Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

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​The decline in robbery and theft: Inter-state comparisons

Don Weatherburn and Jessie Holmes

Issues paper no. 89

Sydney, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, July 2013

Release Date:    12 August 2013

Full report [pdf, 1.1mb]


Most Australian states and territories experienced significant decreases in robbery and theft over the 12 years to 2012. This paper describes the trends in robbery and theft offences occurring in each Australian jurisdiction from 1994/1995 to 2012. Possible explanations for the declines are discussed, along with suggested improvements to the recording of national crime statistics.

Aim: To describe and discuss inter-jurisdictional trends in police-recorded robbery and theft offences.

Method: Rates of recorded robbery and theft per head of population are calculated for each Australian jurisdiction from 1994/1995 to 2012. Rates of recorded robbery are disaggregated into armed and unarmed robbery. Rates of recorded theft are disaggregated into burglary, motor vehicle theft and other theft.

Results: In most jurisdictions, trends in recorded robbery and theft offences rose during the late 1990s, peaked around 2001 and then fell from 2001 to 2012. Between 2001 and 2009, recorded rates of robbery offences in Australia fell by 49.1 per cent, recorded rates of burglary fell by 57.3 per cent, recorded rates of motor vehicle theft fell by 62.2 per cent and recorded rates of other theft fell by 39.3 per cent.

Conclusion: The national decline in robbery and theft offences is partly due to a reduction in heroin use and partly due to improvements in the economy but other factors are likely to have also played a role. Research into the causes of the fall in crime is hampered by the absence of any regional breakdown in national recorded crime statistics.

Keywords: robbery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, crime drop, Australia, heroin, economy, criminal justice