Following the Corey Delaney saga, Victorian Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon has declared Generation Y a big issue for police.  

“It is the Why – W-H-Y – Generation,” she says, demonstrating she can play homophone with the best of them. “They really are far more aggressive. They’ll cluster more and will send SMS and a lot of their friends will come,” Ms Nixon said.  

The Australian recounts the story, citing a recent study of Generation Y in NSW by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, which “revealed that almost one in 10 people born in the state in 1984 had a criminal record by the time they turned 21.”

Sounds high, but what does that floating figure mean? How does it compare, for example, with previous years?

We don’t really know. The press release for the report in 2006 notes that it was “the first time such a study has been conducted in Australia”.

So policepeople’s anecdotal evidence of juvenile crime is important, but it needs to be rounded out with more information.  Here are some of the findings that The Oz didn’t mention:

The results show that most of those who appeared in court did so only once and not until after they had turned 18.

The most common offences for which members of the 1984 birth cohort appeared in court were road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences, particularly drink-driving offences.

Appearances for murder, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated robbery were comparatively rare, with 0.01 per cent appearing for murder, 0.1 per cent appearing for aggravated sexual assault and 0.4 per cent appearing for aggravated robbery before the age of 21.

Only 0.5 per cent of the entire cohort (i.e. about one in every 200) received a prison sentence before the age of 21.

The Bureau’s study shows that recidivist offenders account for a disproportionately large proportion of all appearances in court.

The nine per cent of the 1984 birth cohort who appeared in court five times or more accounted for 36 per cent of the all court appearances by the cohort.

The 2.3 per cent who appeared in court 10 times or more accounted for 15 per cent of the cohort’s court appearances.

Crikey put in a call to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and Victoria Police to ask the questions: Does Gen Y commit more crime than other generations when they were the same age? And is the type of crime they commit more or less serious?

The information is not readily available so it takes a long time to crunch figures to any exact purpose. The Victoria Police media unit (presumably fielding a few requests at the moment) was helpful but suggested it would take some time to provide Crikey with relevant results.

The NSW BCSR did however help us out with some preliminary stats that provide food for thought.

In 1995, 19-20-year-olds (Gen Xers) represented 9.3% of offenders listed as persons of interest* for major offence types** (12,687 out of a total 136,993).

In 2005, 19-20-year-olds (Gen Yers) represented 7.0% of offenders listed as persons of interest for major offence types* (11,495 out of a total of 165,241).

So while the number of persons of interest went up over ten years, the number of Gen Yers aged 19-20 involved in criminal incidents declined.

*Persons of interest are alleged offenders or persons who the police suspect have been involved in a criminal incident.

**Major offence types include murder, assault, sexual assault, indecent assault, other sexual offences, robbery without a weapon, robbery with a firearm, robbery with a weapon not a firearm, break and enter dwelling, break and enter non-dwelling, motor vehicle theft, steal from motor vehicle, steal from retail store, steal from dwelling, steal from person, fraud, malicious damage to property.