4500.0 - Crime and Justice News, Oct 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/11/2002   
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Understanding Differences in Recorded Crime Statistics

The National Crime Statistics Unit (NCSU) has begun work on a project to investigate state and territory differences in recorded crime statistics (RCS). This project has the endorsement of state and territory Police Commissioners, and will run for a period of 2 years.

This project aims to identify issues relevant to understanding the nature and extent of the impact of various factors on the national comparability of recorded crime statistics as published in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publication, Recorded Crime, Australia (cat. no. 4510.0).


Official statistics drawn from crimes recorded by police provide a regular indicator of levels of crime over time. However, they are not the only indicator, as not all crime comes to the attention of police. Over recent years, the NCSU has become increasingly aware of differences between states and territories with regard to how crimes are reported and recorded by police.

Since the development of the national crime statistics collection in 1990 the policing environment has changed considerably. In particular, there has been a large shift from paper-based systems to advanced IT systems for the storage of information on crime. Such changes have been more frequent in recent times, and although the NCSU has been able to conduct limited work on investigating these changes through its Quality Assurance (QA) strategy and various analytical work, there is a need to further investigate possible sources of differences for all states and territories.

More recently, there has been increased pressure from police agencies and other government departments to look at the differences in recorded crime figures between states and territories. With the emphasis now on 'performance culture' within police agencies, the use of RCS data as a performance indicator for police increases the pressure to make sure that these data are better understood.

Project outline

There are 5 broad phases to be investigated in this project, each of which has a number of associated components. These are:

1. What crime occurs

  • different underlying levels of crime
  • different interpretations of what is crime by victims

2. What crime is reported to police
  • different levels of reporting crime

3. What crime is recorded by police
  • differences in recorded crime based on how crime is detected by police
  • different approaches to what happens once crime is reported

4. How crime is recorded by police
  • data entry methodology
  • processes by which crime is recorded

5. How crime statistics are compiled from official police records
  • areas of responsibility for compiling statistics and levels of skills in these areas
  • software programs used to compile these statistics
  • different QA procedures.


The key outcomes for this project include:
  • better understanding of the factors underpinning state and territory differences in recorded crime statistics
  • better understanding of crime victimisation levels
  • facilitation of more informed use of recorded crime statistics.