number of delinquents' residences decreased with increasing distance from regional retail stores.
  2. Accessibility interpreted as choice of nearest centre for theft appeared more important to delinquents who centred theft activity on suburban retail centres.
  3. Delinquents who were nearest or most accessible to a theft centre were 'influenced' by its proximity and tended to steal at that centre or one nearby.
  4. Older offenders tended to travel greater distances to offence locations.

Data on delinquency rates for areas were juxtaposed with census information for the same areas. Some of the results of this ecological analysis included:

  1. Residential density was not clearly related to delinquency in urban areas.
  2. The influence of socio-economic status on delinquency residence rates (with the exception of the under age offence category) was minimal.
  3. Ethnicity had little effect on delinquency residence rates.
  4. High delinquency residence in urban Brisbane was characterised by population stability rather than population transience.
  5. Work status of mothers of delinquents appeared relatively important for petty theft and under age offence.
  6. Employment status measured by percent unemployment in areas was the singular and most influential theme on levels of delinquency residence.
  7. Education measured by percent population over 15 years with less than six levels of schooling showed some association with under age offence.