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Australia’s criminal environment

We operate in a complex environment. Understanding the dynamic and changing criminal environment is critical to determining how Australia responds. Our work is central to ensuring an informed, collaborative and connected national response to serious and organised crime impacting Australia.

The main features of serious and organised crime as it affects Australia are as follows:

  • Big business—The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that serious and organised crime cost Australia up to $47.4 billion in 2016–17, including $31.5 billion in direct costs and $15.9 billion in prevention and response costs. In 2011, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that global profits from transnational organised crime in 2009 were around US$870 billion—a figure that has undoubtedly grown since.
  • Destructive, pervasive and complex—Serious and organised crime is touching the lives of Australians in unprecedented ways. Criminal threats are more complex and pervasive than ever before. Criminals seek to exploit vulnerabilities, emerging technologies and perceived gaps in law enforcement. The impact on the lives of Australians is clear, from devastated families and damaged communities to lost income, damage to health, social impacts and the erosion of public trust.
  • Globalised—Our intelligence indicates that around 70 per cent of Australia’s serious and organised criminal threats are based offshore or have strong offshore links.
  • Concealed—Serious and organised criminals corrupt officials, employ professional experts to advise on complex methods and techniques, use violence and intimidation, and blend criminal activity with legitimate business to support and conceal their criminal enterprises.
  • Resilient—Criminal groups are enduring and resilient, collaborating for mutual gain and quickly dispersing or shifting focus when disrupted.
  • Cyber-savvy—Significant technology advances have offered new opportunities for serious and organised crime. Crime penetrates and capitalises on technology and the cyber environment. Criminal groups can now target thousands of Australians simultaneously from anywhere in the world and use increasingly sophisticated technologies to counter law enforcement efforts.
  • National security threat—Enhanced counter-terrorism efforts are being made throughout Australia, but the links between terrorism and broader organised crime and volume crime in Australia are unprecedented. This includes Australians who finance terrorist activities, leave Australia to support terrorist causes or return intending to harm the Australian community. It also includes Australians recruited by organised crime groups that are seeking the skills developed in foreign conflicts. We support our partners in identifying previously unknown individuals and groups, including domestic terrorism threats from ‘lone actors’.
  • Diversified—New forms of business are emerging in addition to traditional organised crime activities. This diversification into multiple criminal markets provides consistent revenue streams to finance higher risk ventures and enables criminal enterprises to respond to shifts in supply and demand.