Spotlight: Offence types – Differences between Recorded Offences and Criminal Incidents

This spotlight presents data that explains a number of features in allocating a principal offence to represent a criminal incident, and the impact these differences may have on offence type data for recorded offences and criminal incidents.

Data are presented for recorded criminal incidents and recorded offences based on crime as recorded by Victoria Police. Data for this spotlight has been extracted from the Victoria Police Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) on 18 April 2018. The data covers a five year period from April 2013 to March 2018.

The primary measure of crime featured in this spotlight is the criminal incident count, a measure developed by the Crime Statistics Agency (CSA) to better reflect how crime data are commonly used in discussion and as understood by the community.

A recorded criminal incident is a criminal event that may include one or more offences, alleged offenders and/or victims, and that is recorded on a single date and at one location. The criminal incident count is designed to represent the broad event that occurs as a more representative measure of instances of crime, rather than using the bulk number of offences that Victoria Police members record within one incident. The criminal incident count factors in a number of additional variables and counting rules to determine the principal offence type, based on crime data recorded by Victoria Police.

This spotlight will focus on the three key steps used to derive the criminal incident count by principal offence type:

  • the removal of out of scope offences
  • the introduction of criminal charge information, and
  • the aggregation of offence counts to a single principal offence.

Specific offence type examples are used to illustrate the impact of each of these steps, and it is important to note that the impact will differ across offence types.

For more information on the criminal incident measure, please see the public consultation paper (External link) released on the CSA website. Further information on principal variable calculations and counting rules for incidents, offences, alleged offenders and victim reports can be found in the Explanatory Notes.

2. Overview of criminal incidents and offences

The CSA criminal incident count is representative of one or more offences recorded on a single date and at the same location, so the count of overall recorded offences will be greater than the count of overall recorded criminal incidents. Generally, overall crime trends should show similar patterns of movement using either criminal incidents or offences. The figure below shows the criminal incidents and offences recorded for the past 5 years.

Criminal incidents and offences recorded, 5 year trend - April 2013 to March 2018
 

The process of assigning a principal offence type to a criminal incident involves the removal of out of scope offences, the introduction of charge information (as the police investigation progresses) and the aggregation of offence counts. See figure below.

Key steps for creating criminal incidents from recorded offences

These steps can all impact on the number of criminal incidents for an offence type in comparison to the number of offences for an offence type initially recorded by Victoria Police, as outlined in the following sections.

3. Removing out of scope offences

The scope of criminal incidents only includes offences where police have taken action, or an investigation is ongoing. Any offences where Victoria Police have deemed that no offence occurred, or where no further police action is required (such as caution not authorised or summons not authorised) are excluded. The exception to this are offences that occurred, and were recorded by police, but the complaint was withdrawn. As these offences still represent a criminal event, they will be included in criminal incidents. Incidents which only include out of scope offences will not be counted in the number of criminal incidents.

3.1 Sexual offences by investigation status - Scope for criminal incidents 

Scope for criminal incidents

Apr 2013 – Mar 2014

Apr 2014 – Mar 2015

Apr 2015 – Mar 2016

Apr 2016 – Mar 2017

Apr 2017 – Mar 2018

Proportion in 2018 (%)

In scope

Arrest

1,931

2,730

2,772

2,943

3,337

22.3%

Summons

3,153

3,736

3,189

4,067

4,106

27.5%

Other1

1,334

1,274

1,572

1,660

1,846

12.3%

Intent to Summons

1,913

1,987

1,926

2,059

2,041

13.7%

Unsolved

913

931

1,165

1,330

2,572

17.2%

Sub total

9,244

10,658

10,624

12,059

13,902

93.0%

Out of scope2

974

909

1,368

1,307

1,050

7.0%

Grand Total

10,218

11,567

11,992

13,366

14,952

100.0%

1Includes Complaint withdrawn, Caution, Notice to appear, Offender processed and Other investigation status.

2 Includes No offence disclosed or Not authorised.

In the year ending March 2018 a total of 14,952 Sexual offences were recorded. Of these offences, 1,050 Sexual offences were recorded with an investigation status of No offence disclosed or Not authorised. Due to the recorded investigation status, these offences are determined to be out of scope and excluded from the criminal incident count. These out of scope Sexual offences made up 7.0% of all Sexual offences in the year ending March 2018.

3.2 Sexual offences and criminal incidents 

 

Apr 2013 – Mar 2014

Apr 2014 – Mar 2015

Apr 2015 – Mar 2016

Apr 2016 – Mar 2017

Apr 2017 – Mar 2018

% change 2017 - 2018

Criminal incidents

5,418

5,849

6,296

7,493

8,495

13.4%

Number of offences

10,218

11,567

11,992

13,366

14,952

11.9%

In the same 12 month period a total of 8,495 criminal incidents were recorded with a principal offence of Sexual offences, up by 13.4% from the previous year.

Whilst the 1,050 out of scope offences impact on the total number of criminal incidents with a principal offence of Sexual offences, this only accounts for part of the difference between the offence and incident counts. Sections 4 and 5 explain how the other features of the method of determining the principal offence may also impact incident counts.

4. Introduction of criminal charge information 

As recorded offence counts are a bulk counting measure that are captured by Victoria Police through their work processes, these counts will be higher than the number of criminal incidents. However, for some offence types, there are circumstances where the criminal incident count may be greater.

A recorded offence represents an earlier stage of the police process before charges are laid. The CSA recorded offence data does not take into account the types and number of charges laid by police. For a charge to be laid, Victoria Police have taken an initial action against an alleged offender based upon investigation. In criminal incidents the CSA has incorporated charge information. The CSA represents a criminal incident by determining the most serious charge laid within the incident, and if no charges were laid, the most serious offence recorded will be the principal offence type.

4.1 Serious assault - offences recorded and charges laid

Offence recorded

 

Charge laid

Apr 2015 – Mar 2016

Apr 2016 – Mar 2017

Apr 2017 – Mar 2018

Proportion in 2018 (%)

Serious assault offence recorded

Serious assault charge laid at a later stage

9,693

9,996

8,216

50.7%

Serious assault offence not recorded

Serious assault charge laid at a later stage

1,940

2,057

1,637

10.1%

Serious assault offence recorded

Serious assault charge not laid

5,190

5,386

6,353

39.2%

Serious assault offence recorded

Other offence type charge laid at a later stage

As the charge is not serious assault there is a nil count for serious assault criminal incidents

Total Serious assault criminal incidents

16,823

17,439

16,206

100.0%

In the year ending March 2018 there were 1,637 (10.1%) criminal incidents of Serious assault that were not initially recorded with a Serious assault offence. Within these criminal incidents other offence types have been recorded, however the most serious charge laid was for Serious assault. In the table above half (50.7%) of the criminal incidents had an offence and charge of Serious assault. The remaining 39.2% of Serious assault criminal incidents had no charges laid but were the most serious recorded offence.

4.2 Serious assault offences and criminal incidents 

 

Apr 2013 – Mar 2014

Apr 2014 – Mar 2015

Apr 2015 – Mar 2016

Apr 2016 – Mar 2017

Apr 2017 – Mar 2018

% change 2017 - 2018

Criminal incidents

17,122

16,214

16,823

17,439

16,206

-7.1%

Number of offences

17,436

16,276

16,992

17,076

16,128

-5.6%

In the year ending March 2018 there were 16,128 Serious assault offences. This was lower than the 16,206 criminal incidents of Serious assault. The offence count reflects the numbers as first recorded by Victoria Police, whilst the criminal incident count reflects charges laid by Victoria Police upon further investigation of the criminal event. Out of scope offences (section 3) and aggregation of offence counts (section 5) may also impact on the count of Serious assault criminal incidents.

5. Aggregation of offence counts to a principal offence 

An offence count may include multiple counts of the one offence type recorded by Victoria Police and can produce sharp peaks and troughs in the data. Offence categories that are prone to a high number of offence counts per offence type are most impacted. The offence type of Public nuisance can be prone to high offence counts. The graph below shows these differences in criminal incidents and offences, the former has a smoother and clearer trend over time.

Public nuisance incidents and offences by month - April 2016 to March 2018

5.1 Public nuisance offences - Number of records[1] and offence counts 

 

Apr 2013 – Mar 2014

Apr 2014 – Mar 2015

Apr 2015 – Mar 2016

Apr 2016 – Mar 2017

Apr 2017 – Mar 2018

Number of records with 1 offence

1,778

1,606

2,276

2,524

2,910

  • Number of offences

1,778

1,606

2,276

2,524

2,910

Number of records with 2 or more offences

319

289

393

284

321

  • Number of offences

922

963

1,159

748

846

Total number of offences

2,700

2,569

3,435

3,272

3,756

In the year ending March 2018 a total of 2,910 records of Public nuisance had an offence count of one. The remaining 321 Public nuisance records had an offence count of two or more, and together recorded a total of 846 offences. These 846 offences represented 22.5% of all Public nuisance offences recorded.

5.2 Public nuisance offences and criminal incidents

 

Apr 2013 – Mar 2014

Apr 2014 – Mar 2015

Apr 2015 – Mar 2016

Apr 2016 – Mar 2017

Apr 2017 – Mar 2018

% change 2017 - 2018

Criminal incidents

1,462

1,275

1,768

1,857

1,951

5.1%

Number of offences

2,700

2,569

3,435

3,272

3,756

14.8%

In the year ending March 2018 there were 3,756 Public nuisance offences. This was higher than the 1,951 Public nuisance criminal incidents.

Other features of the criminal incident count (sections 3 and 4) may also impact on the number of Public nuisance criminal incidents.

 

[1] Records represents the number of sub-incidents as recorded on the Victoria Police LEAP database. A sub-incident has one offence type.

Author
Crime Statistics Agency, 2018
Publisher
Crime Statistics Agency, 2018
Date of Publication

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