The Facts – Youth Crime

On this page

The Facts – Youth Crime


Crime Statistics show that Youth Crime (those under 18) in Victoria has been steadily decreasing over the last decade (between 2014 and 2023). 

While there has been a recent trend upwards in the 2023 numbers which are up from the 2022 numbers, fluctuations throughout the decade are not uncommon. 

We know that the cost of living and housing crisis has had a huge impact on young people, and often leads to the drivers that cause these fluctuations. 


  • 4.9% decrease in overall offending for people aged 10 to 24 since 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • 22.5% increase in the number of offences committed by 10- to 13-year-olds in the year to September 30, 2023.  
  • 29.4% increase in the number of offences committed by 14- to 17-year-olds in the same year. 
  • 38.7% increase in thefts from retail stores, including supermarkets. 
    • Property and deception offences had the largest increase of any crime category in the last 12 months. 
    • 40% of these were the individual’s first offence 

Factors that contribute to this picture 

Recidivist offending 

Many news reports overstate the extent of youth crime because they do not consider or communicate the extent of repeat offending.  Victoria Police commentary on the Crime Statistics Agency stats for 2023 includes that 82 recidivist offenders were arrested more than 10 times over the reporting period

Cost of living pressure 

Items stolen by young people were often groceries, fuel, cigarettes and alcohol, which aligns with the price hikes seen with these items during the last reporting period. 

Young people are struggling in a rental and housing crisis, in which finding long-term safe and affordable housing options is becoming harder to find. The increase in theft of items such as groceries and fuel points to young people being unable to afford necessities, a driving factor behind an increase in crime. 

Other statistics  

The national research on 10–13-year-olds charged with offending, commissioned by the Institute of Criminology (see link below) found that of those whose charges proceeded in court,    

  • They were assessed as having high levels of adversity & trauma, family difficulty, child protection involvement, that half had previous contact with police as a victim of family violence, a high % had disengaged from school, had substantial mental health and disability issues & 60% had at least one diagnosed psychiatric disorder.  
  • Despite this need, there was little evidence of engagement with clinical or therapeutic services among this group.  
  • Compared to 14-year-olds and older, they were more frequently first nation and female and aged 13 at offending.   

See also Victorian Youth Parole Board annual reports including the 2022-23 that cites 64 per cent of Victorian young offenders were victims of abuse, trauma, or neglect as a child. 


Commentary from key stakeholders and experts: (reported in The Age 21-3-24) 

  • Liana Buchanan, the Commissioner for Children and Young People, said Victoria should raise the age to 14 as quickly as possibleShe says the cause of a child’s antisocial or violent behaviour needed to be addressedShe said introducing children to the criminal justice system increased the risk of them reoffending and that the younger they were, the more likely they were to end up in a cycle of offending. Those who are opposed to raising the age are arguing against what is in the interests of community safety. I have to say, as children’s commissioner, the irony of that frustrates me enormously because the evidence cannot be clearer,” Buchanan said. 
  • “Those who are opposed to raising the age are arguing against what is in the interests of community safety. I have to say, as children’s commissioner, the irony of that frustrates me enormously because the evidence cannot be clearer,” Buchanan said. 
  • Crime Statistics Agency chief statistician Fiona Dowsley said increases in high-volume property and deception offences – particularly thefts from motor vehicles and retail stores – drove the continued uptick in overall crime. An increase in these acquisitive offence types reflects in part a return to pre-pandemic trends, but also is in line with current cost-of-living pressures,” she said. 
  • RMIT University criminologist Marietta Martinovic said higher youth crime rates should not be a surprise because social problems lingered, citing prevention programs as a proven way to better engage children and tackle offending. She urged the state government to ignore pressure to scrap its plan to raise criminal responsibility to 14 by 2027. Please don’t, and think again,” Martinovic said. “If we put them onto the trajectory of punishment, we are really going down the completely wrong road, where we will engage them early in the criminal justice system. And that will just perpetuate the offending cycle. There are no short-term, quick, cheap solutions to this.” 
  • Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson – “Last year’s true overall crime rate – which factors in Victoria’s population growth – was 7698.2 offences per 100,000 people. That’s up 5.6 per cent from 2022 but is still 6.1 per cent lower than in 2019. Crime in Victoria has gradually increased over the past few years as Victorian life has returned to normality post-pandemic. Much of the child and youth offending we’re seeing is mindless and driven by the pursuit of notoriety or social media likes,”. “This is highlighted by the fact that police recovered 94 per cent of vehicles stolen during aggravated burglaries as part of Operation Trinity – cars stolen purely for joyriding and no financial gain.  
  • Victorian Attorney General Jaclyn Symes – “Our commitment is raising to 12 this year, with a commitment to raise to 14 – subject to the development of an alternative service model and a consideration of whether there’s serious offences that you would exclude from the criminal responsibility changes “See also State stands by plan to raise age of criminal responsibility 
  • Opposition police and youth justice spokesman Brad Battin urged the government to reconsider its plans for changing criminal responsibility. “[It’s] something that in the future I think we should be talking about, but it’s not the right time,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got an increase in crimes in that 10 to 14-year cohort.” 
  • Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton – “The new figures showed criminal incident rates for 10 and 11-year-olds were lower than 2016 levels but increases in older teenagers committing crimes outweighed this and pushed overall child offending to a decade high “. Police highlighted repeat youth offenders, with one in five committing three or more offences on separate occasions, an increase of 19 per cent from 2022. The recidivists included 198 under the age of 14 and 24 aged 10 or 11.  

Youthlaw’s position 

  • Youthlaw analysis of youth crime data is that youth crime has significantly reduced over the past decade and that spikes are driven by the same things as has been the case over the decades. These include economic disadvantage and inadequate services and supports for young people and their families, to address family violence, childhood abuse, mental health and disability needs, and overrepresentation factors (discrimination, over policing etc.) of youth cohorts such as first nation, disadvantaged multicultural youth, those with childhood trauma & having been in the child protection system, and young women with complex needs.  
  • We support increasing the age of criminal responsibility to 14. Victoria has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world, and raising the age of criminal responsibility would bring it in line with international norms. Youthlaw considers this to be a necessary step to prevent the criminalisation of youth and instead promote early intervention prevention and treatment programs. 
  • Youthlaw also supports amendments to the bail law to give children the presumption of bail. The younger people are when they enter the criminal justice system, the more likely they are to become entrenched in offending.  

Useful links 

Crime Statistics Agency 

Australian Institute of Criminology