The levels of crime victimisation in the community, as well as people’s perceptions of their safety, are issues that impact directly or indirectly on the quality of people’s lives. Those experiencing direct victimisation in particular, may suffer financially, physically or emotionally. Fear of crime can affect people by restricting community engagement, reducing levels of trust and impacting on social cohesion.
There are a number of ways in which individuals, the community and governments gather information about crime victimisation in Australia. Statistical data is a key component of this information about crime and is critical to decision making, research and policy development.
The suite of statistics produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has expanded in recent years with the introduction of the redesigned Crime Victimisation Survey in 2008-09 (for further information please refer to Crime Victimisation, Australia cat. no. 4530.0). Faced with a variety of statistical information about crime, it is often difficult for data users to ascertain which data source is best suited for their particular needs.
Statistics need to be well understood in order for them to be useful in making informed decisions. In some instances results from different data sources may provide a different picture of crime in the community, with administrative data indicating a trend in one direction and survey responses indicating the opposite. The reality is that the different data sources collected via different methods can produce equally valid but quite varied sets of crime victimisation indicators. The challenge for data users is to understand the origins of these different datasets and be able to identify statistics that are most relevant for their needs.
The aim of this paper is to increase community understanding of how the experiences of victims of crime in Australia are measured and to explore why the findings from different data sources may differ. A working example of comparisons between two different data sources is used to demonstrate the impact of varying data collection methodologies on data for a range of offence types. Readers are also offered guidance about which data source is best suited to particular research questions.
- Chapter 2 outlines the available ABS data sources for crime statistics and highlights the main differences between the sources;
- Chapter 3 shows a working example of the differences between administrative and survey data using statistics from Crime Victimisation, Australia and Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia;
- Chapter 4 provides guidance on the suitability of each data source to answer specific research questions; and
- A technical note steps through the methodology employed for the analysis provided in chapter 3