18 June 2012


The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has reported on a project to "identify the typical characteristics and offence types of amphetamine user detainees in Western Australia".

'Amphetamine users and crime in Western Australia, 1999–2009' by Natalie Gately, Jennifer Fleming, Robyn Morris & Catherine McGregor concludes that
Relative to detainee amphetamine non-users, the typical profile of a detainee amphetamine user (defined as use within the past 30 days) emerged as including a higher proportion of females; non-Indigenous, 24–28 years of age, single with no dependent children, unemployed, educated to year 10 or lower, living at the home of another person, and first arrested before the age of 18. In regard to other substance use, a typical detainee amphetamine user, when compared with detainee non-users was more likely to have tried alcohol before the age of 18 but less likely to have drunk at risky levels in the previous 30 days; more likely to have used cannabis, heroin, illegal benzodiazepines and amphetamines before the age of 18; and more likely to have used cannabis, heroin and illegal benzodiazepines in the previous 30 days than amphetamine non-users. 
This profile suggests that failure to reduce amphetamine use in Western Australia may have financial ramifications through unemployment costs such as Centrelink payments, as well as public health costs as a result of poly-drug use. The profile also indicates a transient lifestyle and reduced ability of users to find employment because of lower education and current substance use. There may also be an increased risk in this population for mental health complaints either as a result of substance use or the lifestyle it coincides with. Further, there is a vulnerability associated with the young age and gender of amphetamine users, and it is not unreasonable to anticipate problems for these females if they become pregnant. 
In regards to offence types, the study determined that amphetamine users were more likely than amphetamine non-users to commit property offences, robbery and related offences, illicit drug offences, fraud offences and weapons offences. These results support the findings of the Amphetamines in Queensland project by Lynch et al. (2003), although the present study did not find a high prevalence of assault charges within this population. This difference may be explained by the type of data collected. Lynch et al. (2003) used a community sample that self-reported previous offences, whereas the current project measured offence types based on current police charges at the time of data collection. The current findings are also consistent with those of McGregor and Gately (2008), who reported that amphetamine users were more likely to be charged with theft, illicit drug and weapons offences. These findings identify common patterns in crimes committed by amphetamine users in Australia. 
Of particular note, amphetamine users were no more likely to commit violent offences than amphetamine non-users, even when considering the frequency of amphetamine use. This supports and extends the findings of Smith and Rodwell (2009), who also found no association between amphetamine use and violent crime. This provides further evidence against a relationship between amphetamine use and violence.
The report argues that in WA a significantly greater proportion of amphetamine users who committed offences relating to -
  • robbery, extortion and related offences (1.6 times non-amphetamine user rate); 
  • unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter (1.8 times non-amphetamine user rate); 
  • theft and related offences (1.8 times non-amphetamine user rate); 
  • fraud, deception and related offences (1.4 times non-amphetamine user rate); 
  • illicit drug offences (2.6 times non-amphetamine user rate); 
  • prohibited and regulated weapons and explosive offences (2.1 times non-amphetamine user rate); and 
  • crime against property (1.5 times non-amphetamine user rate).
The differences were especially large for the  'crime against property' category; specifically for illicit drug offences, theft and related offences, and unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter. Amphetamine non-users were found to have a significantly greater proportion of detainees committing offences relating to -
  • public order offences (1.5 times amphetamine user rate); 
  • sexual assault and related offences (3.8 times amphetamine user rate); and 
  • abduction, harassment and other offences against the person (1.67 times amphetamine user rate).