NATIONAL CRIME STATISTICS
National crime statistics aim to provide indicators of the level and nature of crime victimisation in Australia and a basis for measuring change over time. When 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; from the time that a person perceives they have been a victim through to reporting to police and the laying of charges. From among a range of possible ways of measuring crime, there are two major sources of statistics produced by the ABS that can inform the user about crime victimisation. The first of these is a measure of crimes reported to and recorded by police; the second is direct reports from members of the public about their experiences of crime as collected in household surveys conducted by the ABS. Neither of these sources will provide a definitive measure of crime victimisation, but together they provide a more comprehensive picture of victimisation than either measure alone. Both sources have a number of limitations, however, of which users should be aware.
Recorded crime statistics are the result of incidents coming to police attention and a subsequent decision-making process carried out by police in accordance with the criminal law. As such they are subject to different legislation, rules of operation and procedures in different jurisdictions. Fluctuations in recorded crime may also be a reflection of changes in community attitudes to reporting crime rather than a change in the incidence of criminal behaviour.
A complementary picture of the nature and extent of crime comes from crime victimisation surveys. One of the primary reasons for conducting victimisation surveys is that many victims of crime do not report their experiences to the police, and so are not counted in police data. Victimisation surveys provide information about the broader community experience of crime, including the volume of crime that is not officially recorded. Crime victimisation surveys are suitable for measuring crimes against individuals (or households) who are aware of and recall the incident and how it happened, and who are willing to relate what they know. These surveys allow crime information to be related to personal and household characteristics, and facilitate the study of patterns of victimisation over time and across crime categories. Not all types of crime are suitable for measurement by household surveys. No reliable victim-based information can be obtained about crimes where there is no specific victim (e.g. trafficking in narcotics) or where the victim is deceased (e.g. murder). Crimes of which the victim may not be aware cannot be measured effectively; some instances of fraud and many types of attempted crimes fall into this category.
In addition to the periodic ABS crime victimisation survey, the ABS from time to time may conduct more in-depth surveys about particular aspects of crime victimisation that are of a more sensitive nature, for example, violence. Different methodologies may be used in these instances which may yield differing results to other ABS crime victimisation collections. (For more information on comparisons with other surveys, refer to Information Paper: Measuring Crime Victimisation, Australia - The Impact of Different Collection Methodologies, 2002 (4522.0.55.001).)