MEASURING CRIME AND CRIMINAL OFFENDING
Crime is a product of the surrounding social environment and its occurrence is influenced by the complex interplay of environmental, social and person-level factors, as well as the policies of particular governments. These contextual factors interact in the lead-up to, commission of, and consequences of a criminal event.
Concepts relating to crime and justice can be challenging to measure and there are a number of ways information can be generated. Not all of the characteristics of crime can be measured adequately from data sourced from administrative agencies; alternative sources such as survey data collected from households or case studies can provide a more in-depth understanding of the complex factors related to crime.
Police are the primary agency responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal incidents. At the point where an incident of crime victimisation occurs, there are a number of ways in which this can be measured and a number of stages where a measurement can be taken. This can range from the time that a person perceives that they have been a victim, through to reporting to police and the laying of charges.
Data about crime victimisation are also measured via ABS household surveys which collect direct reports from members of the public about their experiences of a selected range of personal and household crimes. Crime victimisation surveys generally produce higher victimisation rates than administrative data sourced from police agencies.
Administrative data, while useful, do have some limitations. Administrative crime victimisation data are based on reported incidents to police agencies, however not all crimes come to the attention of police. The type of offence committed, the victim's perception of its seriousness and the police's ability to take action all influence whether an incident is reported. Some offences are also very difficult to detect.
Neither administrative data nor survey data provide a definitive measure of crime victimisation, but together these sources provide a more comprehensive picture of crime victimisation than either measure alone. Both sources have a number of limitations, of which users should be aware. For more detailed information about the differences between these sources and the implications about data comparability, refer to the information paper, Measuring Victims of Crime: A Guide to Using Administrative and Survey Data, June 2011 (cat. no. 4500.0.55.001).