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‘Knife crime’ in Australia: Incidence, aetiology and responses

Technical and Background Paper no. 45

Dr Lorana Bartels
ISBN 1836-2052 ISSN 978 1 921532 83 2
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, May 2011

Abstract

The issue of ‘knife crime’ is examined in this paper. A review of the recent Australian data indicates an increase in the use of knives for homicide offences, while their use decreased or remained steady in relation to robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping/ abduction.

The limited academic research on this issue reveals two discrete groups—young people who carry knives and generally ‘grow out of it’; and an older cohort who are evidenced in crime and hospitalisation data. There were also differences between the knife carriage and use patterns of ‘school’ and ‘street’ youth.

A detailed analysis of recent and proposed legislative and policy responses to knife crime in each Australian jurisdiction is presented; this demonstrates a diversity of approaches, especially in relation to penalties. By way of international comparison, the responses in the United Kingdom are considered and the evidence on the effectiveness of interventions aimed at tackling knife crime reviewed.

The limited information available on the nature, extent, cause, motivation and possible growth of knife carriage, highlights the need for improved data collection, along with the development of clearer evidence for what works to reduce knife carrying and knife offences. Accordingly, the paper concludes by calling for better data collection, program evaluation and education campaigns.

Adam Tomison
Director