Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Chapter 4: Selected offender profiles

This chapter brings together information on offenders from three sources:

  • police annual reports from the three jurisdictions (Victoria, Queensland and South Australia) that release offender statistics;
  • the AIC’s Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program; and
  • the ABS’ Recorded crime—Offenders, selected states and territories, 2009–10.

The ABS’ Recorded crime—Offenders, selected states and territories, 2009–10 includes national data on offender age and gender for four key offence categories:

  • acts intended to cause injury;
  • theft and related offences;
  • illicit drug offences; and
  • public order offences.

It also contains information on offender characteristics for other offences on a state-by-state basis.

Source: Reference 21

Alleged offenders

An alleged offender is a person who is said to have committed a crime and has been processed by police for that offence by arrest, caution or warrant of apprehension. Throughout this chapter, the terms offender and offender rate refer to alleged offenders and the alleged offender rate.

Official data on sex and age of alleged offenders are published by the police services of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Police statistics on alleged offenders are unavailable for the remaining states and territories.

This chapter presents data on alleged offenders classified according to sex and age. These data should be interpreted with caution, as they only reflect police processing of offenders in three states and therefore may not be representative of national trends. They also do not reflect findings of guilt. The main purpose here is to give an indicative view of major issues relating to offenders, particularly the following:

  • At what age do offender rates peak?
  • How does the age pattern of male offenders compare with that of female offenders?
  • Are female offender rates increasing?

The number of alleged offenders does not equal the number of distinct alleged offenders per year, because police may take action against the same individual for several offences, or the individual may be processed on more than one occasion for the same offence type. It also does not equate to the total number of crimes cleared during a given period, as one crime may involve more than one offender.

Throughout this chapter, the term total offender population refers to the total number of (not necessarily distinct) individuals aged 10 years and over in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia who have been processed by police for any of the offences listed below. The rates of total offenders included in the Tables and Figures in this chapter are calculated relative to the total population aged 10 years and over in these jurisdictions (see Reference 2). These data are presented by financial year.

In 2007–08, the classification of ‘other’ theft was broadened. This caused an increase in the number of offenders in 2007–08, which is partially explained by the reclassification of ‘other’ theft to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included ‘theft (other)’ for Victoria. This edition’s inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria aligns with South Australia and Queensland’s classification of ‘other theft’.

The offender data are for the following major types of crime:

  • homicide and related offences (murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, infanticide and driving causing death);
  • assault;
  • sexual assault;
  • robbery;
  • unlawful entry with intent;
  • MVT;
  • other theft; and
  • fraud and deception-related crime.

Source: References 810

Age

People aged 15 to 19 years are more likely to be processed by police for the commission of a crime than are members of any other age group. In 2009–10, the offending rate for people aged 15 to 19 years was almost four times the rate for all other offenders (6,751 compared with 1,821 offenders per 100,000).

Figure 54: Offenders, by age, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)a

Offenders, by age, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (rate per 100,000 relevant persons)

a: Aggregated from Victorian, South Australia and Queensland

b: ‘All’ refers to all offenders aged 10 years and over

Note: The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the reclassification of ‘other’ theft to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included ‘theft (other)’ for Victoria. From 2007–08, the inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria has aligned the information with South Australia and Queensland classification of ‘other’ theft

  • The rate of offending increased in two of the four age groups in 2009–10. The rate of offending by persons aged 10–14 years rose by 12 percent from 2,331 in 2008–09 to 2,622 per 100,000 population in 2009–10. Similarly, offending by people aged 15-19 years rose from 6,556 to 6,751 per 100,000 population in 2009–10; a total increase of three percent.
  • As for most age groups, offending rates for individuals aged 20–24 years peaked during the period between 1999–2000 and 2000–01. Since then, the rate of offending among this group has fallen by approximately five percent per year over the nine year period. In 2009–10, the offending rate for persons aged 20–24 years was 3,343 per 100,000 population.
  • In 2009–10, persons aged over 25 years offended at a rate of 1,081 per 100,000 population. This was slightly lower than the overall rate of offending for all age groups (1,821 per 100,000 population).

Source: References 2 and 810

Figure 55: Offenders, by selected principle offence and age in years for Australia, 2009–10 (n)

Offenders, by selected principle offence and age in years for Australia, 2009–10 (n)

Note: In the Australian Capital Territory, only 5 categories of selected principal offences have been reported by ABS. Therefore, to generate a national figure, only these 5 categories across states and territories could be aggregated into a national figure

  • For most crimes, the greatest volumes of offenders were aged 18 and 19 years old. For example, the majority of offenders charged with acts intended to cause injury were aged 18 years old (n=3,196) while 4,214 persons charged with public order offences were aged 19. However, the peak offending age was slightly lower for theft and related offences, with the majority of offenders aged 16 years old.
  • The numbers of offenders in each age category declined most sharply in the offence categories of theft and related offences and public order offences. By contrast, the decline in numbers was more gradual for the offence categories of acts intended to cause injury and illicit drug offences. This gradual decline was also evident for offences against justice, where the number decreased by an average of three percent per year of age for those aged of 23 to 45 years.

Source: Reference 21

Sex

In 2009–10, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia processed a total of 186,244 alleged offenders of whom 140,152 (75%) were male and 46,092 were female. Females constituted 25 percent of all offenders in 2009–10, a one percent increase on previous years.

Figure 56: Offenders, by gender, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 of that sex per year)a

Offenders, by gender, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 of that sex per year)

a: Aggregated from Victorian, South Australia and Queensland

  • Despite males offending at a much higher rate, trends in overall offending for both genders follow similar patterns. Both show a peak in 2000–01 (3,651 per 100,000 male population and 1,059 per 100,000 female population), followed by a decline in offending in 2001–02. More recently, male offending rates fell (from 2,833 to 2,768 per 100,000 male population between 2007–08 and 2009–10), however female offending rates rose from 747 per 100,000 female population in 2007–08 to 892 per 100,000 female population in 2009–10.

Source: References 2 and 810

Males

Figure 57: Male offenders, by age, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 males of that age per year)a

Male offenders, by age, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 males of that age per year)

a: Aggregated from Victorian, South Australia and Queensland

Note: ‘All’ refers to all male offenders aged 10 years and over. The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the reclassification of ‘other’ theft to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included ‘theft (other)’ for Victoria. From 2007–08, the inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria has brought the information in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of ‘other’ theft

  • Overall, the 2009–10 rates of offending across all age groups are lower than they were in the early 2000s. The rate of male offending is at an all-time low at 2,769 per 100,000 male population in 2009–10.
  • Males aged 15–19 years had the highest rate of offending in 2009–10 (10,101 per 100,000 male population). This rate represents an increase of two percent from 2008–09.
  • The offending rate of males aged 10–14 years saw the greatest percentage increase (13%) of any age group from 2008–09 to 2009–10, rising from 3,091 to 3,496 per 100,000 male population.

Source: References 2 and 810

Figure 58: Male offenders, by offence type, 1996–97 and 2009–10 (per 100,000 males per year)

Male offenders, by offence type, 1996–97 and 2009–10 (per 100,000 males per year)

  • The rate of offending among males was lower in 2009–10 for all property crimes than in 1996–97. Conversely, with the exception of homicide, the rate of violent offending by males increased during the same time period.
  • Between 1996–97 and 2009–10, the male offending rate for assault increased by 18 percent from 664 to 786 per 100,000 male population, sexual assault increased by 35 percent from 23 to 31 per 100,000 male population and robbery increased by 28 percent from 58 to 74 per 100,000 male population. Homicide was the only violent crime where the rate of offending decreased between 1996–97 and 2009–10, falling by 27 percent from 11 to eight per 100,000 male population.
  • In relation to property crime, the percentage decrease in the rate of male offending between 1996–97 and 2009–10 was greatest for MVT and fraud offences. Specifically, both declined by 45 percent, with MVT decreasing to 157 per 100,000 male population in 2009–10, while fraud decreased from 449 per 100,000 male population in 1996–97 to 249 per 100,000 male population in 2009–10.

Source: References 2 and 810

Females

Figure 59: Female offenders, by age group, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 females of that age group per year)a

Female offenders, by age group, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 females of that age group per year)

a: Aggregated from Victorian, South Australia and Queensland

Note: ‘All’ refers to all female offenders aged 10 years and over. The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the reclassification of ‘other’ theft to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included ‘theft (other)’ for Victoria. From 2007–08, the inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria has brought the information in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of ‘other’ theft

  • Across all age groups, the rate of female offending was 892 per 100,000 female population in 2009–10.
  • In 2007–08, the rate of female offending in the 10–14 year age group overtook the rate of offending by females aged 20–25 years. Since then, offending by 10–14 year olds has risen by approximately four percent per year.
  • Since 2006–07, the offending rate for females aged 15–19 years has increased by 33 percent; from 2,425 to 3,225 per 100,000 female population.
  • The offending rate of females aged between 20 and 24 years old is the lowest it has been in 14 years. In 1996–97, females aged 20–24 years were offending at a rate of 1,844 per 100,000, compared with 1,480 per 100,000 female population in 2009–10.

Source: References 2 and 810

Figure 60: Female offenders, by offence type, 1996–97 and 2009–10 (per 100,000 females per year)

Female offenders, by offence type, 1996–97 and 2009–10 (per 100,000 females per year)

  • With regard to female offending by offence type, there was no significant change in the rates of female homicide and sexual assault offending—both of which were very low. The homicide offending rate for females in 2009–10 was one per 100,000 female population, while for sexual assault it was 0.4 per 100,000 female population.
  • Rates of female offending remained highest in the offence category of ‘other’ theft in both 1996–97 and 2009–10. In 1996–97, the offending rate for females committing ‘other’ theft was 471 per 100,000 females, compared with 501 per 100,000 females in 2009–10; an increase of six percent.
  • The rate of female assault offending increased by 49 percent over the 14 year period, while female fraud and deception offending decreased by 44 percent.

Source: References 2 and 810

Juveniles

There are differences among the states in the definition of a juvenile. Data in this section include alleged offenders aged between 10 and 17 years.

Figure 61: Juvenile and adult offenders, by age group, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 of that age group per year)

Juvenile and adult offenders, by age group, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 of that age group per year)

Note: The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the reclassification of ‘other’ theft to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included ‘theft (other)’ for Victoria. From 2007–08, the inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria has brought the information in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of ‘other’ theft

  • Currently, recorded juvenile offending is at its highest rate since 1996–97 at 4,584 per 100,000 of the juvenile population.
  • By contrast with juvenile offending, adult offending is in decline. In 1996–97, adults were offending at a rate of 1,501 per 100,000 adult population. Adult offending peaked in 2000–01 with a rate of 2,104 per 100,000 adult population, before falling to 1,455 per 100,000 adult population in 2009–10.

Source: References 2 and 810

Figure 62: Juvenile offenders, by sex, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 juveniles of that sex per year)

Juvenile offenders, by sex, 1996–97 to 2009–10 (per 100,000 juveniles of that sex per year)

Note: The increase in offenders in 2007–08 is partially explained by the reclassification of ‘other’ theft to include theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal), theft of bicycle and theft (other). Prior editions of Australian crime: Facts & figures have only included ‘theft (other)’ for Victoria. This edition’s inclusion of theft from motor vehicle, theft (shopsteal) and theft of bicycle for Victoria brings it in line with South Australia and Queensland classification of ‘other’ theft

  • Compared with 1996–97 rates, juvenile offending for both males and females has increased. Male offending has increased by four percent from 6,288 per 100,000 juvenile male population in 1996–97 to 6,521 per 100,000 in 2009–10. Significantly, while they remain less likely to offend, the rate of offending for female juvenile offenders increased by 67 percent from 1,528 to 2,546 per 100,000 juvenile female population from 1996–97 to 2009–10.

Source: References 2 and 810

Figure 63: Juvenile offenders, by offence type, 1996–97 and 2009–10 (per 100,000 juveniles per year)

Juvenile offenders, by offence type, 1996–97 and 2009–10  (per 100,000 juveniles per year)

  • UEWI and ‘other’ theft remained the two crimes with the highest rates of juvenile offending. However, while the rate of juvenile UEWI offending decreased by 24 percent between 1996–97 and 2009–10, the rate of juvenile offending in relation to ‘other’ theft increased by 58 percent from 1,433 to 2,269 per 100,000 juvenile population in 2009–10.
  • The rate of juveniles committing assaults has risen by 67 percent since 1996–97—from a rate of 459 per 100,000 juvenile population to the current rate of 768 per 100,000 juvenile population in 2009–10.

Source: References 2 and 810

Drug use by offenders

Police detainees

The AIC’s DUMA program monitors illicit drug use by police detainees at a number of sites around Australia on a quarterly basis. DUMA provides a reasonable and independent indicator of drug-related crime at these locations. Two methods are used to obtain information—a questionnaire and a urine sample.

Figure 64: Adult male police detainees testing positive to any druga, by DUMA site, 1999–2010 (%)

Adult male police detainees testing positive to any drug, by DUMA site, 1999–2010 (%)

a: Any drug is defined as cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine or benzodiazepines

By 2010, nine sites were being monitored—East Perth in Western Australia; Southport and Brisbane City in Queensland; Bankstown, Parramatta and Kings Cross in New South Wales; Adelaide City in South Australia; Darwin in the Northern Territory; and Footscray in Victoria. Brisbane City and Adelaide City began participating in 2002, Darwin and Footscray in 2006 and King Cross in 2009.

Data collection at the Elizabeth site in South Australia ceased in Quarter Four in 2007, while the Alice Springs site was discontinued in 2008. Therefore, there are no data for either Elizabeth or Alice Springs in 2010. Data are collected quarterly and presented in the following figures as annual averages. Data are presented here for males only, as they represent the majority (more than 80%) of police detainees in the DUMA collection (for a more detailed analysis of the DUMA data see Reference 22).

As the DUMA data are expressed as proportions of drug use (as opposed to the count), changes and comparisons between years are reported in percentage points. The nine sites differed in the percentage of police detainees testing positive to each of methamphetamine, cocaine, cannabis and heroin.

Source: Reference 22

  • High proportions of adult male police detainees tested positive to drugs across all sites in the DUMA program in 2010. These ranged from just over half of males at the Kings Cross site (55%) and 61 percent at the Parramatta site to 68 percent at the Footscray site.
  • While there is variation within and across sites, overall, fewer male police detainees tested positive to any drug in 2010 than they did in early 2000s.
  • The proportions of adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug at the Footscray and East Perth sites have decreased when compared to 2006. Despite being the two sites with the greatest proportion of positive results in 2010, the proportion of adult male police detainees testing positive to drugs at the Footscray site decreased by seven percentage points from 2006 to 2010, while the proportion at East Perth has dropped by eight percentage points in the same period.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 65: Adult male police detainees testing positive to cannabis, by DUMA location, 1999 to 2010 (%)

Adult male police detainees testing positive to cannabis, by DUMA location, 1999 to 2010 (%)

  • The proportion of adult male police detainees who tested positive to cannabis in 2010 ranged from 24 percent in Kings Cross to 56 percent in East Perth.
  • Overall, the proportion of adult male detainees who tested positive to cannabis at the Southport site has declined since 1999. This follows a similar trend at other sites. In 2000, 63 percent of adult male detainees at Southport tested positive to cannabis compared with 49 percent in 2010, representing an overall decrease of 16 percentage points.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 66: Adult male police detainees testing positive to methamphetamine, by DUMA location, 1999 to 2010 (%)

Adult male police detainees testing positive to methamphetamine,  by DUMA location, 1999 to 2010 (%)

  • Consistently small proportions of adult male police detainees at the Darwin testing site have tested positive to methamphetamine—between two and five percent.
  • The highest proportion of male adult police detainees who tested positive to methamphetamines at any testing site over the past 10 years was recorded at the East Perth testing site; where 41 percent of adult male detainees tested positive to methamphetamines.
  • In 2010, the proportion of adult male police detainees who tested positive to methamphetamine varied from five percent in Darwin and 17 percent in Parramatta and East Perth, to 28 percent in Footscray.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 67: Adult male police detainees testing positive to heroin, by DUMA location, 1999 to 2010 (%)

Adult male police detainees testing positive to heroin, by DUMA location, 1999 to 2010 (%)

  • A high proportion of adult police detainees at the Footscray test site consistently tested positive to heroin between 2006 and 2010—from 32 percent in 2006 and 53 percent in 2009, to 43 percent in 2010.
  • A comparison of the years 1999 and 2010 showed that the proportion of adult male police detainees who tested positive to heroin at the Bankstown and Parramatta sites has declined significantly. In 1999, 44 percent tested positive to heroin at Bankstown compared with 11 percent in 2010—a drop of 33 percentage points. Similarly, in 1999, 34 percent of adult male police detainees tested positive to heroin at the Parramatta site, compared with 14 percent in 2010; a total decrease of 20 percentage points.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 68: Adult males police detainees testing positive to cocaine, by DUMA location, 1999–2010 (%)

Adult males police detainees testing positive to cocaine, by DUMA location, 1999–2010 (%)

Note: The scale for this chart is different from that of other charts as the percentages involved are relatively small

  • Cocaine use among adult male police detainees has declined to relatively low levels over the past five years. With the exception of the Kings Cross testing site, the proportion of males who tested positive to cocaine since 2005 has ranged, on average, from five percent at the Bankstown site to one percent at the Southport, Brisbane and Adelaide sites.
  • The proportion of adult male police detainees testing positive to cocaine at the Kings Cross site declined by 10 percentage points between 2009 and 2010, falling from 25 to 15 percent.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 69: Adult male police detainees testing positive to selected drugs, at four long-term sitesa, 1999 to 2010 (%)

Adult male police detainees testing positive to selected drugs, at four long-term sites, 1999 to 2010 (%)

a: Bankstown, Parramatta, East Perth, Southport

  • The pattern of any drug use among adult male police detainees has been fairly consistent over the past five years, remaining on average at around 64 percent of detainees using any drug since 2006.
  • Between 2009 and 2010, the proportion of adult male police detainees testing positive to methamphetamine increased by two percentage points, from 13 to 15 percent. However, this is still a seven percentage point decrease from the 22 percent reported in 2007.
  • Since 2002, the proportion of adult male police detainees who tested positive to cocaine has remained at below four percent.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 70: Adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug, by type of offence, 2010 (%)

Adult male police detainees testing positive to a drug, by type of offence, 2010 (%)

a: Methamphetamine

b: Benzodiazepines

  • In 2010, the presence of any drug was more common for adult male police detainees whose most serious offence (MSO) was a property offence. Specifically, there was a 14 percentage point difference between detainees whose MSO was a property offence (71%) compared with those whose MSO was a violent offence (57%).
  • Twenty percent of adult male police detainees who were arrested for a property offence tested positive to heroin, compared with seven percent who were arrested for a violent offence.
  • High proportions of adult male detainees arrested for property and violence offences tested positive to cannabis—45 percent whose MSO was a violent offence and 51 percent whose MSO was a property offence.

Source: Reference 22

Characteristics of police detainees

Figure 71: Age group and sex distribution of adult police detainees, 2010 (%)

Age group and sex distribution of adult police detainees, 2010 (%)

  • In 2010, the majority of adult police detainees were aged over 36 years (around 33% for both males and females); 19 percent of females and 20 percent of males were aged between 21 and 25 years.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 72: Adult police detainees, by education level, 2010 (%)

Adult police detainees, by education level, 2010 (%)

  • The largest proportion of adult police detainees had attained either a Year 10 level education or less. Conversely, the smallest proportion had completed university or higher.
  • In 2010, more male (19%) than female (15%) adult detainees had completed TAFE, however, more females (14% compared with 13%) had a university or TAFE education that was not completed.
  • Twenty percent of adult male detainees’ and 18 percent of adult female detainees’ highest level of education was Year 11 or 12.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 73: Adult police detainees, by source of income (non-crime generated) in the past 30 days, 2010 (%)

Adult police detainees, by source of income (non-crime generated) in the past 30 days, 2010 (%)

Note: Survey respondents could select more than one source of income. As such, percentages for each sex do not total 100

  • Welfare and government benefits were the main source of non-crime generated income for both male and female adult detainees in 2010, nominated by 56 percent of males and 81 percent of females.
  • More males than females reported having a non-crime generated source of income that involved a full-time job (33% compared with 10% respectively).
  • In 2010, seven percent of female and eight percent of male adult detainees obtained income from superannuation and savings.

Source: Reference 22

Figure 74: Adult police detainees, by source of income (crime generated) in past 30 days, 2010 (%)

Adult police detainees, by source of income (crime generated) in past 30 days, 2010 (%)

a: Sex work is decriminalised in some states and territories

b: Includes theft, fraud, burglary and robbery

Note: Survey respondents could select more than one source of income. As such, percentages for each sex may not total 100

  • In 2010, there were differences in the types of crime-generated income for male and female adult police detainees. Females were most likely to draw income from shoplifting (10%) and drug dealing/other drug crimes (6%). Conversely, the main source of crime-generated income among males was from drug dealing/other drug crimes (6%), and other types of income-generating crimes (5%).
  • Five percent of females reported earning income from sex work in 2010, compared with less than one percent of males.

Source: Reference 22