Australian Institute of Criminology

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Crime victimisation

  • ISBN 978 1 921185 68 7 ; ISSN 1832-228X
  • Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2008

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 percentages of reporting to police, such as sexual assault.

In Australia, there are various sources of crime victimisation data. The ABS conducts a national crime and safety survey on a regular basis, with the most recently released data from the 2005 survey. In addition, in 2005 the ABS conducted a personal safety survey which focused on men's and women's experiences of physical and sexual assault.

The method developed for crime victimisation surveys has been extended to address crimes of specific interest. One such example is the Australian computer crime and security survey, conducted by AusCERT, the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and state, territory and federal police agencies.

Source: References 16 and 17

Household and personal victimisation

The ABS crime and safety survey distinguishes between household and personal crime. Household crimes include those crimes in which the household (a group of persons resident in a private dwelling and sharing common facilities) is considered the victim of the crime. This includes home break-in, attempted break-in and motor vehicle theft. For personal crimes, it is the individual who is considered the victim of the crime. Personal crimes include robbery, assault and sexual assault.

Source: Reference 16

Household crime

Figure 41 : Households experiencing household crime in the previous year, 1993-2005 (percent)

Note: The scale for this chart is different from that of other charts as the percentages involved are small

  • The number of households reporting a recent experience of household crime decreased from 9% in 1998 and 2002 to 6% in 2005.
  • For all years surveyed, break-in was the most common household crime (3% in 2005, 5% in 1998 and 2002, and 4% in 1993).
  • A similar or slightly smaller percentage of households experienced attempted break-ins, compared with actual break-ins, over the survey years.
  • The least common household crime was MVT, with only 1% of those surveyed in 2005 having experienced a motor vehicle theft in the past year.

Source: Reference 16

Personal crime

Figure 42 : Persons aged 15 years and older experiencing personal crime in the previous year, 1998-2005 (percent)

Note: The scale for this chart is different from that of other charts as the percentages involved are relatively small

  • In 2005, 5% of persons surveyed were victims of personal crime in the preceding 12 months.
  • In all years, assault was the most prevalent personal crime experienced by victims, followed by robbery and then sexual assault.
  • From 1998 to 2005 the percentage of persons reporting experiencing assault increased slightly from 3% to 5%. Robbery and sexual assault remained relatively stable during the same period (less than 1%).

Source: Reference 16

Figure 43 : Adults experiencing assault or sexual assault, 2005 (percent)

  • In the 12 months prior to the survey, 7% of men experienced assault and less than 1% experienced sexual assault. For women, 3% experienced assault and 1% experienced sexual assault.
  • 41% of men reported experiencing an assault since the age of 15 and 5% experienced sexual assault in this time.
  • 29% of women experienced assault and 17% experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.
  • Overall, almost half (46%) of men and women reported having experienced an assault and/or sexual assault since the age of 15.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 44 : Adults experiencing sexual assault, relationship to offender, 2005 (percent)(a)

a: Most recent incident of sexual assault

b: Not released for males due to very small numbers

c: Includes acquaintance, neighbour, counsellor or psychologist, ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, doctor, teacher, minister, priest or clergy and prison officer

  • Of women who experienced sexual assault, 39% experienced sexual assault by a family member or friend, and 32% by an other known person, in the most recent incident.
  • Of men who experienced sexual assault, 44% of men experienced sexual assault by a family member or friend, and 35% by an other known person, in the most recent incident.
  • Men were more likely than women to have been sexually assaulted by a stranger (33% and 22% respectively).
  • One-fifth of women who experienced sexual assault had been sexually assaulted by a previous partner, and 8% by a current partner.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 45 : Experience of physical and sexual abuse before the age of 15, 2005 (percent)

  • A similar proportion of men and women who had been sexually assaulted by a partner had been physically abused as a child (27% and 28% respectively).
  • Over one-third of women (36%) who experienced sexual assault from a partner in the preceding twelve months had also experienced sexual abuse as a child.

Source: Reference 17

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, depending on the type of crime. The following figures show the estimated reporting percentages for different categories of offence from the ABS 2005 crime and safety survey.

Figure 46 : Selected crimes reported to police, 2005 (percent)

  • Motor vehicle thefts (90%), followed by home break-ins (74%), were reported more often to police than other major categories of crime.
  • Robbery (39%), attempted break-in (31%) and assault (31%) were less likely to be reported by victims to the police.

Source: Reference 16

The crime and safety survey asked respondents who chose not to report a crime to the police why they did not do so.

  • People mostly chose not to report a recent experience of robbery either because they felt there was nothing police could/would do (30%) or they considered the incident too trivial or unimportant (18%).
  • Similarly, the belief there was nothing police could/would do (8%) or that the incident was too trivial or unimportant (5%) were the primary reasons people did not report break-ins to the police.
  • The main reasons given for not reporting an assault were that the incident was too trivial or unimportant (21%), it was a personal matter or they would take care of it themselves (16%), or there was nothing the police could/would do (9%).

Source: Reference 16

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 by the ABS crime and safety and personal safety surveys. These were feelings of safety walking alone in the local area after dark; feelings of safety using public transport after dark; and perceived problems in the neighbourhood.

Figure 47 : Feelings of safety walking alone in the local area after dark by gender, 2005 (percent)

  • Of those who did or could walk alone in their local area after dark, the majority (84%) of males reported feeling safe. In contrast, less than half (42%) of females felt safe doing so.
  • 44% of females reported choosing not to walk alone in their local area after dark because they felt unsafe, compared with 7% of males.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 48 : Feelings of safety using public transport alone after dark, by gender, 2005 (percent)

  • Of those who did or could use public transport alone after dark, males were much more likely than females to report feeling safe (74% and 37% respectively), while females were more likely to feel unsafe (17% compared with 14% for males).
  • Of this group, females (46%) were more likely than males (12%) to not use public transport alone after dark because they felt unsafe.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 49 : Commonly perceived problems in neighbourhood, 2005 (percent)

HBT - Home break-ins, burglaries or theft

VGD - Vandalism, graffiti or damage to property

DND - Dangerous or noisy driving

  • Home break-ins, burglaries or theft from homes (33% of respondents) was the most commonly perceived problem in respondents' neighbourhoods. Vandalism, graffiti or damage to property was second (25%), followed by car theft (17%).
  • 30% of respondents perceived there to be no crime-related problems in their neighbourhood.

Source: Reference 17

Cybercrime

  • As few police agencies identify cybercrimes separately, this section presents the results of Australian surveys of computer crime and security from 2003 to 2006, conducted by AusCERT, the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and state, territory and federal police agencies. The organisations surveyed represent the manufacturing, information technology, federal and state government, utilities, finance, and education sectors, and the number of organisations included differed from year to year. In 2003, 126 organisations responded, 137 in 2004, 100 in 2005 and 201 in 2006.
  • These data are not representative and caution should be taken therefore when generalising from the following data.

Source: Reference 19

The proportion of surveyed organisations who reported experiencing electronic attacks that harmed the confidentiality, integrity or availability of network data or systems decreased from 42% in 2003 to 22% in 2006. Almost half the organisations that responded in 2004 reported at least one type of electronic attack.

Figure 50 : Most common computer crime and security breaches, 2003-06 (percent)

  • Virus/worm/trojan infections were the most common breach. Around 80% of organisations in 2003 and 2004 experienced this type of breach, but the proportion dropped to 60% in 2005 and 2006.
  • The second most common breach was laptop theft.
  • Insider abuse of computer systems was the third most common type of breach. This increased over the four year period, from 26% in 2003 to 32% in 2006.

Source: Reference 19

Figure 51 : Major sources of financial loss due to computer crime and security breaches, 2003-06 ($ million)

  • Virus/worm/trojan infections, laptop theft and financial fraud consistently generated the highest costs to surveyed organisations between 2003 and 2006.
  • The cost of virus/worm/trojan infections varied over the four year period, before dropping to $1.24 million in 2006. The large increase in 2004 was mostly due to costs reported by one company.
  • Costs associated with laptop theft also fluctuated. In 2006, laptop theft accounted for an estimated cost of $2.27 million.
  • Self-reported financial fraud decreased from $3.53 million in 2003 to $0.94 million in 2006.

Source: Reference 19