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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Weapons used against victims of crime

The use of a weapon during a crime not only impacts on the potential degree of emotional trauma experienced by the victim but also the potential severity of physical injury suffered. While firearms may result in more widespread and serious damage during an incident than other weapons, as demonstrated so graphically by the deaths of 35 people shot at Port Arthur in 1996, other weapons such as knives also produce violent consequences, sometimes including death.

Community concern about the perceived increase in attacks involving the use of weapons raises the question whether people are increasingly being confronted by the use of a weapon during the commission of an offence, and what weapons are being used.

Data from the national Recorded Crime Australia data collection show that weapon use varies across the different offence types, and that there have been some changes over recent years.


11.9 VICTIMS OF RECORDED CRIME, By use of weapon in commission of offence

Proportion of victims who had a weapon used against them

1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
Offence and weapon type
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Murder
Firearm
17.8
31.7
23.4
18.9
18.1
19.0
16.0
Other weapon
42.6
41.3
49.5
49.1
44.0
40.0
42.8
Total weapon(a)
65.3
77.9
75.4
71.2
64.4
60.3
59.2
Attempted murder
Firearm
26.7
31.0
28.3
19.4
31.5
30.5
28.8
Other weapon
47.7
47.2
58.8
64.3
47.9
52.2
51.5
Total weapon(a)
74.7
81.5
87.1
84.2
79.4
83.0
80.8
Assault
Firearm
0.7
0.6
0.7
0.5
0.5
0.6
0.6
Other weapon
8.8
9.1
9.1
9.3
10.3
10.6
10.6
Total weapon(a)
9.9
10.2
10.2
10.2
11.3
11.5
11.4
Sexual assault
Firearm
0.2
0.1
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.2
Other weapon
1.6
1.7
1.8
1.9
1.7
1.5
1.6
Total weapon(a)
1.9
1.9
2.1
2.1
2.0
1.7
1.9
Kidnapping/abduction
Firearm
2.8
5.2
3.7
3.9
7.8
7.1
9.1
Other weapon
7.8
9.0
8.4
11.0
15.1
13.6
12.4
Total weapon(a)
11.1
14.6
12.3
15.1
23.5
20.9
21.6
Robbery(b)
Firearm
10.0
9.7
10.3
8.0
6.4
5.7
6.3
Other weapon
21.6
24.6
28.3
33.3
31.8
32.4
31.1
Total weapon(a)
36.1
38.2
42.5
45.6
41.8
40.6
41.6

(a) Includes data where a weapon was used but was not able to be identified as to the exact type of weapon.
(b) Refers to persons or organisations. All other offence types refer to persons only.

Source: Recorded Crime, Australia, 2001 (4510.0).


11.10 VICTIMS OF RECORDED CRIME, By use of weapon in commission of offence

Victims who had weapon used against them per 100,000 population
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
Offence and weapon type
rate per 100,000
rate per 100,000
rate per 100,000
rate per 100,000
rate per 100,000
rate per 100,000
rate per 100,000

Murder
Firearm
0.3
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.3
Other weapon
0.8
0.7
0.9
0.7
0.8
0.7
0.7
Total weapon(a)
1.2
1.3
1.3
1.1
1.2
1.0
0.9
Attempted murder
Firearm
0.4
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.6
0.6
0.7
Other weapon
0.8
0.9
1.0
1.3
0.9
1.1
1.2
Total weapon(a)
1.2
1.5
1.5
1.7
1.5
1.7
1.9
Assault
Firearm
3.7
3.6
4.4
3.6
3.4
4.1
4.5
Other weapon
49.5
56.9
61.0
64.7
73.2
76.7
82.9
Total weapon(a)
55.4
63.6
68.3
71.4
79.8
83.1
89.3
Sexual assault
Firearm
0.1
0.1
0.2
0.1
0.2
0.1
0.2
Other weapon
1.2
1.4
1.4
1.5
1.3
1.3
1.4
Total weapon(a)
1.4
1.5
1.6
1.7
1.5
1.4
1.6
Kidnapping/abduction
Firearm
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.3
0.3
0.4
Other weapon
0.2
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.6
0.5
0.5
Total weapon(a)
0.3
0.4
0.4
0.5
1.0
0.8
0.9
Robbery(b)
Firearm
8.1
8.7
11.8
10.2
7.6
6.9
8.7
Other weapon
17.4
22.0
32.5
42.3
37.9
39.4
42.6
Total weapon(a)
29.1
34.2
48.9
57.9
49.9
49.5
57.0

(a) Includes data where a weapon was used but was not able to be identified as to the exact type of weapon.
(b) Refers to persons or organisations. All other offence types refer to persons only.

Source: Recorded Crime, Australia, 2001 (4510.0).


The majority of victims did not have a weapon used against them, with the exception of murder and attempted murder victims. However, during the period 1995-2001, for most offences a person was increasingly likely to be a victim of a crime involving the use of a weapon.

Of the serious offences shown in tables 11.9 and 11.10, (see also graphs 11.11 and 11.12), there were more victims of assaults with a weapon than of any other offences. In recent years, more than 11% of assault victims were assaulted with a weapon, with less than 1% assaulted with a firearm. Between 1995 and 2001 there was a 61% increase in the assault victimisation rate involving a weapon, which equates to approximately 7,000 more victims in 2001 who had a weapon used against them than there were in 1995.

Graph - 11.11 Victims of assault involving a weapon



Robbery was the offence type with the next largest number of victims involving a weapon. While the proportion of people who were victims of an armed robbery fluctuated during the period 1995-2001, the 2001 rate was 96% greater than in 1995. There has also been a marked shift in the relative proportions of the type of weapon used. In 1995, 10% of robbery victims had a firearm used against them, while a further 22% involved another weapon type. By 2001, approximately 6% of robbery victims had been subjected to the use of a firearm while 31% had other types of weapons used against them. Nearly 60% of robbery victims were not subjected to a weapon.

In contrast to assaults and robberies, the extent of weapon use during sexual assaults has remained relatively constant, and very low, with 2% or less of victims of this offence having been subjected to a weapon between 1995 and 2001.

While the majority of assault, robbery and sexual assault victims did not have a weapon used against them, this was not the case with murder and attempted murder. During the period 1995-2001, the proportion of murder victims who were attacked with a weapon peaked at 78% in 1996. Since that time, the proportion of murders involving a weapon fell to about 60% in 2000 and 2001, and the murder victimisation rate involving a weapon fell by 21% (graph 11.12). The overall decrease in weapon use largely reflects the decrease in the use of firearms: 16% of murder victims in 2001 were killed by a firearm, compared to 32% in 1996.

Graph - 11.12 Victims of murder involving a weapon



The decrease in weapon use for murders has not been evident for attempted murders, with the victimisation rate based on use of weapon 58% higher in 2001 than 1995. The proportion of kidnappings/abductions where a weapon was used increased markedly in 1999-2001 compared with previous years.

For the offence types which had the highest proportion of weapon use, there were 181 murders, 370 attempted murders and 164 kidnappings/abductions involving the use of a weapon in 2001.

A person was more likely to be a victim of a crime where a firearm was used in 2001 than in 1995, with the exception of murder. A firearm was the predominant weapon type for kidnappings/abductions in 2001, and a person was four times more likely to be a victim of a kidnapping/abduction involving a firearm in 2001 than in 1995. However, since 1995 there was a greater increase in the likelihood of being confronted by a weapon other than a firearm for attempted murder (54% increase), assault (67% increase) and robbery (145% increase).

A knife was the predominant weapon used against a victim across most of the other offence types, according to 2001 reported crime data (graph 11.13). For murder and attempted murder approximately one victim in three was attacked with a knife; and for robbery it was nearly one in four. Weapons such as clubs/bats/bars were the most likely type of weapon used in assaults. Syringes were recorded as having been used in only a small proportion of offences, while 4% of robbery victims had a syringe used against them.

Graph - Victims(a), weapon used in commission of offence - 2001



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