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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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LIKELIHOOD OF VICTIMS REPORTING CRIME TO POLICE

Not all victims of crime report an incident to police resulting in a level of under-reporting of crime in the community. Under-reporting of crime results in an incomplete picture of total crime, victims and offenders and may therefore have an impact on community crime prevention and control strategies, and decisions about the allocation of police resources. Understanding the factors that affect the likelihood of victims reporting crime to police may assist in the development of policies and strategies to improve reporting rates in the future.

A person's decision to report a crime to police may be influenced by a range of factors such as: the characteristics of the victim; the nature of the offence; attitudes towards police; and the victim's relationship to the offender.

Assault is the most common form of crime against a person, yet it is the most widely under-reported offence to police. This article explores the various factors that may impact on a victim's likelihood to report an assault to police.

Data for this article are obtained from the results of the 2002 National Crime and Safety Survey (NCSS) - a household survey, conducted by the ABS, relating to the 12-month period ended April 2002. Further information regarding survey results and methodology can be found in Crime and Safety, Australia (4509.0).

CHARACTERISTICS OF VICTIMS

A person's age is a significant factor in reporting assault to police while sex is also a factor, but to a lesser extent. Reporting of crime increased with each age cohort (table 11.4). Young people had a lower reporting rate for assault than older people. Those aged 15-19 years had a reporting rate of 21%, increasing to 43% for those aged 65 years and over.

Males were more likely to report assault than females (33% and 28% respectively). Female reporting to police was much lower for those aged 65 years and over with a rate of 31% compared with 51% for males. Female victims aged 15-19 years had the lowest reporting rates to police with a rate of 17% (24% for males).

11.4 ASSAULT REPORTING RATES TO POLICE, By age group - 2002

Males
Females
Persons
Age group (years)
%
%
%

15-19
23.6
16.5
20.6
20-24
25.4
27.0
25.9
25-34
37.7
28.8
33.1
35-44
35.1
33.6
34.3
45-54
38.4
32.1
35.5
55-64
35.2
35.2
35.2
65 years and over
51.3
*31.2
*43.1
Total
32.8
28.4
30.8

Source: ABS data available on request, National Crime and Safety Survey 2002.


Marital status appears to impact on the likelihood of a victim reporting an assault to police, with married people having a higher proportion (37%) than unmarried people (27%) (table 11.5). The difference may actually be driven by age rather than marital status as younger people are more likely to be unmarried.

A person's labour force status (i.e. employed, unemployed or not in the labour force) does not appear to be a significant contributor to a victims propensity to report assault to police.

Victims in capital cities (29%) are marginally less likely to report assault to police than victims in non-metropolitan areas (34%).

11.5 ASSAULT REPORTING RATES TO POLICE, By selected characteristics - 2002

Persons
%

Marital status
Married(a)
36.8
Not married
26.8
Labour force status
Employed
30.2
Unemployed
29.4
Not in the labour force
32.8
Area of usual residence
Capital city
28.8
Balance of state/territory
34.0
Total
30.8

(a) Married includes those living in de facto relationships.

Source: ABS data available on request, National Crime and Safety Survey 2002.


CHARACTERISTICS OF ASSAULT

Differences were found in the reporting of assault to police by location of the assault (graph 11.6). Victims were more likely to report the most recent assault to police if the assault occurred at home (37%) or place of work/study (36%), than if the assault occurred in a public place or some other location (25% each).

Graph 11.6: ASSAULT REPORTING RATES TO POLICE, Location of most recent incident - 2002


Despite the propensity of victims to report an assault that occurred in their own home, victims were less likely to report an assault if the offender was their partner (17%) than if the offender was not personally known to them (48%) or was a neighbour (54%) (graph 11.7). Victims of offenders who were friends were also less likely to report an assault to police (23%). There was no significant difference in the proportion of victims reporting an offence where the offender was the victim's ex-partner, acquaintance or work/study colleague.


Graph 11.7: ASSAULT REPORTING RATES TO POLICE, How offender in most recent incident known - 2002



Physical injury is a major contributor to a victims propensity to report the most recent assault to police, rising with the severity of injury (graph 11.8). Over three quarters (77%) of victims would report an assault to police when admitted to hospital. Those injured, but not admitted to hospital comprised 42%. Only 26% of victims that were not physically injured reported the most recent incident to police.

Graph 11.8: ASSAULT REPORTING RATES TO POLICE, Whether physically injured in most recent incident - 2002


The number of offenders involved in an assault did not significantly influence the likelihood of a victim reporting to police (graph 11.9).


The use of a weapon influenced a victims decision to report the most recent assault to police (graph 11.10). Over half of victims (55%) of assault involving a weapon reported the most recent assault to police compared to victims where there was no weapon used (28%).

Victims that considered the most recent incident to be a crime were more likely to report the most recent assault to police (45%) than those that did not consider the incident a crime (11%) (graph 11.11).

Graph 11.9: ASSAULT REPORTING RATES TO POLICE, Number of offenders in most recent incident - 2002

Graph 11.10: ASSAULT REPORTING RATES TO POLICE, Use of weapon in most recent incident - 2002

Graph 11.11: ASSAULT REPORTING RATES TO POLICE, Whether considers the most recent incident a crime - 2002


SUMMARY

Victims were more likely to report the most recent assault incident to police if it was serious. The extent of injury resulting from the incident, the use of a weapon in the incident and whether the victim considered the incident to be a crime all had a significant impact on the likelihood of a victim reporting the incident to police.

Age also is a factor with older people more likely to report to police. The location of the incident and whether the offender was known to the victim also had some impact, with victims more likely to report if the incident occurred at home than if it occurred in a public place or some other location, and less likely to report the incident if the offender was their partner.

REASONS FOR NOT REPORTING

The most common reason provided by victims who did not report an assault to police was that the matter was too trivial/unimportant (29%) (graph 11.12). This is consistent with findings that show that victims were more likely to report incidents of a serious nature.

Less than a quarter of victims (24%) indicated that the incident was a personal matter or the victim would take care of it themselves as the reason for not reporting to police. Other reasons for not reporting included: there was nothing the police could do (9%); and police would be unwilling to do anything (10%).

Graph 11.12: REASONS WHY THE ASSAULT WAS NOT REPORTED - 2002


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