Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Knives and Armed Robbery

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Knives and Armed Robbery

Article excerpt

In Australia, knives are used during armed robberies at between 2 and 3 times the level of firearms. Furthermore, in terms of offence categories, armed robbenes accounted for the largest (proportional) increase in recorded crime between 1997 and 1998. Many people think gun when they think of armed robbery and, to date, this has been the focus of most research into armed robbery. This paper brings together new data on robbery, and noting the strong presence of knives, is a spnngboard for the analysis of containment strategies.

We often look overseas for research contexts. In North America, firearms are involved in between 60 to 65 per cent of all armed robbenes. Within the Australian context, however, firearms are involved in less than 30 per cent of all armed robberies. These figures mean that knife use needs to be viewed as a critical issue and collaborative work undertaken to contain knife use. This paper is a first step in that process.

Adam Graycar

Director

The relatively limited attention given to specific weapons used in an armed robbery has significant implications for justice system policy development. However, any detailed examination of exactly what weapons are typically used for armed robberies is complicated by inconsistencies in how weapons are legally defined across jurisdictions. Quite apart from the ubiquitousness of knife use, the definition of what actually constitutes a knife is surprisingly complex. For example, under the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998, New South Wales specifically cites the type of knives in this category as the flick knife, ballistic knife, sheath knife, Urban Skinner push dagger, trench knife, butterfly knife, and star knife. In contrast, under the Cnmes (Amendment) Act (No. 2) 1998, the Australian Capital Territory defines a "knife" as a knife blade, a razor blade, and any other blade. In other states such as Tasmania, specific instruments are not identified; rather, an overall definition of "offensive weapon" is used. An "offensive weapon" is defined as "an article made or adapted to be used to injure or incapacitate a person or intended for that use by the person possessing it".

The only national data on the use of weapons other than firearms come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which uses the categories of "firearms", "other weapons", and "weapon not further defined". The ABS classifies knives under "other weapons", which comprise any instrument or substance, other than a firearm, capable of inflicting damage, injury, or death. This includes knives, sharp instruments, blunt instruments, hammers, axes, clubs, iron bars, pieces of wood, syringes, and other "like" instruments. While these data are obviously essential with respect to the cataloguing of national trends, the category of "other weapon" is so broad and expansive, it presents real challenges to more sharplyfocused analyses of the weapons used during armed robberies.

The solution is further complicated by the fact that police data do identify specific weapons, and the particular classifications used differ from state to state. Victoria identifies whether the weapons were a "rifle or replica", "shot gun", "pistol", "tool", or "club, baton, or stick", amongst others. In New South Wales, the weapons classification includes "bow, crossbow, or blowgun", "club, iron bar, or pipe", "hammer, spanner, or wrench", "rifle", "shotgun", and "syringe", amongst others. In South Australia, the categories include "bottle or glass", "club, baton, or stick", "pistol or replica", "rifle", and "airgun", amongst others.

These different classificatory schema are even more divergent when it comes to the classification of knives. For example, while the Victoria police use the specific category of "knife" in their recorded offences, the New South Wales police use the categories of "knife, sword, scissors, and screwdriver", and South Australia uses the category of "knife or machete". …

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