Victoria Police statement in relation to Crime Statistics Agency data release – twelve months to end of December 2023

There were 523,523 criminal offences recorded in Victoria in the 2023 calendar year, representing an increase of 40,351 offences or 8.4% from 2022.

Today’s CSA data release represents the first time since early 2020 that the two most recent reporting periods were unaffected by COVID-19 restrictions.

However, it is important to acknowledge that while there were no restrictions in place throughout 2022, society took time to return to normality following two years in a pandemic. Crime in Victoria has taken a similar pathway, gradually increasing back towards pre-pandemic levels rather than rapidly snapping back.

This is reiterated by the latest data released today, which reveals overall crime in Victoria remains 2.3% below the 2019 calendar year.

The true crime rate, which factors in Victoria’s population growth over the years, stands at 7,698.2 offences per 100,000 people – a 5.6% increase from 2022.

Despite increasing, the crime rate per 100,000 people remains at its third lowest level in the past decade. One of the two years with a lower crime rate was 2021 – a year heavily impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

The top five offences to record the greatest year-on-year increase included:

• Theft from motor vehicle (56,810 offences, +9,037). While this offence recorded the greatest increase, there were still 4,229 less crimes of this nature than in 2019. The most common items stolen include registration plates and tradie tools.

• Theft from a retail store (28,174 offences, + 7,865). This offence has remained the greatest riser in recent quarters, driven predominantly by the theft of items such as liquor, groceries, and clothes. Cost of living pressures and rising inflation are linked to this increase. Police intelligence indicates as many as 40% of offenders are first time offenders.

• Theft (other) offences (46,620 offences, +5,028). The most common theft (other) offence is theft of petrol, followed by mobile phones.

• Motor vehicle theft (20,499 offences, +4,238). This is the highest number of offences since 2016 and 9.1% (1,742) relate to cars stolen through aggravated burglaries.

• Obtain benefit by deception (28,518 offences, + 3,864). One of the most common examples of this offence is a lost or stolen credit card being used to purchase goods or services. This offence is creeping back towards pre-pandemic levels in line with increased community movement.

Victoria Police arrested more people in 2023 than the previous year and recorded the highest number of arrests in the last five years. 66,749 people were arrested and charged.

More detailed analysis of key areas of interest can be found below:

Key crime trends

• Overall crimes against the person remained relatively stable – only increasing by 0.4% year-on-year. When population growth is considered, crimes against the person are at their lowest rate since 2015. Pleasingly there was a decrease in non-family violence serious assaults, as well as overall stalking, harassment, and threatening behaviour offences. Consistent with last quarter, offences to increase in this category included non-family violence common assaults (lower-level assaults involving no serious injury) and sex offences against children (most commonly child abuse material related).

• Overall property and deception offences increased by 16%, however still remained 4.9% below 2019.

• Overall drug related offending decreased slightly (-3.7%). Within this category, dealing/trafficking (-10.9%), and use/possess (-3.3%) decreased, while cultivate/manufacture (+16.1%) increased.

• Family violence related offending slightly increased year-on-year, with a 2% increase in incidents. Breaches of family violence orders also rose by 2.5% from the year prior. The number of family violence order breaches is significantly higher than 2019 (+16.2%). Several of these are identified courtesy of the countless proactive checks on offenders and engagement with victims undertaken by Family Violence Investigation Units each day across the state.

Child and Youth Crime

• Overall child and youth offenders aged 10 – 24 were responsible for 47,511 incidents – an increase of 13.8% year-on-year. However, overall offending in this age group remains below 2019 (-4.7%).

• Child offenders – those aged between 10 and 17 – present the greatest area of concern for police given their increasing rates of offending and involvement in serious and violent crimes.

• Among child offenders (10 – 17), the greatest increases in offending were among those aged 14-17.

• 14 – 17-year-old child offenders were responsible for 18,729 incidents – an increase of 4,527 incidents from 2022 (+29.4%). This represented the highest rate of offending among 14 – 17-year-olds since 2009. They were more frequently involved in serious offending than last year, including crimes against the person (6,380, +1311), assaults (3823, +531), burglaries (2,221, +788), car thefts (1,703, +588) and robberies (1,652, +696).

• Victoria’s youngest offenders are also committing crimes more frequently, with 10 – 13-year-old offenders responsible for 3,254 incidents – an increase of 598 incidents year-on-year (+22.5%). This was the highest rate of offending among 10 – 13-year-olds since 2010.

• Child alleged offender incidents for those aged 10 and 11, rose 65.4% year on year (402, +159). This was the highest rate of offending among 10 and 11-year-olds since 2016.

• 2023 saw the highest number of 10 – 13-year-old male offenders since 2011 (2119, up from 1804 last year) and the highest number of 10-13-year-old female offenders since at least 2005 (1135, up from 852 last year).

• We are also seeing new young offenders emerge in greater numbers. The last two years has marked decade highs for first time youth offender incidents involving 12- and 13-year-olds.

• One in five child offenders are recidivists who commit three or more offences. There were 1,589 children aged 10 – 17 who committed three or more offences on separate occasions in 2023 – an increase of 19% from 2022.

• Of all child recidivists, 198 were under the age of 14. There were 24 recidivist offenders aged 10-11. Of these, 11 committed more than five incidents each. There were 174 recidivist offenders aged 12-13. Of these 89 committed five or more incidents.

• Victoria Police are targeting child and youth offenders in a variety of ways. Victoria’s worst and most violent child and youth offenders are in the sights of police as part of Operation Alliance. Over the past year, police have arrested 381 known youth gang members a combined 1,436 times over the past year – an average of almost four times each. 3,385 offences were committed by these individuals – an average of almost nine per person.

• A core group of 244 youth gang members who were arrested more than three times over the past year present the greatest challenge for police. This includes 65 gang members who were arrested more than ten times.

• Operation Alliance’s unrelenting focus is having an impact. Victoria Police are currently monitoring 620 known youth gang members across 43 youth gangs. Pleasingly, this is 127 fewer youth gang members on the police watchlist than when Alliance was established in September 2020.

• Child and youth offenders driving the increase in home burglaries and car thefts are being targeted as part of Operation Trinity, which will be referenced in greater depth later in this release. A significant amount of work is also taking place to help youth offenders break the cycle of re-offending. This includes the Embedded Youth Outreach Program. As part of the program, a trained youth worker is paired with a police officer in areas of high youth offending, to provide a nightly, afterhours response and referral service for young people encountering police. For lower-level offenders, police are offering cautions when appropriate to limit their involvement in the youth justice system.

Burglaries and Car Theft

• Overall, there were 25,260 home burglaries across Victoria last year – 3,508 more than 2022. Of the 25,260 home burglaries, 3,253 offences were attempts (up 36.8%, +875).

• Despite this increase, the total number of homes broken into remains well below levels seen earlier in the decade. For example, there were 37,063 homes broken into in 2016 – 11,803 more than current levels.

• However, aggravated residential burglaries, primarily those involving child and youth offenders targeting unlocked properties to find keys and steal vehicles, remain one of Victoria’s most concerning crime trends at present due to the fear it instils in the community and danger it creates on our roads.

• Today’s data reveals there was 5,887 aggravated residential burglaries recorded in Victoria, an increase of 1,341 offences or 29.5% year-on-year.

• Child offenders are responsible for a significant number of burglaries, with children aged 14 – 17 committing 2,221 burglaries (up 55% from 2022 and the highest number in the past five years).

• Children aged 10 – 13 committed 304 burglaries (down 14.8% from 2022 but up 46.2% from 2019). 10-13-year-olds were responsible for 90 aggravated burglaries – five years earlier they were only involved in 21.

• While police intel indicates more than 95% of these aggravated burglaries have no confrontation, the issue remains of critical importance to Victoria Police given the victim impact of having an intruder in your home.

• Given these offenders are predominantly targeting car keys, this has resulted in car theft also increasing by 26.1% from 2022. However, this remains stable with the levels seen before the pandemic (+2.2% from 2019).

• For the past year, Victoria Police has been running a dedicated nightly operation targeting burglars and car thieves. Operation Trinity, which runs every single night until dawn across Melbourne is easily Victoria Police’s most well-resourced frontline policing operation at present. Since March 2023, there has been 70 additional police rostered each night, on top of existing patrols. This includes frontline officers, Highway Patrol members, the Dog Squad, PORT and Air Wing.

• As a result of this intense focus, police have made over 1,400 arrests relating to burglaries and car thefts across the Trinity area of operations. On top of this, police have also made more than 2,300 arrests for other offending due to the strong police presence.

• Recidivism among child and youth offenders remains a significant issue in this crime theme. In the past year, Victoria Police has arrested 20 child and youth offenders responsible for 321 aggravated burglaries where at least one car was stolen. These 20 offenders were arrested a total of 144 times in the past year in relation to this offending alone. The average age of Melbourne’s 20 most prolific burglars and car thieves was 15 and they were responsible for more than 20% of aggravated burglaries where a car was stolen in the Trinity area of operations.

Quotes attributed to Deputy Commissioner Regional Operations Neil Paterson APM

“Crime in Victoria has gradually increased over the past few years as Victorian life has returned to normality post pandemic.

“When population is considered, Victoria pleasingly still has its third lowest crime rate at any point over the past decade – ahead of only 2022 and the COVID-marred 2021.

“While this is positive, that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of concern.

“Child offending remains a real challenge for police and significant driver of serious and violent crime in Victoria.

“Victoria Police continue to hold these people accountable, with youth gang members targeted as part of Operation Alliance and young burglars and car thieves continually arrested and put before the courts under Operation Trinity.

“These operations have led to over 5,000 combined arrests over the past year, with Operation Trinity alone leading to the arrest of almost four burglars and car thieves every day – the vast majority children.

“Operation Trinity is clearly Victoria Police’s most resourced operation at present, with local officers, Dog Squad, Public Order Response Team, and Highway Patrol swarming the suburbs each night while Air Wing assists from overhead.

“Much of the child and youth offending we’re seeing is mindless and driven by the pursuit of notoriety or social media likes.

“This is highlighted by the fact that police recovered 94% of vehicles stolen during aggravated burglaries as part of Operation Trinity – cars stolen purely for joy riding and no financial gain.

“When interviewed, offenders are telling us they will walk up and down a street until they find a door or window that is unlocked. Our intelligence supports this, with over half of all homes burgled in key hotspots unlocked.

“While police will continue to patrol known hotspots every evening until dawn as part of Trinity, we are also calling on the community to play their part and lock their properties and cars.

/Public Release. View in full here.