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Crime victimisation

The majority of industrialised countries conduct crime victimisation surveys to estimate the extent of certain crimes and the percentage reported to the police. These data are used to supplement police statistics and are particularly useful for examining crimes that have low rates of reporting to police, such as violent crime.

In Australia, there are various sources of crime victimisation data. The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts a national crime and safety survey on a regular basis, with the most recently released data from the 2002 survey. The Australian Institute of Criminology has been responsible for the Australian component of the International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS) which is conducted at four-year intervals, most recently in 2004. The ICVS was funded through the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.

The method developed for crime victimisation surveys has also been extended to address crimes of specific interest. Examples are the farm crime survey conducted by the AIC in 2003, and the 2005 Australian computer crime and security survey, conducted by AusCERT, the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and various state, territory and federal police agencies.

Source: References 17 and 18

Rates of criminal victimisation

The Australian component of the ICVS, administered by the Australian Institute of Criminology, provides the most current estimates of crime victimisation. A consistent data collection methodology was used across all jurisdictions. The 2004 Australian ICVS is based on a sample size of 7000 respondents aged 16 and over.

Figures 42 to 44 show the prevalence of crime in the community through victimisation rates from the 2004 ICVS. Victimisation rates are calculated per 100 persons and per 100 households, and estimate the percentage of people or households victimised once or more within either the preceding one year or five year period.

Overall, 52% of those surveyed experienced crime at least once in the previous five years. Within the previous year, 17% had been victims of crime.

Figure 42 : Percentage of surveyed households experiencing household crime in the preceding five years, 2004

Figure 42

  • A total of 39% experienced at least one household crime in the past five years, while 11% experienced at least one within the past year.
  • The most common household crime was theft from vehicle (19% in the past 5 years and 5% in the past year).
  • An estimated 3% of the households surveyed were affected by burglary in the year preceding the survey. A total of 13% of households in the sample were burgled in the five years to 2004.
  • Approximately 2% of the sample experienced motor vehicle theft in the past year, and 7% in the past five year period.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 43 : Percentage of surveyed persons experiencing personal crime, in the preceding five years, 2004

Figure 43

  • Approximately 29% of the sample surveyed were victims of personal crime in the five years to 2004, and 9% experienced it within the past year.
  • The most common personal crime experienced was assault/threats (18% of surveyed persons in the past 5 years and 5% in the past year). This was followed by personal theft (14% and 4%, respectively).

Source: Reference 18

Figure 44 : Percentage of surveyed persons experiencing victimisation in the previous year, 2000 and 2004

Figure 44

  • In 2004, 17% of the ICVS sample were victims of crime in the preceding 12 months, down from 24% in 2000, when the previous ICVS was conducted.
  • In both survey years, victimisation rates were highest for the offence categories of personal theft, assault/threats, followed by burglary.
  • Comparing rates of victimisation within the preceding 12 months over the two time periods, all crimes with the exception of robbery declined in 2004. Victimisation from robbery remained stable.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 45 : Number of crime victimisations in past five years, percentage, 2004

Figure 45

  • Incidents of crime committed against the same victims contribute substantially to the overall crime rate. 24% of the ICVS sample reported being the victims of crime two or more times in the past five years, compared with 28% who reported one crime and 48% who reported none.
  • Victims of multiple household crimes were more common than victims of multiple personal crimes.
  • The crime most likely to be experienced three or more times was assault or threat of assault: 19% of victims of assault/threat of assault reported experiencing three or more assaults or threats of assault within one year.

Source: Reference 18

Reporting crime to the police

Victimisation surveys are useful for assessing the extent of crime that is not reported to the police. Surveys find a wide variation in reporting rates depending on the type of crime. Figure 46 shows the estimated reporting rates for different categories of offence based on the ICVS in 2004.

Figure 46 : Percentage of crimes reported to police, 2004

Figure 46

  • Thefts of motor vehicles are more likely to be reported to police than any other of the major categories of crime included in the ICVS. 94% who had experienced motor vehicle theft reported the incident to police.
  • The reporting rate was also high for burglary, at 84%.
  • Victims of robbery (53%), attempted burglary (38%) and assault (37%) were less likely to report these crimes to police.

Source: Reference 18

The ICVS also asked victims of two offence categories, burglary and assault, who did not report the crime to police about their reasons for not doing so. Primary reasons given by victims for not reporting burglaries were that they thought there was nothing the police could do about it, the incident was not serious enough or the value of the property stolen was small.

Main reasons for not reporting assault were that the incident was not serious enough to warrant police involvement, the offender was known to the victim, there was nothing the police could do, and fear of reprisal from the offender.

Source: Reference 18

Fear and perception of crime

Concerns about crime are generally more widespread than recent direct experiences of victimisation. Three dimensions of perceptions of personal safety and risk of victimisation were assessed in the ICVS: feelings of safety walking alone in the local area after dark; feelings of safety waiting for or using public transportation after dark; and the perceived likelihood of experiencing a burglary in the next 12 months.

Figure 47 : Feelings of safety walking alone in the local area after dark, by gender, percentage, 2004

Figure 49

  • The majority of the persons surveyed felt either very safe or fairly safe in their neighbourhoods after dark. However, there were significant differences in the way in which men and women perceived safety.
  • Males were more likely to feel very safe (44%) or fairly safe (42%) walking alone after dark than females (21% and 38% respectively).
  • Women were much more likely to feel unsafe walking alone after dark than men. 26% of females reported feeling a bit unsafe, and a further 13% very unsafe. Among the men surveyed, 10% said they felt a bit unsafe and 3% very unsafe.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 48 : Feelings of safety using public transport after dark, by gender, percentage, 2004

Figure 48

  • Among those who used public transport most people reported feeling safe using public transport after dark.
  • There were significant differences in the way men and women perceived safety on public transport.
  • The majority of males reported feeling safe, while females were more likely to feel unsafe.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 49 : Feelings of safety walking alone in the local area after dark by age group, percentage, 2004

Figure 49

  • Most people in all age groups reported feeling safe walking alone in their local area after dark.
  • Those aged 60 and over were more likely to report feeling very unsafe when walking alone after dark in their local area than those in other age categories.
  • Those aged between 25 and 59 were more likely to perceive walking alone after dark in local neighbourhoods as either very safe or fairly safe, compared with those aged 16-24 and 60 and over.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 50 : Perceived likelihood of burglary over the next 12 months, percentage

Figure 50

  • Most (58%) of the sample surveyed did not think it was likely that their house would be burgled within the next year.
  • 29% thought burglary in the next twelve months was likely, and a further 7% thought it was very likely. By contrast, only 3% of ICVS respondents reported actually being burgled in the previous twelve months (see Figure 42).

Source: Reference 18

Farm crime

Studies of crime typically focus on the national or state/territory level or on large metropolitan areas. The 2003 farm crime survey is distinctive in its focus on rural properties and the types of crimes that affect farming operations. Figure 51 illustrates rates of various types of crimes against farms. The farm crime survey was funded by the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department.

Figure 51 : Percentage of farms victimised, by type of crime, 2003 (a)

Figure 51

(a) Figures do not add to totals due to multiple responses.

  • Overall, 17% of farmers surveyed reported experiencing at least one type of crime in the 12 months prior to the survey. 54% of these were repeat victims.
  • The most common type of crime reported by farmers was theft. Altogether, theft of farm machinery, equipment, vehicles, materials, tools or spare parts affected 6% of farms.
  • Theft of livestock was reported by almost 5% of farmers.
  • Farms located in remote areas were more vulnerable to livestock theft. Those in accessible areas were more vulnerable to theft of machinery or equipment or vandalism.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 52 : Reporting to police by crime type, percentage, 2003

Figure 52

  • 60% of crimes were not reported to police for reasons similar to crime occurring in other locations - a belief that the police wouldn't be able to do anything about it, and that it was not serious enough to report.
  • Theft of firearms was most likely to be reported (97% of such thefts), followed by theft of vehicles (66%) and farm residence burglary (55%).
  • Crimes least likely to be reported included illegal dumping of waste (22%), illegal hunting/fishing (28%), theft of fuel (33%) and livestock theft (35%).

Source: Reference 19

Cybercrime

As few police agencies identify cybercrimes separately, this section presents the results of the 2005 Australian computer crime and security survey, conducted by AusCERT, Australian High Tech Crime Centre and various state, territory and federal police agencies. One hundred and eighty-one organisations from manufacturing, information technology, federal and state government, utilities, finance, and education sectors responded to the survey.

These data are indicative only as the sample is not necessarily representative. Caution therefore should be taken when generalising from the following data.

Differences published in previous editions of Facts & figures may be due to differences in the organisations participating each year. In the 2005 survey 35% (n= 63) of these organisations reported experiencing electronic attacks that harmed the confidentiality, integrity or availability of network data or systems.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 53 : Computer crime and security breaches experienced in the previous 12 months by type of incident, percentage of surveyed organisations, 2005

Figure 53

IOT : Interception of telecommunications (voice or data).

TBPCI : Theft/breach of proprietary or confidential information.

UAPII : Unauthorised access to privileged information by insider.

TOCH : Theft of other computer hardware or devices.

DNPAHS : Degradation of network performance associated with heavy scanning.

  • The type of incident reported to have occurred with the greatest frequency in the previous 12 months was a virus/worm/trojan infection, reported by 64% of the surveyed organisations. This was followed by laptop theft, at 55%.
  • The type that occurred least frequently was interception of telecommunications (voice or data), reported by only 1% of the organisations.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 54 : Cost of computer and security breaches experienced by surveyed organisations in the previous 12 months, by type of incident, $ million, 2005

Figure 54

TBPCI : Theft/breach of proprietary or confidential information.

TOCH : Theft of other computer hardware or devices.

DNPAHS : Degradation of network performance associated with heavy scanning.

  • The type of computer crime that generated the highest total cost to the surveyed organisations was denial of service attack, at $8.9 million. However, much of this was the result of a single organisation reporting a loss of $8 million.
  • Virus/worm/trojan infection and computer system abuse by insiders cost the organisations surveyed $2.7 million and $2.4 million, respectively.
  • Not shown on the chart are system penetration by outsiders, sabotage of data and networks, unauthorised privileged access, telecommunications fraud and theft of hand-held computers, each of which cost the surveyed organisations under $50,000 within the previous 12 months.
  • The total estimated 12-month cost of computer crime experienced by the 110 organisations that answered this question was $16.9 million.

Source: Reference 20