While armed robbery in Australia has been in decline since 2006, a sizeable number of individuals and organisations were victimised in 2009–10 and subject to the immediate and potentially longer term impacts of this offence. The picture of armed robbery presented in this report does not differ significantly from previous years, highlighting the generally consistent nature of this offence. For instance, since the inception of NARMP, the ‘typical’ armed robbery has been carried out by a young man armed with a knife who commits the robbery on the street or footpath against another, previously unknown, young man who was robbed of his cash or his phone. The typical armed robbery is not the bank robbery portrayed in popular culture.
Yet not every reported incident in 2009 and 2010 conformed to the typical armed robbery presented above. While one-third of armed robberies took place in the street, a minority of organisations undertaking business in specific locations appeared prone to a different type of victimisation. Certain organisations were robbed at a proportionally higher rate with firearms (eg banking and financial locations, licensed permises, wholesalers, and administrative and professional locations). Further, certain organisations seem particularly vulnerable to repeat victimisation (service stations and licensed premises). Some of these settings were more often subject to attacks by groups of offenders (eg wholesalers and administrative locations). While organisational attacks comprised only a minority of recent armed robberies, the potential financial losses to these organisations and the physical and emotional trauma inflicted upon the staff and customers could be sizeable.
The NARMP dataset provides aggregate, national level analyses, which are useful in identifying knowledge gaps that further research can seek to address. For instance, despite limitations, the data appear to indicate the existence of different types of armed robberies. The characteristics associated with street robberies (including age of offender, weapons used and property stolen) appear to be qualitatively different to those perpetrated against organisations.
Although only small in number, there is also a suggestion that armed robbery by female offenders may differ in certain respects to that carried out by men, or by women in the company of male offenders. When acting without male accomplices, female offenders may be more opportunistic, taking fewer risks than their male counterparts. They target female victims in higher proportions, target softer, less secure locations relatively more often, use more opportunistic weapons like syringes and proportionally fewer firearms, which can bring greater risks to the user. When co-offending with males, characteristics of the victim and incident more closely resemble that seen in male offending.
Earlier research undertaken at the outset of NARMP (Mouzos & Borzycki 2003) identified at least three types of armed robbery scenario–opportunistic street muggings, amateur retail armed robbery and professional armed robbery. A more detailed understanding of scenarios is needed in order to properly define and update the different categories of armed robbery seen in Australia. Research currently underway within NARMP aims to provide a more nuanced armed robbery typology by analysing qualitative information supplied by some of the jurisdictions. Doing so will provide further insight into the unique nature of armed robbery as it occurs in Australia compared with overseas.
Research is also needed in order to understand the characteristics and drivers of repeat victimisation. As noted above, NARMP data suggests that certain organisations, such as service stations and licensed premises, are vulnerable to repeat victimisation. International research into the repeat victimisation of organisations with similar hours of operation—convenience stores and fast food outlets—found that particular crime prevention strategies and location features had differing impacts on the organisation’s risk of victimisation. For example, the presence of an automatic teller machine was associated with significantly lower rates of robbery, potentially due to the extra guardianship associated with increased customers (Exum et al. 2010).
Importantly, Exum et al. (2010) found that the best predictor of future victimisation among the studied businesses was past victimisation. This predictive capacity, Pease (1998) argued, arises from the failure to change the circumstances that led to the first attack–a lack of change following an initial attack can signal a level of neglect to potential future offenders, suggesting that those offenders can continue to successfully victimise.
Therefore, one way of minimising repeat victimisation is to change the circumstances that resulted in the initial attack and this, in part, can be achieved by conducting analyses of past crimes that simultaneously consider in detail the elements of victimisation, place and offender. This would need to extend beyond the nationally aggregated analyses presented in this report. For instance, it would need to include aspects of the offence location and victim such as existing security measures, or for organisational victims, staffing numbers, practices and training. Further, this would need to be undertaken at either the local geographical level, or across certain industries because the features relevant to the repeat victimisation of a specific business such as a service station would be very different, for example, to those relevant to repeated attacks against an organisational victim such pharmacy, or individuals subject to repeated street robbery.
Useful guides do currently exist that indicate how to tailor preventative responses to types of robbery (eg Monk, Heinonen & Eck 2010), as well as methods for understanding relative vulnerability to this type of crime (eg see Draper & Rose 2006) and more general techniques for analysing and preventing crime in practical ways (eg AIC Crime Prevention Assist website http://cpassist.aic.gov.au/). The updated armed robbery types currently being developed within NARMP may also provide a framework within which industry can examine past victimisation. This will assist practitioners to avoid a ‘one-size fits all’ approach and better tailor crime prevention efforts to specific types of armed robbery.
Currently, there is very little publicly available research focused on armed robbery in Australia. The NARMP report provides useful information that illustrates the nature of the offence through long–term trends and characteristics. Annual data indicate little change over time in the weapons armed robbery offenders employ, although the types of locations where these attacks occur may be changing. Not surprisingly, those organisational victims with extended hours of operation appear to be vulnerable to armed robbery because this is a crime that more often occurs at night. An increasing variety of businesses now operate in the night-time economy and safeguards against armed robbery during vulnerable times and specific to business type are needed. NARMP has therefore expanded its location categories to better describe organisational victimisation. However, effective crime prevention requires more complex and thorough analysis to better understand the vulnerabilities associated with particular victims or locations. This understanding and an emphasis on focused crime prevention strategies will go a long way to ensure the decrease in armed robberies evident since the inception of NARMP in 2003 continues.