Criminal histories of Australian organised crime offenders

By Harley Dennett

January 16, 2019

Organised crime offenders start later and the offences that bring them into a life of crime are typically more serious.

Organised crime may be a near-endless source of material for television entertainment producers, but for government and law enforcement it represents a “seriously under-researched cohort of offenders”, according to the Australian Institute for Criminology.

Despite the limitations of data sources, the AIC has undertaken the first analysis of criminal histories of Australian organised crime offenders in a new study published this month.

It used matching records from two Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission databases, the National Criminal Target List and the National Police Reference System, to build a list of 2172 offenders identified as being affiliated with an organised crime group as well as a non-trivial history with any state of territory justice system — not just for crimes in which they were convicted, but also protection orders, warnings and firearm ownership.

Organised crime offenders start their careers well into adulthood

Most offenders associate with organised crime groups did not commit their first offence until adulthood. The average was 22, and nearly a third did not commit their first offence until aged 25 or older.

The offending remained relatively stable throughout their 20s and early 30s, increasing in frequency over time as well as seriousness of the offences. In contrast, studies of volume crime careers do not typically show such stability.

Older offenders in the study tended to commit more serious offences. When the first recorded offence was one commonly associated with organised crime, those individuals were more likely to be older.

Offences traditionally associated with organised crime include drug trafficking, fraud, and weapons offences. It also includes other crimes more sophisticated and complex than volume crimes.

“The knowledge and skills needed to commit such [organised] crimes may only come with life experience,” writes the paper’s authors.

“Alternatively, social opportunity theory suggests organised crimes may rely more on efficient criminal networks, which require a high degree of trust and collaboration. This level of trust may take years to establish and may therefore contribute to the older age of onset among this cohort.”

The authors hoped the new analysis could help shape policy responses to organised crime.

“Combating this pervasive issue requires harnessing the combined knowledge and skills of research, law enforcement and intelligence. Only a multifaceted approach will address the current knowledge gap while also supporting the development of innovative, evidence-led approaches to respond to organised crime in Australia.”

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