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Overall the number of victims recorded by police declined in most offence categories in 2003 when compared with the number reported 2002. This was particularly the case for offences involving the taking of property. Motor vehicle theft decreased by 13% and unlawful entry with intent decreased by 10%. Victims of robbery fell by 6% with armed robbery falling by 9% and unarmed robbery by 5%. Other offence categories to record a decrease included other theft (6%), homicide and related offences (4%) and assault (1%).
Other theft (which includes theft from persons, retail premises and motor vehicles) continues to be the offence category with the highest number of offences recorded. In 2003 there were 638,968 recorded victims of other theft, a decline of just over 40,000 since 2002 (table 11.8).
Based on reports to police, males were more likely than females to be victims of personal crime, with the exception of sexual assault and kidnapping/abduction (graph 11.9).
Assault was the most common category of offence recorded against the person during 2003 (table 11.8). Police recorded 158,629 victims of assault in 2003, a 1% decrease over the previous year and 21% higher than in 1998. The assault victimisation rate for 2003 was 798 per 100,000 persons, a 2% decrease from 2002 (815 per 100,000). This was the first decrease in the victimisation rate for this offence category since 1995.
In 2003 the recorded sexual assault victimisation rate reached its highest level since national sexual assault records began in 1993. The 2003 sexual assault victimisation rate (92 victims per 100,000 persons) is 23% higher than the rate in 1999 (75 victims per 100,000 persons). In addition, the recorded sexual assault victimisation rate in 2003 for females (149 female victims per 100,000 females) was more than four times the male victimisation rate (33 male victims per 100,000 males). The total number of cases of sexual assault recorded in 2003 (18,237) represents an increase of 29% over the number recorded in 1999 (14,104).
There were 302 victims of murder in 2003, representing a rate of approximately 2 victims per 100,000 persons. The annual recorded counts for murder victims have fluctuated over the period 1998 to 2003, partly due to some specific incidents: in South Australia in 1999, where 12 bodies were discovered at Snowtown; in Western Australia in 1999, where 9 victims resulted from 2 family murder/suicide incidents; and in Queensland in 2000, where 15 victims of the fire at Childers were recorded. Despite this fluctuation in the number of murder victims, the rate has remained relatively stable over the last six years, at approximately 2 murder victims per 100,000 persons.
Unlawful entry with intent (UEWI) and other theft are the most frequently occurring property offences. The UEWI victimisation rate decreased by 23% between 1998 and 2003 to 1,778 victims per 100,000 persons in 2003, and is the lowest rate since national records began in 1993. The 2003 rate for other theft was 3,214 victims per 100,000 persons, 7% lower than in 2002, but representing a 7% increase since 1998. The victimisation rate for motor vehicle theft is at its lowest rate since 1993. The 2003 motor vehicle theft rate of 497 victims per 100,000 persons was 14% lower than in the previous year and 29% lower than in 1998.
Characteristics of victims
The victimisation rate varied across certain offence categories, and across different age groups and sex. Persons in the 15-19 year and 20-24 year age groups experienced the highest assault rates (over 1,600 per 100,000 population) - more than twice the total assault victimisation rate (table 11.10). Persons aged 15-19 years were three and a half times more likely to be victims of robbery than the general population. The victimisation rate for robbery was the highest in the 20-24 year age group for females (117 per 100,000 population) but highest in the 15-19 year age group for males (468 per 100,000 population).
For sexual assault, males aged 14 years and under had the highest victimisation rate (89 per 100,000 population) of any male age group and their rate was nearly three times that of the general male population. For females, the highest sexual assault victimisation rate was for the 10-19 year age group (497 per 100,000 population) - over three times the rate for the general female population.
Weapons used against victims of crime
A weapon was most likely to have been used in attempted murder (76%) and murder (58%), and least likely in sexual assault (1%) in 2003. The proportion of murders involving a weapon peaked in 1996 at 78% and has since declined to 58% in 2003; similarly for attempted murders weapon use peaked in 1997 at 87% and decreased to 76% in 2003 (graph 11.11). The proportion of assault offences involving a weapon increased from 10% in 1995 to 13% in 2003. The proportion of robberies in which a weapon was used increased each year from 36% in 1994 to 46% in 1998, and has since gradually declined to 36% in 2003 (table 11.12).
For assaults involving a weapon, 'other weapon' (which includes sharp or blunt instruments, hammers, axes, clubs, ropes and chemicals) accounted for 64% of weapon use in assault, whereas a knife accounted for 28% and a firearm for only 3%.
For robberies that involved a weapon, the proportion involving a firearm decreased from 36% in 1994 to 15% in 2003. A firearm was involved in 20% of attempted murders, 13% of murders and 6% of robberies. Firearm use in murders peaked at 32% in 1996, but has since declined steadily to 13% in 2003 which is the lowest level on record. For attempted murders in 2003, a firearm was used in 20% of offences, marginally above its low of 19% in 1998 and well below its high of 32% in 1999 (graph 11.13).
A knife was the most common type of weapon used for attempted murders (33%), murders (28%) and robberies (19%).