Australian Institute of Criminology

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Addenda results

Each year as part of the DUMA survey, specific issues of interest are assessed via quarterly survey addenda. Addenda are developed in consultation with both Commonwealth and state stakeholders and collect information on emerging issues of policy relevance.

Housing and employment addendum

During the second quarter of 2011, the housing and employment addendum was administered. This addendum examined the prevalence of unstable accommodation among detainees and factors that contribute to unstable accommodation, such as employment status.

The analysis illustrated that well over half of detainees (58%) had not undertaken any hours of paid work during the month leading up to their arrest, while just over a quarter (27%) of all detainees reported being unemployed for at least one year. Seventy-one percent of police detainees had worked less per week than the national average. With regards to age, the youngest (18–20 years) and oldest offenders (36 years and over) tended to be the least likely to have engaged in any work in the 30 days leading up to their arrest. During the 30 days prior to arrest, almost a quarter (23%) of detainees were living in unstable accommodation.

For further details of the housing and employment addendum findings see Payne, MacDonald and Macgregor (in press).

Prescription drugs addendum

During the third quarter of 2011, the prescription drugs addendum was administered. This addendum examined the illegal use of prescription drugs among detainees, including diversion of pharmaceuticals to the black market and availability of prescription drugs through illegitimate means. Key stakeholders in the justice and health sectors have identified the abuse of prescription medication as a priority research area.

Thirty-six percent of adult police detainees reported using buprenorphine, methadone, morphine, benzodiazepines or dexamphetamine on at least one occasion in the previous year. Regardless of the method by which the drugs were obtained, benzodiazepines were the most commonly reported pharmaceutical drug to be used by detainees (25%), followed by morphine (12%), buprenorphine (8%), methadone (7%) and dexamphetamine (4%). For detainees who reported sourcing prescription drugs through illegal means, 16 percent reported using benzodiazepines, nine percent morphine, five percent buprenorphine, three percent methadone and three percent dexamphetamine.

When asked how they sourced the drug, two-thirds of detainees reported at least one illegal method. The most common source for illegally obtaining pharmaceutical drugs was via family and friends. Seventy-four percent of detainees also noted that pharmaceutical drugs are readily available through illegitimate sources. Over half of the detainees using buprenorphine (59%) and morphine (53%) knew of someone dealing the drug at the time of their arrest.

For further details of the prescription drugs addendum findings see Ng and Macgregor (2012).

Cannabis addendum

During the first quarter of 2012, the cannabis addendum was administered. This addendum examined the use of synthetic cannabis among detainees, as well as experiences or knowledge of the effects of synthetic cannabis. The addendum also examined detainee knowledge of the cannabis market with regard to the growing of ‘bush weed’ and hydroponic cannabis.

Forty-nine percent of detainees had heard of synthetic cannabis, but only four percent had used synthetic cannabis in the previous month. The low prevalence of use reflects a general distrust of the substance among detainees, with use reported to be associated with side effects including dizziness, nausea, paranoia, panic, headaches, delusions and hallucinations. Of those who had used synthetic cannabis, Kronic was the most common brand.

Detainees were also asked how they obtained synthetic cannabis. Of those who used synthetic cannabis, the largest proportion (44%) obtained it from friends, followed by tobacconists (21%) and street dealers (12%). Regarding their motivations for using synthetic forms of cannabis, 32 percent of users cited that they wanted to try it, 24 percent used it because they lacked bush or hydroponically grown cannabis and 12 percent used it when offered by peers.

Eighty percent of detainees who self-reported using cannabis consumed hydroponically grown cannabis on their last use and 14 percent used bush cannabis. Only a small percentage of detainees who had used cannabis in the 30 days prior to their arrest (3%) reported growing or being involved in growing cannabis. Of the detainees who reporting growing cannabis, 54 percent reported selling the cannabis they had grown to others.

For further details refer to the Synthetic Cannabis: Prevalence of Use Among Offenders, Perception of Risk and Negative Side Effects Experienced bulletin (Macgregor & Payne 2013), available on the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre website http://ncpic.org.au/.

Stolen goods and motives addendum

During the second quarter of 2012, the stolen goods and motives addendum was administered. This addendum examined the nature of property offending including targets of property crime, methods of ‘offloading’ stolen goods (ie selling, swapping or disposing of goods), motives for property crime and reasons for failed attempts. The addendum also sought detainees’ perceptions of the underlying reasons for the downward trend in property crime over the last 10 years. This addendum was similar in format and served as an update to the ‘stolen goods’ and ‘motives for offending’ addenda administered in the first quarter of 2007.

One in four detainees (24%) reported stealing property in the last year. Consistent with 2007 findings, food (49%) was identified as the most commonly stolen item, followed by cash (27%). Clothing (26%) and consumer electronics (21%) were also commonly stolen items.

In 2007, detainees most commonly reported stealing to obtain money for drugs (26%) or to eat or use the item (24%). However, in 2012, the reason chosen by the highest percentage of detainees was that the theft was a spur of the moment or unplanned activity (68%). Motivations describing a need for money such as to support self or family (51%), unemployment (47%) and to buy things (not drugs; 42%) were also commonly selected. Motivations associated with illicit drug use were reported by a number of detainees, these included being high on drugs (48%), hanging out for drugs (45%) and needing money to buy drugs (43%).

Comparing 2007 and 2012 findings, for both years the majority of detainees who stole reported stealing from a shop (54% cf 70%), with other common sources being people (15% cf 8%), houses (10% cf 9%) and cars (4% cf 3%). It can be seen that stealing from people has decreased by seven percentage points over this period, but stealing from houses and cars has remained relatively stable.

While the overall level of property crime may have decreased over the 2007 to 2012 period (see AIC 2012 for further details), goods stolen and locations of theft favoured by those engaging in such acts has, for the most part, remained relatively stable. The most prominent motivations for stealing appear to be a perceived need for income and illicit drug related motivations.

Drink driving addendum

During the third quarter of 2012, the drink driving addendum was administered. This addendum examined the frequency with which detainees engaged in drink driving, locations where alcohol was consumed prior to driving and the perceived effect of alcohol consumption on driving ability. The addendum also examined reasons for drink driving, methods used to avoid detection and the extent to which random breath testing deters drink driving among this population. The addendum was only administered to detainees who had driven a vehicle in the previous 12 months (n=547).

Of the 547 detainees who had driven a vehicle in the previous 12 months, two in five (41%) reported driving without a valid licence and of these, 27 percent held a suspended or disqualified licence, 11 percent had never held a licence and three percent held an expired licence. Over a quarter of detainees had been driving immediately prior to their arrest (28%).

Twenty-five percent of detainees admitted to driving in the previous 12 months when they thought they were over the legal limit in. A private residence was the most common location in which detainees reported consuming alcohol prior to drink driving (49%), followed by a pub or nightclub (34%). Twenty-three percent of detainees who admitted to drink driving in the previous 12 months (n=31) did so multiple times per month.

Of those that reported drink driving, 29 percent stated that they did so out of convenience, 19 percent reported that they felt fine to drive and 10 percent reported they were only driving a short distance. Fifty-two percent of detainees who had driven while intoxicated stated that they had not intended to drink and drive but had ended up doing so anyway. Of these detainees, 38 percent cited that after drinking they did not care and 29 percent reported a lack of alternate transportation.

Almost 60 percent of detainees reported that random breath testing stations serve as a deterrent to drink driving, with a similar percentage reportedly aware that they can be breath tested if stopped by any police vehicle. Approximately half of drivers (48%) reported being stopped for a random breath test in the previous 12 months. Of those who reported drink driving, 58 percent reported having at some time in their life failed a random breath test, 70 percent of who reported having lost their licence for drink driving offences. Over 30 percent of drink drivers have tried to avoid a breath test station by methods such as turning down a side street, performing a U-turn, stopping prior to the breath-testing station or by switching drivers.

Random roadside breath testing served as a deterrent to drink driving for the majority of police detainees. However, a minority of detainees reported drink driving despite the perceived risk of random breath testing and having, at some point in their lives, failed a random breath test or lost a driver’s licence for drink driving offences. Additional deterrents or education may be required to discourage this subgroup of persistent drink drivers. High rates of testing reported by the subgroup of drink drivers suggests that current methods employed by police are effective at detecting and apprehending individuals who drive when intoxicated.

Domestic violence addendum

During the fourth quarter of 2012, the domestic violence addendum was administered. This addendum examined detainee’s understanding of domestic violence, their perception of its prevalence in the community and their individual history with domestic violence, both as victim and perpetrator. Also examined was detainees’ acceptance of violence towards domestic partners, assessed through responses to items describing behaviours that could be considered domestic violence. Detainee willingness to intervene in incidents of domestic violence was also assessed.

The analysis found that the definition of domestic violence varied between individual detainees. A number of criteria as to what constituted domestic violence were commonly identified by the majority of detainees. These criteria were:

  • hitting or kicking a partner;
  • threatening to damage or destroy a partner’s property;
  • insults and humiliation on a regular basis;
  • threatening physical violence while having a verbal argument;
  • pushing or shoving a partner;
  • throwing, smashing or breaking things during an argument; and
  • threatening harm to animals, children or other family members.

Detainees more readily identified direct physical and verbal acts and acts against property as examples of domestic violence than indirect or covert acts, such as withholding money or monitoring activities.

For further details of the domestic violence addendum findings, see Ng and Bricknell (forthcoming).