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Chapter 2: Selected crime profiles

Previous editions of the Australian Crime: Facts & Figures have reported monthly trends in selected crimes dating back to 1995. However, as the ABS no longer supply this information, these figures have been removed from this chapter.


The definition of homicide used by the ABS is the unlawful killing of another person. Homicide statistics discussed here include the following categories of offences:

  • murder—the wilful killing of a person either intentionally or with reckless indifference to life; and
  • manslaughter—the unlawful killing of a person:
    • without intent to kill, usually as a result of a careless, reckless, or negligent act; or
    • intentionally, but due to extreme provocation; or
    • when in a state of mind that impairs the capacity to understand or control one's actions.

This reflects categories recorded by police at the time of the homicide and does not necessarily take into account the final outcome of the court case.

Homicide does not include:

  • attempted murder—the attempt to unlawfully kill another person by any means, act or omission; and
  • driving causing death—the unlawful killing of a person without intent to kill, caused through culpable, dangerous or negligent driving.

The data collected by the AIC through the National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP) is supplemented with greater detail than that collected by the ABS. The ABS reports on calendar years and the AIC on financial years.

Data on the use of firearms in homicide are derived from victim data collected in the NHMP. Previous editions of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures used ABS data on causes of death, but coding procedures used since 2004 (related to an increase in the number of open coroners' cases) have resulted in an under-counting of firearm deaths due to assault (ie firearm homicide).

In 2009, there were 293 homicides in Australia, with 1.12 victims per 100,000 population. In 2009, murder accounted for 263, or 90 percent, of recorded homicide victims. The remaining 30 victims, or 10 percent, were victims of manslaughter.

Source: References 1 and 3

Location of murders

Figure 8: Murder location type, 2009 (%)


a: Includes unspecified location


Note: National data on the location of manslaughter victims (30 victims) cannot be presented here as it was in previous years, due to incompleteness of ABS published data, particularly regarding the breakdown of manslaughter by residential and community locations

  • Fifty-eight percent of murders occurred in a residential dwelling.
  • The street/footpath was the second most common location where murders occurred (14%), while transport locations were the least common (1%).

Source: Reference 1

Victims of murders

Figure 9: Murder victimisation rates by age group and sex, 2009 (per 100,000 population of that age group and sex)


Note: National data on the age and sex of manslaughter victims (30 victims) cannot be presented here as it was in previous years, due to incompleteness of published data, particularly regarding the breakdown of manslaughter by age categories

  • In 2009, there were no victims of murder aged between 10 and 14 years.
  • The rate of murder victimisation was highest for males aged between 25 and 44 years, equating to 2.5 per 100,000 population of that age group. For women, the highest rate was one per 100,000 population of the 25–44 year age group.

Source: References 1 and 2

Trends in homicide

Figure 10: Homicide victims, 1993–2009 (n)

Homicide victims, 1993–2009

  • Murder has occurred in consistently greater numbers than manslaughter over the 17 year data collection period.
  • Between 2006 and 2007, the number of murders declined by 26 to a total of 255. Since then, the number of murders each year has increased slightly from 261 in 2008 to 264 in 2009. By contrast, manslaughter has been increasing by only two offences each year since 2007.

Source: Reference 1

The following figures are based on information from the AIC's NHMP. According to the NHMP, 321 homicides occurred in Australia in 2009.

Victim–offender relationship

Figure 11: Homicide victim's relationship to offender, 2008–09 (%)

Homicide victim's relationship to offender, 2008–09

a: Includes acquaintances

b: Includes business associates, employee/employer, colleagues and other relationships


Note: Relationships are counted once for each distinct victim/offender pair. These data reflect information available at the time of reporting

  • Ninety-one male homicide victims were related to their offender through friendship compared with only 10 female victims who were killed by a friend. The 91 male victims accounted for 28 percent of all homicide victims (n=321) in 2008–09.
  • Males were more likely than females to be killed by friends (39%), other unknown offenders (27%) or strangers (18%).
  • Females were more likely to be killed by an individual with whom they shared an intimate relationship (52%) than any other category of victim/offender relationship.

Source: Reference 3

Weapon use

Figure 12: Type of weapon used in homicide, 2008–09 (%)



  • The most common weapon used during homicides in 2008–09 was a knife. Knives were involved in 35 percent (n=94) of all homicides.
  • Firearms and blunt instruments each accounted for 13 percent of weapons (n=36) while physical force was used in 15 percent of homicides (n=39).

Source: Reference 3

Trends in firearm homicides

Figure 13: Victims killed by firearms, 1989–90 to 2008–09 (% homicide victims)


  • Over the past two decades, an average of 20 people per year have been killed by offenders using firearms.
  • The proportion of homicide victims killed by offenders using firearms rose from 11 percent in 2007–08 to 13.5 percent of total homicides in 2008–09.
  • The proportion of homicide victims killed by offenders using firearms in 2008–09 represents a decrease of 18 percentage points from the peak of 31 percent in 1995–96 (the year in which the Port Arthur massacre occurred with the death of 35 people, which subsequently led to the introduction of stringent firearms legislation).

Source: Reference 3


The ABS defines assault as the direct infliction of force, injury or violence upon a person, including attempts or threats. It excludes sexual assault.

In 2009 in Australia, there were 175,277 recorded assaults, constituting 801 victims per 100,000 population.

The following data for the location of incidents and the age and gender of victims of assaults is presented here as an aggregate of ABS data for all Australian states and territories. By contrast, the data on the relationship between victims and offenders for assault, reported in Figure 14, is an aggregate of NSW, Qld, SA, Tasmanian, NT and ACT data. The data for Western Australia and Victoria were not available.

The ABS does not provide national data on victims of assault due to differences in business rules, procedures, systems, policies and recording practices between states and territories.

Location of assault

Figure 14: Assault location type, 2009 (%)


a: outbuilding or other residential land

b: includes educational, health and religious community locations, as well as community locations not specified

c: administrative/professional, banking, wholesale, warehousing/storage, manufacturing, agricultural and other locations not specified


  • Assaults that occurred on transport accounted for only seven percent of all assaults in 2009, while four percent of victims were assaulted on a street/footpath and 13 percent in retail settings.
  • Assaults most commonly occurred within a private dwelling (39%). Assaults were least likely to occur in 'other' locations (4%).

Source: Reference 1

Victims of assault

Figure 15: Assault victims by age group and sex, 2009 (per 100,000 of that age group and sex)


  • The age group with the highest rate of assault victimisation was the 15–24 year group for both males and females. In 2009, the 15–24 year age group had an assault rate of 1,764 per 100,000 population for males and females combined. The rate for 15–24 year old males was 1,922 per 100,000 population; for females it was 1,588 per 100,000 population.
  • The oldest and youngest age groups had the lowest rate of assault victimisation in 2009. This equated to 127 per 100,000 population of zero to nine year olds and 106 per 100,000 population aged 65 years and over. Within both groups, the rate of assault victimisation was higher for males than for females.
  • The rate of victimisation differed for males and females in the 25–44 year age group, at 1,341 and 1,097 per 100,000 of that population group respectively.

Source: References 1 and 2

Assault victim–offender relationship

Figure 16: Assault victims, relationship to offender (%), 2008


a: Includes known non-family members and known but not further defined, which may include some family members


Note: Excludes Western Australia and Victoria (information not available). Cases were also excluded if the relationship was not known or not stated

  • In 2009, strangers comprised 38 percent of victim–offender relationships for assaults. Thus, almost two-thirds of assault victims knew their offender.

Source: Reference 1

Sexual assault

The ABS defines sexual assault as a physical assault of a sexual nature, directed toward another person who:

  • does not give consent, or
  • gives consent as a result of intimidation or fraud; or
  • is legally deemed incapable of giving consent because of youth or incapacity.

In 2009 in Australia, there were 18,807 recorded sexual assaults, with 67 victims per 100,000 population.

The following figures (Figures 17–18) on location of sexual assaults and age and gender of sexual assault victims have been aggregated from ABS data from New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Information for the remaining states and territories was not available for 2009.

Information pertaining to the relationship between offenders and victims of sexual assault (Figure 19) is an aggregate of ABS data from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory; information for Western Australia was not available for 2009.

National data on the age and gender of victims of sexual assault cannot be presented here due to gaps in published state and territory age data, differences in business rules, procedures, systems, policies and recording practices between states and territories.

Source: Reference 1

Location of sexual assaults

Figure 17: Location type of sexual assault, 2009 (%)


a: Includes 'unspecified location'


Note: Excludes 4 states where the complete breakdown of sexual assault locations was not available

  • In 2009, sexual assaults were least likely to occur in 'other residential' locations, while 67 percent occurred within private dwellings.
  • Six percent of sexual assaults occurred on the street or footpath, while four percent occurred in retail locations and three percent on transport.

Source: Reference 1

Victims of sexual assault

Figure 18: Age and gender of sexual assault victims, 2009 (rate per 100,000)


  • In 2009, females experienced a consistently higher rate of sexual assault victimisation than males. This rate ranged from six per 100,000 population aged 65 years and over to 473 per 100,000 population aged 10 to 14 years.
  • The male victimisation rate for sexual assault was highest at the lower end of the age spectrum. Ninety-four males were victimised per 100,000 population aged 10 to 14 years. The rate was lower for males aged zero to nine years, at 62 per 100,000 population.

Source: References 1 and 2

Sexual assault victim–offender relationship

Figure 19: Sexual assault victims by relationship to offender, 2009 (%)


a: Includes known non-family members and known but not further defined, which may include some family members

Note: Excludes Western Australia (information not available). Also excludes cases where the relationship was not known or stated

  • In 2009, the largest proportion of sexual offences involved an offender who was known to the victim. Specifically, one-third of sexual assaults occurred at the hands of a family member, which is to be expected given the high rates of sexual assault of children; while 42 percent of offenders were known to their victim in a capacity other than family.

Source: Reference 1


Robbery is defined by the ABS as the unlawful taking of property, without consent, accompanied by force or threat of force. Robbery victims can be persons or organisations.

Types of robbery

Robbery is divided into two categories:

  • armed robbery—robbery conducted with the use of a weapon. A weapon is any object used to cause fear or injury and includes imitation weapons and implied weapons; for example, where a weapon is not seen by the victim but the offender claims to possess one.
  • unarmed robbery—robbery conducted without the use of a weapon.

Of the 15,238 robberies recorded during 2009, 57 percent were committed unarmed, while 43 percent were committed with some type of weapon.

Source: Reference 1

Location of robberies

Figure 20: Robbery location type, 2009 (%)


a: Includes dwellings and other residential locations

b: Includes unspecified locations


Note: Excludes three states where the complete breakdown of robbery locations was not available

  • In 2009, robberies occurred predominantly on streets/footpaths (46%) or in retail locations (24%).
  • Robberies were less likely to occur on transport (9%), or in recreational (8%) or residential (7%) locations.

Source: Reference 1

Victims of robberies

Figure 21: Robbery victims by age group and sex, 2009 (per 100,000 population of that age group and sex)


  • The rate of robbery victimisation was generally higher for males than for females across all age groups.
  • Rates ranged from 27 per 100,000 males aged zero to 14 years, to 346 per 100,000 males aged 15 to 19 years. For females, the rates of robbery victimisation remained under 100 per 100,000 population, peaking at 84 per 100,000 for females aged 15 to 19 years.
  • The gender difference in the rates of robbery victimisation was greatest in the 15 to 19 year age group, where males were more likely to be victims than females.

Source: References 1 and 2

Armed robbery

Figure 22: Types of weapon used in armed robbery, 2009 (%)


a: Includes chemical weapons and unspecified types of weapon


  • In 2009, knives were used in 45 percent of armed robberies.
  • Armed robberies involving firearms comprised 17 percent of all armed robberies in 2009.

Source: Reference 1

Unlawful entry with intent

UEWI is defined by the ABS as the unlawful entry of a structure with the intent to commit an offence. UEWI offences include burglary, break and enter, and some theft.

In 2009, there were 222,664 recorded victims of UEWI offences, equating to a rate of 1,018 per 100,000.

Location of unlawful entry with intent

Figure 23: Location type of unlawful entry with intent, 2008 (%)


a: Includes transport, the street and footpath, and other community locations

b: Includes unspecified location


  • In 2009, the two most common locations for an UWEI were residential dwellings (60%) and retail locations (12%).

Source: Reference 1

Motor vehicle theft

MVT involves the taking of a motor vehicle unlawfully or without permission. It excludes damaging, tampering with or interfering with motor vehicles. The theft of motor vehicle parts or contents is included under the offence category of 'other' theft. Motor vehicle is defined as cars, motorcycles, campervans, trucks, buses and plant/equipment vehicles.

In 2009, there were 59,649 motor vehicles reported stolen to police, with 273 vehicles stolen per 100,000 registered vehicles. This represents a 13 percent decrease in the number of thefts recorded in 2008.

Source: References 1 and 4

Location of motor vehicle theft

Figure 24: Location type of motor vehicle thefts, 2009 (%)


a: Includes residential dwellings and other residential locations

b: Includes public car parks

c: Includes unspecified location (n=1,862)


  • In 2009, residential locations and street/footpath were the most common locations for MVT, accounting for 40 and 35 percent respectively.

Source: Reference 1

Recovery rates

This section presents data on recovery rates of stolen vehicles from the National Comprehensive Auto-theft Research System (CARS) Project.

  • In 2008–09, the national recovery rate for stolen vehicles was 70 percent, with 43,570 stolen vehicles recovered in that period.
  • Forty-eight percent of stolen vehicles were recovered within 24 hours of theft, with 85 percent of recoveries occurring within a fortnight.

Source: Reference 4

Figure 25: Stolen motor vehicles recovered, 2003–04 to 2008–09 (%)


  • The percentage of stolen vehicles that have been recovered has decreased over the past six years, falling from 75 percent in 2004–05 to 70 percent in 2008–09.

Source: Reference 4

Theft and recovery by vehicle type

Figure 26: Theft and recovery by type of vehicle, 2008–09 (per 1,000 registrations of that type)


a: Forward Control Passenger Vehicle is defined as a passenger vehicle, other than an off-road vehicle that has up to 9 seating positions; colloquially known as a 'people mover'

  • Forward Control Passenger Vehicles were the most commonly reported stolen vehicle in 2008–09 (14%). Seventy-seven percent of those vehicles stolen were recovered.
  • Although motorcycles were the second most likely motor vehicle to be stolen; only 35 percent were recovered.
  • The vehicles least likely to be stolen were plant/equipment or buses, each having a theft rate of two per 1,000 registrations.

Source: Reference 4

Other theft

The ABS defines other theft as the taking of another person's property with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of the property illegally and without permission, but without force, threat of force, use of coercive measures, deceit or having gained unlawful entry to any structure even if the intent was to commit theft.

This offence includes crimes such as pick pocketing, bag snatching, stealing (including shoplifting), theft from a motor vehicle, theft of motor vehicle parts/accessories or petrol, theft of stock/domestic animals and theft of non-motorised vehicles/boats/aircraft/bicycles. It is the largest of all the crime categories included in the national statistics.

There were 478,807 victims of 'other' theft in 2008, a rate of 2,023 per 100,000 population.

Source: Reference 1

Location of 'other' theft

Figure 27: Location type of other thefts, 2009 (%)


a: Includes unspecified location


  • 'Other' theft was most likely to occur at retail locations (33%), followed by other residential land (18%), on streets and footpaths (14%), and dwellings (8%).

Source: Reference 1

Fraud and deception-related crime

This section presents data extracted from information published by state and territory police agencies as well as the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA). Police agencies' classifications of fraud and deception-related offences include cheque and credit card fraud, fraudulent trade practices, social security fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, bribery and other deception offences. Precise definitions may vary by state/territory.

Police record fraud offences by financial year. Fraud is believed to be one of the most under-reported offences, with less than 50 percent of incidents being reported to police or other authorities (Reference 28).

Table 5: Reported fraud offences, 1995–96 to 2008–09 (n)
1995–96 91,495
1996–97 101,256
1997–98 109,404
1998–99 112,209
1999–00 112,264
2000–01 106,141
2001–02 109,080
2002–03 108,940
2003–04 102,863
2004–05 89,198
2005–06 101,222
2006–07 95,605
2007–08 93,894
2008–09 95,032

The number of fraud offences reported to, and recorded by, police annually over the 14 year period has fluctuated. The number of fraud offences in 2008–09 represents a one percent increase from 2007–08.

Source: References 5–12

This section presents data from the APCA on rates of fraud on transactions. The APCA coordinates and manages payment clearing systems in Australia including cheques, direct debit and credit payments, EFTPOS and ATM transactions, high-value and bulk cash transactions.

Figure 28: Fraud per $1,000 transacted by payment type, 2006–09


  • Fraud using credit and charge cards has increased by 55 percent since 2006, increasing from 36.93 cents per $1,000 transacted in 2006 to 57.15 cents per $1,000 transacted in 2009.
  • In 2009, cheque fraud had declined by 35 percent from 2006, to 1.24 cents per $1,000 cheques transacted from 1.92 cents per $1,000 cheques transacted in 2006.
  • The prevalence of credit and charge card fraud in the years reviewed was substantially greater than cheque and debit card fraud.

Source: Reference 13

Federal charges

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) publishes annual statistics on summary and indictable offences against Commonwealth law that were dealt with in the preceding year. Prior years have presented the statistics as charges dealt with against Commonwealth Acts and Regulations, specifically the Criminal Code Act 1995 and the Crimes Act 1914. In 2007–08, the CDPP presented data relating to defendants dealt with in 2007–08, categorised by referring agency.

In 2008–09, the CDPP reviewed the way in which it calculated the number of charges and defendants dealt with. As a result, figures reported in the current edition are not directly comparable to those published in preceding years.

Source: Reference 14

Table 6: Defendants dealt with by Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions by most common referring Australian Government agency, 2008–09
Defendants (n)Total (%)a
Centrelink 4,416 75
Australian Federal Police 365 6
Insolvency and trustee service, Australia 283 5
Other Commonwealth agencies 801 14
Total 5,865 100
Australian Federal Police 310 48
Centrelink 78 12
State or territory police 76 12
Other Commonwealth agencies 185 28
Total 649 100

a: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding

  • The majority of defendants charged with a summary offence in 2008–09 were referred by Centrelink (75%), followed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) (6%) and the Insolvency and Trustee Service, Australia (5%).
  • The most common indictable charges were referred by the AFP (48%), Centrelink (12%) and the state or territory police (12%).

Source: Reference 14

Drug arrests

This section provides an overview of drug arrest patterns for offenders from 1996–97 to 2008–09 as collated by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) in its Illicit Drug Data Report series. Drug offences usually come to the attention of police through specific activity in drug law enforcement or coincidentally through an investigation into another matter, often related to property offences.

Arrest information is provided for the following types of drugs:

  • cannabis;
  • heroin (and other opioids);
  • amphetamines (including methamphetamine and phenethylamines);
  • cocaine; and
  • other drugs (hallucinogens, steroids and drugs not defined elsewhere).

Cannabis arrests include expiation notices, drug infringement notices and simple cannabis offence notices.

Offenders involved in drug arrests are divided into two categories:

  • consumers—persons charged with user offences (eg possessing or administering drugs for own personal use); and
  • providers—persons charged with supply offences (eg importation, trafficking, selling, cultivation, manufacture).

In the case of a person being charged with consumer and provider offences, the provider charge takes precedence and the person is counted only as a provider of that drug. A person charged with multiple drug offences is counted as a consumer or provider of each drug type.

Figure 29: Drug arrests by type of drug, 1996–97 to 2008–09 (n per year)


a: Includes hallucinogens, steroids and other drugs (not defined elsewhere)

  • From 78,675 in 2007–08, the number of drug arrests increased by seven percent to 83,873 in 2008–09.
  • In 1996–97, there were 3,907 drug arrests related to amphetamines. In 2008–09, this number increased to 16,425 (an increase of 320%).
  • In line with previous years, cannabis was the drug category with the highest number of offences; in 2008–09, 66 percent of all arrests involved cannabis.

Source: Reference 15

Figure 30: Consumer/provider status of drug arrestees by type of drug, 2008–09 (%)


a: Includes hallucinogens, steroids and other drugs (not defined elsewhere)

  • In 2008–09, the majority of arrests involved drug consumers; drug providers accounted for 18 percent of total drug-related arrests.
  • Consumers accounted for 86 percent of drug arrests involving cannabis, 77 percent involving other drugs and 72 percent involving amphetamines.

Source: Reference 15

Figure 31: Drug consumers by gender and type of drug, 2008–09 (%)


a: Includes hallucinogens, steroids and other drugs (not defined elsewhere)

  • Males were more prevalent as identified drug consumers than females, across all drug categories.
  • Eighty-five percent of identified male drug consumers used cocaine and 82 percent used cannabis; 75 percent used heroin.
  • Heroin and amphetamines had the largest proportion of female drug consumers, with females constituting 24 percent and 21 percent of consumers, respectively.

Source: Reference 15

Figure 32: Sex of arrested drug providers by type of drug, 2008–09 (%)


a: Includes hallucinogens, steroids, and other drugs (not defined elsewhere)

  • Females accounted for less than 25 percent of drug providers across all drug categories.

Source: Reference 15

Last updated
3 November 2017