Organised criminals more likely to commit first offence later in life

Organised criminals more likely to commit first offence later in life

Australian organised criminals are more likely to commit their first offence well into adulthood, rather than start a life of crime in their teenage years.

The first Australian study looking into the criminal histories of organised offenders has found almost 60 per cent of organised criminals first offended after they turned 20.

A new study has found most organised criminals commit their first offence well into their  20s.

A new study has found most organised criminals commit their first offence well into their 20s.Credit:AFP Media

Almost a third of Australian organised criminals were more than 30-years-old by the time they were first arrested for offences such as drug smuggling, money laundering or being involved with outlaw motorcycle gangs.

The study, conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology, examined the criminal history and behaviour of more than 2000 organised criminals, who had committed a combined 37,000 offences.


While organised criminals were more likely to be well into their 20s when they first started offending, previous international research into the behaviour of criminals not involved in gangs or syndicates found they began their criminal careers when they were teenagers.

The study said the difference between the starting ages for organised crime and other offences was due to organised crime being more complex.

The new data is being used to target bikie gangs.

The new data is being used to target bikie gangs.Credit:

The institute's research manager Anthony Morgan said there were several factors for organised criminals beginning their life of crime later on than general criminals.

"The type of offences that organised criminals are more likely to be involved in require life experience, like being involved in an illicit drug network," Mr Morgan said.

"Often these sorts of skills used for organised crime are developed over time, and fairly strong networks of organised crime offenders require levels of trust."

The institute said while much is known about organised crime activity, little was known about the criminal histories of offenders.

"Organised crime is one of the most persistent and complex threats currently affecting Australia and was estimated to have cost up to $47.4 billion in 2016-17," the study said.

"Research into organised crime in Australia has been limited by a lack of publicly available data and adequate samples for study."

The study found the frequency of organised crime activity increased with age, along with the seriousness of the offence.

Organised criminals' first offence were more likely to be assault-related, 20 per cent, followed by property offences, 18 per cent, and drug offences, 17 per cent.

More than half of organised criminals in the study had recorded drug offences in their criminal history, while 44 per cent had committed assault.

Those who committed drug offences were more likely to be older than those who committed other offences such as fraud or those involving weapons.

"Offending was most prevalent throughout organised crime offenders' 20s and early to mid-30s," the study said.

"Older offenders tended to commit more serious offences."

Mr Morgan said while organised criminals started later in their criminal careers, their rate of offending was likely to stay constant as they get older.

"We found the prevalence [of offending] in this group remains pretty consistent from their early 20s to their mid to late 30s, which is quite unique," he said

The new research also found there were more organised criminals who committed offences across a range of offence categories compared to those who specialised in one area.

"Generalist offenders tended to offend for the first time at a younger age. Thirty-five per cent of generalist offenders committed their first offence before the age of 18 compared with just 7 per cent of specialist offenders," the report said.

Mr Morgan said the institute has looked at using the data to better understand the behaviour patterns of organised criminals.

He said it would provide multiple uses to police officers investigating organised crime.

"What the data highlights is that if you target active criminals [due to them being generalists], you tackle multiple types of crimes," Mr Morgan said.

"We're looking to build on this data to look specifically at motorcycle gang offenders and also looking at identifying high-risk offenders and how to target them."

An AFP spokeswoman said the federal police are still analysing the results of the study.

"The AFP continues strong collaboration and exchange of information and intelligence with domestic and international law enforcement authorities to combat all forms of transnational organised crime," the spokeswoman said.

Andrew Brown is a journalist at the Sunday Canberra Times. Andrew has worked at the Canberra Times since 2016.

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