Author Deborah Bradford and Jason Payne
Published January 2012
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 157
Subject Drugs and Drug Courts; Offenders; Theft / Property crime
Keywords property offending; illicit drugs; heroin use; amphetamine use; police detainees

Download this publication



The primary objective of the current study was to examine whether the frequency of recent illicit drug use is related to higher levels of offending among police detainees in Australia. In particular, the study investigated whether the frequency of property offending escalates with offenders’ self-reported illicit drug use.


Data from the Australian Institute of Criminology's Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program were analysed for a national cohort of 9,453 arrestees interviewed between 2008 and 2010. Statistical analysis examined whether the number of property offences recorded at arrest was related to self-reported frequency of illicit opioid and amphetamine consumption in the 30 days prior to arrest, while controlling for other relevant drug use and demographic factors.


Results showed a high level of illicit drug use among police detainees. Outcomes from regression modelling revealed that heavy users of illicit opioids and amphetamines, who reported at least 16 days of use in the month prior to arrest, had significantly more property charges recorded at arrest than both less frequent (moderate) users and nonusers. Compared to non-users, heavy opioid users had 57 per cent more property charges recorded at arrest while heavy amphetamine use was associated with a 53 per cent increase in property charge counts. Higher rates of property offending were also related to younger age, being unemployed and having reported illicit use of benzodiazepines in the 30 days prior to arrest.


These outcomes clearly demonstrate that heavy drug use, of either amphetamines or opioids in the 30 days prior to arrest, is associated with frequency of property offending. This has important implications for the treatment of drug using offenders within the criminal justice system.

Download this publication