1 This publication presents national crime statistics relating to victims of a selected range of offences that have been recorded by police. These offences may have been reported by a victim, witness or other person, or they may have been detected by police. The statistics do not provide a total picture of crime, as not all crime comes to the attention of the police, nor do all incidents which are reported to police get recorded as a crime.
2 In order to gain a more comprehensive picture of the nature and extent of crime, these statistics should be complemented with information from other sources such as crime victim surveys. ABS household-based crime and safety surveys estimate the extent to which incidents of crime were reported to police. Whether the most recent incident in the last 12 months has been reported is widely used as a guide to the overall preparedness of victims to report crime.
3 Further care should be taken in interpreting police statistics as fluctuations in recorded crime may be a reflection of changes in community attitudes in reporting crime, changes in police procedures or changes in crime reporting systems, rather than a change in the incidence of criminal behaviour.
4 The aim of national crime statistics is to provide one view of crime in Australia, as well as comparable data across States and Territories. These statistics are indicators of the level and nature of recorded crime in Australia and provide a basis for measuring changes over time.
5 In order to ensure comparability between jurisdictions, the statistics have been compiled according to national standards. These have been developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in collaboration with each police force, an Advisory Group of expert users and a Board of Management comprising Police Commissioners and senior officers of the Commonwealth Government and State Governments.
6 The national offence definitions (see Glossary) and counting rules (see paragraphs 23-33) vary from those used in each jurisdiction. Hence, the statistics presented in this publication may be different to those published by police forces in individual States and Territories. National crime statistics are compiled on a victim basis in that they count the number of victims for each national offence category rather than the number of breaches of the criminal law.
7 Given the diverse capacities of the statistical information systems used by each police force, a staged approach has been adopted in the production of national crime statistics. Only those offence categories for which comparable national standards have been developed are presented. The Stage 1 dataset, used in the 1993 and 1994 national crime statistics publications, consisted of 11 national offence categories, the initial type of location where the criminal incident occurred, and information on the use of a weapon in the commission of offences. The Stage 2 dataset, introduced in the 1995 national crime statistics publication, included the additional offence categories of assault and other theft with a dissection of unlawful entry with intent (UEWI) into UEWI involving the taking of property and other instances of UEWI. Age and sex of the victim, and the relationship of offender to victim were also introduced at this stage. The Stage 3 dataset, introduced in 1996, included outcome of police investigation statistics for all offence categories. Additional data concerning crime will be progressively added to the national collection as comparability is achieved.
8 Data on victims are derived from the information on individual offences recorded on official crime reports prepared by police. These data are provided to the ABS in aggregate form by the reporting authorities in each jurisdiction. For further information regarding police recording systems and national comparability refer to the Appendix of Recorded Crime, Australia, 1999 (Cat.no.4510.0).
9 The reporting authorities are the police forces of the States and Territories of Australia. They are responsible for recording information about offences that have been reported to police, and collating statistics in accordance with national requirements.
10 National requirements specify that offences should be counted in the State or Territory in which the offence occurred, regardless of which law enforcement agency completes the crime report or undertakes the investigation. There is some indication that this may not always be the case, particularly for offences such as motor vehicle theft which occur near State and Territory borders. However, investigations suggest that the problem is small.
11 National crime statistics are compiled on the basis of the date an offence is reported. This corresponds to either the date the offence was reported to police by a member of the public or when it was detected by police. The report date may not necessarily be the date when the offence occurred. This is particularly so for homicide and related offences and sexual assault offences, where in some instances the time lag between when the offence(s) occurred and the report/detection date may be substantial.
12 Statistics produced on the basis of date reported may be affected over time by lags in completing and/or processing some crime reports. Where offences reported in the reference year are not processed for inclusion in the national statistics until the following year, revised data are included in subsequent publications and noted accordingly.
13 National crime statistics are produced annually on a calendar-year basis. The reference period for this publication relates to offences that have been reported between 1 January and 31 December 2001. Data compiled on a financial-year basis are also available from the ABS (see paragraph 40).
14 The offence categories used for national crime statistics in this publication are based on the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) (Cat.no.1234.0). The ASOC was released in October 1997 following a complete review of the previous classification, the ABS Australian National Classification of Offences. The ASOC was implemented into the recorded crime statistics collection from 1 January 1999 and provides a uniform national statistical framework for classifying offences, as well as overcoming jurisdictional differences in laws and offence classifications. The national offence definitions are descriptive and may not correspond with legal or police offence definitions in a particular jurisdiction.
15 The national offence categories included in the national crime statistics collection in respect of 2001 include: homicide and related offences (which includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and driving causing death); assault; sexual assault; kidnapping/abduction; robbery; blackmail/extortion; unlawful entry with intent; motor vehicle theft; and other theft. Offences against Commonwealth laws processed under Commonwealth jurisdiction are excluded from the scope of the collection.
16 With the exception of the motor vehicle theft offence category, statistics for the offence categories in the national crime statistics collection relate to completed offences and attempted offences (i.e. where the intent is not fulfilled). Attempted motor vehicle thefts are excluded from the collection due to difficulties in distinguishing these offences from criminal damage.
17 Attempts to commit an offence are classified to the same ASOC subdivision/group as completed offences. The only exception is for murder where attempted murder is counted and published separately.
18 Offences may include those which at a later point in time are determined to be unfounded (i.e. false or baseless) or are withdrawn by the complainant. Data on the status of the recorded offences (outcome of investigations) are included in this publication.
19 The national crime statistics collection excludes:
20 For all the national offence categories, rates are presented per 100,000 of the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) for each of the States and Territories (refer Australian Demographic Statistics, June Quarter 2001 (Cat. no. 3101.0)). As the population changes over time, the denominator used for the calculation of rates will vary, depending on the reference period. The ERP for the midpoint of each reference period is used to calculate the rates. Yearly rates for the period 1 January to 31 December 2001 have been calculated on the basis of the June 2001 ERP, while the June 2000 ERP is used for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2000. For the preceding year's data, the revised ERP has been used to recalculate rates.
21 Rates enable comparisons of national offence categories to be made across the States and Territories. Rates expressed per 100,000 persons generally accord with international and State and Territory practice.
22 The risk of victimisation varies depending on the age and sex of the victim. These statistics include details of the age and sex of the victim, and age and sex specific victimisation rates have been included. These are calculated using estimates of the age and sex breakdown of the population. For offence categories such as robbery and blackmail/extortion, where the victim may be a person or an organisation, victimisation rates have been provided for person victims only for the age and sex breakdown in table 3 of the publication.
23 With the implementation of the ASOC beginning with Recorded Crime, Australia, 1999 (Cat.no.4510.0), data have been presented at the national offence category level (refer to Glossary), without further disaggregation to the ASOC Group level.
24 The statistics in the national crime statistics collection measure the number of victims per national offence category for offences recorded by police during the reference period. The national counting rule is that each victim within a distinct criminal incident is counted once to the most serious offence within each national offence category. The most serious offence within the national offence category is the one with the lowest ASOC code. For example, murder (0111) is a more serious offence than manslaughter (0131).
Counting within a national offence category
25 For criminal incidents involving homicide and related offences, assault, sexual assault or kidnapping/abduction offences, one victim is counted within each national offence category. For example, if a person is indecently assaulted (one form of sexual assault) and then raped (another form of sexual assault), only one victim of sexual assault is counted.
26 Where a victim is subjected to multiple offences of the same type within a distinct criminal incident (e.g. in the case of assault this may be due to attacks by several offenders or being repeatedly assaulted by the same offender) the victim is counted only once. Similarly, the victim is also counted once where multiple offences of the same type (e.g. long term abuse) occur to the same victim repeatedly over a period of time. However, if the victim reports the offences to police at different times, then a count is made for each separate report.
27 For each criminal incident involving the national offence category of robbery, one victim is counted for each person/organisation victimised. For example, if a bank with several customers present is robbed, this is counted as one robbery with the victim being the bank. If personal property is also taken from two customers, there are three victims, the bank and the two customers, hence the number of robberies counted is three.
28 For each criminal incident involving the national offence category of blackmail/extortion, one victim is counted for each person/organisation victimised.
29 For each criminal incident involving the national offence category of unlawful entry with intent (UEWI), one victim is counted for each place/premise victimised. A place/premise can consist of either a single structure (e.g. house), part of a single structure (e.g. flat) or multiple structures (e.g. farmstead with house, barns and sheds). The same property containing the same structure(s) can be counted differently depending on the occupancy arrangements at the time. The following guidelines relate to the counting of UEWI offences.
- conspiracy offences: the local offence classifications used in jurisdictions do not generally enable the identification of the substantive offence category to which the conspiracy relates;
- threats to commit an offence: these differ from offences like robbery, kidnapping/abduction and blackmail/extortion wherein an element of threat is implicit in the nature of the crime. The exception to this is assault, where threats of assault are included in counts of assault offences; and
- aid, abet and accessory offences: these offences relate to the role of offenders in connection with an offence and are not considered to be offences committed directly against a victim.
30 For each criminal incident involving the national offence category of motor vehicle theft, one victim is counted for each motor vehicle stolen. For example, if five cars are stolen from a car yard, this is counted as five motor vehicle thefts.
31 For each criminal incident involving the national offence category of other theft, one victim is counted for each person/organisation victimised.
Counting across national offence categories
32 If a victim is subjected to multiple offences belonging to different national offence categories during the same criminal incident, the victim is counted once under each category. For example, someone who has been kidnapped, raped and murdered, while it is one person they will be counted three times according to the national counting rule; once in the kidnapping/abduction offence category, once in the sexual assault offence category, and once in the homicide and related offences offence category.
33 Note that the national crime statistics do not measure:
- For UEWI to multiple structures on the same property and having the same occupant(s), one victim is counted regardless of the number of separate structures entered. Examples include UEWI to: house, attached or unattached garage and the backyard shed located on the one property; warehouses occupied by a sole organisation located on same property.
- For UEWI to multiple structures on the same property but occupied by more than one household or organisation, one victim is counted for each separate household or organisation. Where a business premise has an attached residence that is occupied by the same person(s), the registered business is considered to be a separate victim.
- For UEWI to individual areas in a building that are rented, leased or occupied separately, one victim is counted for each separate tenant. For example, in a block of 10 flats which are leased by 10 different tenants where three flats are unlawfully entered, there is a count of three. If unlawful entry to the building itself is recorded, an additional offence of UEWI to that building is counted. Examples include UEWI to: apartments in one building; offices of several commercial firms in one business building; shops in a shopping complex; hotel rooms; and lodging houses.
- the total number of individual victims, since the same victim may be counted more than once. This occurs, as per the example in paragraph 32 or a victim may be counted more than once within the same national offence category if the multiple offences relate to different criminal incidents or are reported to police at different times;
- the total number of offences recorded by police. Not all types of offences are included in the national crime statistics collection. Furthermore, if a criminal incident involves multiple offences which belong to the same national offence category and are committed against the same victim, only one count is included in the national crime statistics; or
- the charges resulting from a criminal incident (e.g. aid and abet or accessory offences).
Data comparability and significant events
34 National crime statistics are compiled in order to maximise comparability of statistics across jurisdictions. Although jurisdictional differences have been mainly overcome through the introduction of national standards, some legislative, interpretive and processing differences inevitably remain. As part of its quality assurance program, the ABS, in conjunction with statistical staff of each State and Territory police force, investigates these differences between the jurisdictions in order to further improve comparability of national crime statistics.
35 A review of local offence codes used by Victoria Police during 2001 identified that attempted assaults had not been included in the assault offence category, as well as four local police offence codes needed to be removed from the assault offence category because they did not imply intent, which is necessary under the ASOC definition of assault. These two adjustments have impacted on the revised 2000 and the 2001 data in the assault category.
36 The increase in Tasmania in the recording of the local offence Assault/Resist/Obstruct Police (non aggregated assault) was due to new business processes introduced to support the Forensic Procedures Act 2000 which enables Deoxyeibo Nucleic Acid (DNA) & other samples to be taken from offenders charged with 'serious offences'. Previously not all Assault/Resist/Obstruct Police offences were entered into the Offence Reporting System.
37 In August 2000 the Northern Territory introduced a Juvenile Diversion program which has led to the recording of local offences where cautions are issued and/or diversionary conferences are established. These local offences, many of which related to UEWI and other theft may not have been recorded previously.
38 There continues to be an impact on offence and victim recording due to the ongoing implementation of the Police Realtime Online Management and Investigation System (PROMIS) system in the work practices of Northern Territory police (refer to paragraphs 13-15 of the Appendix in Recorded Crime, Australia, 1999).
39 Operation Anchorage was carried out in 2001 by the Australian Federal Police, targetting burglary offences. Since the introduction of the police operation the number of burglary and motor vehicle theft offences has declined in the Australian Capital Territory.
40 A standard set of additional tables containing State and Territory wafers of the tables in this publication, as well as a financial year table for 2000-2001, is available. Special tabulations can be produced on request to meet individual user requirements. For further information, contact the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) by email email@example.com.