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Outlook Symposium '99: papers by AIC researchers

Media Release

18 March 1999

Papers being presented by Australian Institute of Criminology researchers at the National Outlook Symposium include:

  • Changing patterns in homicide

    Last year, Australia recorded the lowest number of homicides (311) since 1989. Australia's homicide rate in 1997/98 was twice the rate in Japan and almost a quarter of the rate in the US.

    In 1997/98, most homicides (36 per cent) occurred in NSW and in Queensland, where one quarter occurred. Homicide incidents in Victoria have nearly halved since monitoring began and the NT victimisation rate decreased by more than half from 1995/96 to 1997/98.

    In approximately 80 per cent of all homicide incidents the victim and the offender were known to each other. More than 23 per cent involved intimate partners.

    [Homicide Patterns in Australia, Changing Patterns in Homicide, Jenny Mouzos - Tuesday 23 March 11.30am]

  • Knives now biggest killer but use of handguns increasing

    Knives and other sharp instruments have overtaken assaults and blunt instruments to become the most common means of committing homicide over the past nine years.

    Although the use of firearms is the third most common method, comprising more than 20 per cent of total homicides, it has remained steady over the same period.

    However, there has been a six-fold increase in the number of homicide incidents involving handguns, particularly in recent years. Of the 131 handgun homicides recorded since 1989, around two-thirds have occurred in the past four years alone.

    While the risk of homicide victimisation for Caucasians has declined in the last two years, the risk for Asians has almost doubled. From 1996-97 to 1997-98, Asians represented less than five per cent of the general population, but nine per cent of all homicide victims.

    It is interesting to note that 20 per cent of homicides occur in the context of another crime such as robbery.

    [Homicide Patterns in Australia, Firearm Homicide, Dr Peter Grabosky - Tuesday 23 March 11.30am]

  • Understanding regional variations in firearm-related homicides

    The risk of firearm-related homicides varies greatly between jurisdictions.

    Researchers are now using crime maps to understand the factors contributing to regional differences so public policy can be better aimed at reducing these homicides.

    Factors such as social and economic disadvantage, family breakdown, alcohol abuse and geographic isolation are associated with firearm-related homicides.

    [Crime Mapping in Rural Australia, Spacial Analysis of Data, Dr Carlos Carcach - Monday 22 March 2.30pm]

  • Trafficking in human beings

    As the world shrinks, the increased movement of people, money, information, ideas and commodities has provided new opportunities for crime

    In recent years, trafficking in human beings has increased rapidly throughout the world, and is of particular concern to Australia and the other migrant recipient countries.

    Trafficking in human beings raises two illegality issues, as it is both a criminal justice and human rights concern. A crime is committed against the State when illegal entry occurs. And another crime occurs against individuals who are not migrating of their own free will but are being exploited or coerced.

    Issues of fraud, money laundering and other crimes are also associated with trafficking in human beings.

    [Ethnicity and Crime, Trafficking in Human Beings, Dr Adam Graycar - Tuesday 23 March 1.30pm]

  • What's driving car theft?

    Motor vehicle theft costs the Australian economy dearly. A stolen vehicle costs the Australian community around $5000. Conservative estimates put the cost at $654m for 1996 alone.

    In a typical week in Australia in 1997, around 2500 vehicles were stolen - 12 per cent of all registered vehicles for the year affecting seven per cent of the population. Motor vehicle theft accounted for almost 12 per cent of all recorded criminal offences that year.

    This paper presents a model, which attempts to explain economics and market forces influencing car theft, indicating that factors such as the price of new cars, income levels, and the size of the police force are driving car theft.

    It concludes that car theft is a highly organised industry dominated professional criminals rather than opportunistic thieves or joy riders.

    [Markets for Stolen Goods, An Econometric Model of Motor Vehicle Theft, Dr Carlos Carcach - Tuesday 23 March 1.30pm]

  • Best practice in fraud prevention

    Fraud prevention involves a complex and sensitive process of balancing an organisation's diverse interests with its limited resources. Fraud prevention should, therefore, aim to maximise crime reduction without imposing unrealistic burdens on legitimate business activity.

    Strategies used to prevent and control fraud are astoundingly diverse and represent an area of crime prevention in which the traditional boundaries need to be crossed.

    This paper examines eight areas areas of best practice in fraud prevention: fraud awareness and education; management of fraud control; personnel monitoring; transaction monitoring; improvements in personal identification; counterfeiting prevention; computer systems monitoring; and legally-based deterrence.

    The challenge lies, not only in identifying and publicising these approaches, but also in persuading members of the community to make use of them in both their personal and business lives.

    [Fraud in Australia, Best Practice in Fraud Prevention, Dr Russell Smith - Tuesday 23 March, 2.30pm]

  • Punishing offenders outside the courts

    Whereas the court has a role in determining sanctions for serious offences, this paper examines the other end of the spectrum.

    Excluding the courts from any significant role, on-the-spot fines and infringement penalty notices are now the preferred means of dealing with minor offences and the number one sanction in the criminal justice system.

    The measures being taken to expand the automatic detection, processing and punishment of minor offenders affect many more citizens than conventional crime, but involve a significant erosion to the role of sentencing as a judicial function.

    Overall the system offers great benefits to the state and the citizen, but it is achieving efficiency at the expense of rights previously thought to be fundamental, by imposing sanctions without reference to differing levels of culpability or capacities to pay.

    It also raises the problem of increasing numbers of fine defaulters.

    [Sentencing Patterns and Trends, Criminal Sanctions at the Other End, Professor Richard Fox, Chair of the AIC Board, and Faculty of Law, Monash University - Tuesday 23 March, 2.30pm]

  • The future of crime control

    Dr Peter Grabosky, Australian Institute of Criminology, speculates on the crime landscape 20 years from now. He describes factors, which will contribute to this landscape, including economic reforms, public and private sector organisational changes, unemployment, mental stresses and family dissolution.

    Even today, police no longer have a monopoly on policing (with private industry security employees outnumbering police by at least 2 to 1) and Australia has a higher proportion of its prisoners in private facilities than any nation in the world.

    Dr Grabosky predicts that this trend will continue and tasks considered core police functions today will eventually be devolved, delegated or privatised, with crime control being increasingly shared by private security agencies and individual citizens.

    He also sees an increasing erosion of personal freedom, facilitated by developments in surveillance technologies.

    [Directions for Research and Policy, The Future of Crime Control, Dr Peter Grabosky - Tuesday 23 March 4.00pm]