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The risk of criminal victimisation for older people

The broad pattern of victimisation for older people in Australia for personal offences (such as robbery, assault, sexual assault and homicide) is consistent with findings throughout Western countries: older people are far less likely to be victims of crime than other age groups (ABS 2005; ABS 2004; ABS 2003). Risks for older people are also lower for household crimes such as burglary and motor vehicle theft. However, while older people are less likely than younger people to be subject to consumer fraud, within their age group consumer fraud occurs more frequently than other types of crime (Carcach, Graycar & Muscat 2001). A snapshot of the criminal victimisation of older people follows.

Personal offences

  • The National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP) showed that between 1 July 2003 and 30 June 2004, there were 21 victims of homicide aged 65 years and over which is 0.8 people per 100,000 of the population that age. The rate of victimisation for the population aged less than 65 years is 1.6 per 100,000 people. The level of victimisation for older people has been consistent since records began in 1989 (Mouzos 2005).
  • Recorded crime: victims, Australia (ABS 2005) indicates that four percent of robbery victims were aged 65 years and over. There were twice as many women as men in these numbers which, while reflecting the larger numbers of women in this age group, could also be a result of handbag snatching. This is also the case in the ABS Crime and Safety Survey (ABS 2003) which shows that, of the total number of robbery victims, four percent were aged 65 years and over. One percent of robbery victims were males aged 65 years and over, and ten percent of robbery victims were females aged 65 years and over.
  • People aged 65 years and over accounted for 2.4 percent of the total number of assault victims in the 12 months prior to the 2002 Crime and Safety Survey (ABS 2003). This compares with 32 percent of people in the 15-24 year age group. Recorded crime: victims, Australia (ABS 2004) indicates that 1.4 percent of all assault victims were aged more than 65 years. The Australian component of the 2004 International Crime Victim Survey (ICVS) showed that people aged 60 years and over accounted for two percent of assault victims in the 12 months prior to the survey (Johnson 2005).
  • Recorded crime: victims, Australia (2004) indicates that 0.4 percent of all victims of sexual assault were aged 65 years and over. The majority of these were women. Data from the International Violence Against Women Survey showed that, of the total sample, two percent of women in the 55-69 year age group experienced physical violence and one percent experienced sexual violence (Mouzos & Makkai 2004).

Household/property crime

The Australian component of the 2000 IVCS incorporated a supplement targeted at older people (Carcach, Graycar & Muscat 2001). Data for households in which all of the members were aged 65 years or more were analysed. The data showed that, during the year preceding the survey, five percent of people aged 65 years and over had been the victim of a burglary and that 0.5 percent of older people had experienced the theft of a motor vehicle, on at least one occasion.

Consumer fraud

The older people supplement of the 2000 ICVS showed that almost four percent of people aged 65 years and more had experienced consumer fraud in the past year. This was less than half of the level among younger people. Older people were, however, more likely to experience consumer fraud than other offences. Consumer fraud was more than twice as frequent as assault or theft, and 13 times more frequent than robbery. Older people were particularly vulnerable to door-to-door selling, being sold items over the telephone and mail order purchases (Muscat, James & Graycar 2002).

Points worth noting

  • Risks for older people are not uniform. As is the case for all people, risks are higher in some geographic areas than others. Those who are more economically disadvantaged are generally more at risk, partly because they tend to live in higher-crime areas.
  • Some people experience a disproportionate amount of victimisation and this is similar for older people. The best predictor of victimisation is previous victimisation. Repeat victimisation has clear implications for crime prevention if known victims can be assisted in ways that reduce their risks.

Statistics showing the recording of crime by the police are often an underestimate of the number of crimes that have actually occurred, because of low reporting rates. Older people, however, do tend to report crimes to the police more often than younger people.

References

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2005. Recorded crime: victims, Australia. Cat. no. 4510.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2004. Recorded crime: victims, Australia. Cat. no. 4510.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2003. Crime and safety, Australia. Cat. no. 4509.0. Canberra: ABS
  • Carcach C, Graycar A & Muscat G 2001. The victimisation of older Australians. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no 212
  • Johnson H 2005. Crime victimisation in Australia : key results of the 2004 International Crime Victimisation Survey. Research and public policy series no. 64. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology
  • Mouzos J 2005. Homicide in Australia : 2003-2004 National Homicide Monitoring Program in Australia (NHMP) annual report. Research and public policy series no. 66. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology
  • Mouzos J & Makkai T 2004. Women's experiences of male violence : findings from the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS). Research and public policy series no. 56. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology
  • Muscat G, James M & Graycar A 2002. Older people and consumer fraud. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 220

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