Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Executive summary

National Armed Robbery Monitoring Program overview

Data collection for the National Armed Robbery Monitoring Program (NARMP) began in 2003 following a commitment from police services in all Australian states and territories to provide information that would permit the detailed national-level exploration of armed robbery.

The program was established to:

  • monitor trends in armed robbery, specifically trends in weapon use;
  • identify changes in trends; and
  • provide insight into the factors underpinning these trends.

In this, the sixth year of reporting, analysis is presented for data on all armed robberies reported to police between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2008. Comparisons are also made with data from previous years, where possible.

Victims of armed robbery

Analyses of the 2008 victim-based NARMP dataset suggest that:

  • while the number of victims of armed robbery has fluctuated from year to year, there has been an overall decrease of 28 percent since 2003, with a smaller decrease of approximately 10 percent in the number of victims compared with 2007 data (6,427 in 2008 compared with 7,133 in 2007 and 8,865 in 2003);
  • knives were the most commonly used weapon (51%), with a four percent increase in the use of knives compared with the previous year’s results. Armed robberies involving firearms decreased by three percent to account for only 13 percent of all weapons used in armed robbery;
  • just under 40 percent of all armed robberies involving individual victims occurred in a retail setting (38%; specified and unspecified) while 48 percent occurred in an open setting (recreational space, transport-related, open spaces and street and footpath);
  • the average age of an armed robbery victim was 30 years; 66 percent of male victims and 55 percent of female victims were under the age of 30 years;
  • males were more than three times more likely to be victimised than females (33.5 per 100,000 for males; 9.9 per 100,000 for females);
  • organisations or commercial premises accounted for 27 percent of victims recorded in NARMP. This figure has remained similar to previous years (27% in 2006 and 26% in 2007);
  • the number of armed robberies involving organisational victims at residential locations (possibly indicating some type of home business) almost doubled in 2008 from the number recorded in 2007 (142 in 2008 compared with 76 in 2007); and
  • one percent (76 victim records) indicated repeat victimisation during 2008, with most of these being organisations (62%).

Incidents of armed robbery

  • During 2008, there were 5,686 incidents of armed robbery recorded in Australian states and territories.
  • The majority of armed robbery incidents involved a single individual victim (63%) or a single organisation (27%).
  • Approximately one-third of all robbery incidents occurred on the street (35%) and 16 percent on the premises of an unspecified retailer (this includes shopping centres, jewellers, pawn shops and gambling locations (TABs) among other retail locations not further defined).
  • For the second year, there was a substantial decrease in the number of service station armed robberies (34% in 2007 and 32% in 2008).
  • Two-thirds (67%) of armed robbery incidents occurred between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am.
  • Forty-three percent of armed robbery incidents occurred between 6 pm and 12 am.
  • Firearms were used in a higher percentage of robberies in banking and financial settings (45%) and licensed premises (39%) than in other locations.
  • Knives were the most common weapon used in the majority of locations (eg corner stores, supermarkets and takeaways 62%; post offices and newsagents 58%; open spaces 58%).
  • Not all jurisdictions were able to provide information on the type of property stolen. Available data indicated that the most common type of property stolen was cash (56%) followed by electrical goods, including mobile phones (16%).
  • On average, armed robbery offenders netted $1,662 per incident in 2008 which was a considerable increase compared with $1,066 per incident in 2007 (where a weapon and location were identified). This result was influenced by the substantial decrease in the number of armed robberies where property value was recorded as nil (11% in 2008 compared with 28% in 2007).
  • The median (the middle figure when ranging from lowest to highest) for the value of property stolen by armed robbery offenders in 2008 was $270 and the mode (the figure occurring the most often) was $300 (where something with value was stolen).
  • The highest average gains for offenders were from incidents where a firearm was used ($4,833). The lowest average was associated with ‘syringe’ robberies ($830).
  • Some of the highest average value gains for a weapon/location combination (with more than one incident) were for ‘other’ weapon robberies at pharmacies ($28,038) and firearm robberies at licensed premises ($18,777).

Armed robbery offenders

  • Data were available for 3,425 armed robbery offenders involved in 2,157 incidents. The typical incident involved a lone offender (64% of incidents; the average was 1.6 offenders per incident while both the median and the mode were 1 offender per incident when an offender was identified).
  • The more offenders that were involved in an armed robbery, the more likely it was that a firearm was used (incidents involving lone offenders involved firearms 11% of the time compared with 33% for five offenders).
  • The average age of lone offenders was 26 years compared with 19 years of age for groups involving five offenders.
  • The average age of offenders varied with location, with older offenders tending to target banking and financial locations (30 years) and pharmacies (30 years).

Patterns in armed robbery

Consistent with findings from previous years, the 2008 NARMP findings suggest that the features of Australian armed robberies have not changed markedly over the six years in which the NARMP has been collecting data. Generally, armed robberies fall into one of the following two categories:

  • low yield, unplanned and essentially opportunistic—these are where targets are accessible to offenders who are generally inexperienced and likely to use ‘easy to obtain’ weapons such as knives (eg robberies in open spaces); or
  • high yield, suggesting some level of planning and organisation with a selected target—high-yield offenders will often employ weapons that are more difficult to obtain (such as firearms) and are less likely to operate alone (eg banking and financial location robberies).

Data from previous analyses suggest that some residential armed robberies (home invasions) and a small subset of street robberies may fall into the latter category of high-yield robberies employing specialist weapons. However, the most recent NARMP data indicated that only high-yield armed robberies (ie more than $10,000 stolen) at licensed premises locations (10 identified incidents) were more numerous than this type of armed robbery in residential or street locations. High-yield armed robbery was more likely to occur at street (n=9) and residential (n=8) locations than banking and financial (n=5) or other retail locations not further defined (n=4), but only two incidents of the possible 17 high yield armed robberies at residential and street locations involved the use of a specialist weapon (eg firearm). Traditional locations, such as banking and financial, still had higher averages for the value of property stolen during an armed robbery than armed robberies occurring at residences or on the street (see Table 18). Therefore, despite the inconsistent weapon profiles and stolen property values, there is evidence of a growing number of high-yield cases occurring at residences and on the street.

Connected with this finding and continuing on from 2007 results, the majority of high-yield armed robbery victims in 2008 were, once again, individuals rather than organisations. This reinforces the suggestion from the previous report that crime prevention measures being employed by commercial targets of armed robbery may well be preventing or reducing commercial industry’s armed robbery victimisation exposure.