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Chapter 3: Crime victimisation

Prior to 2009, information relating to the experience of criminal victimisation in Australia was obtained through the ABS’ publication Crime and Safety Survey. Data presented in this chapter is drawn from the ABS’ annual publication Crime Victimisation, Australia, first published in 2010. As such, figures contained in earlier editions of Australian Crime: Facts & Figures (prior to the 2010 edition) are not comparable with those reported below.

The majority of industrialised countries conduct crime victimisation surveys to estimate the frequency of certain crimes and the proportion 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.

Crime Victimisation, Australia provides annual information that pertains to personal and household experiences of crime including repeat victimisation, reporting of incidents to police and perceived neighbourhood problems. The ABS surveys people and then uses this information to estimate the level of victimisation in the wider population. A key benefit of this methodology is its ability to estimate the level of crime that is both reported and not reported to police. One drawback is that is impossible to survey everyone, so all totals are weighted estimations drawn from a single sample.

Household and personal victimisation

Crime Victimisation, Australia 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 MVT. 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 17

Figure 35 Reported experiences of household crime, 2009–10 to 2010–11 (%)

Reported experiences of household crime, 2009–10 to 2010–11 (%)

Note: Population totals excluded households that did not report any incident of household crime in 2009–10 or 2010–11

2009–10: n=1,910,100

2010–11: n=1,798,000

  • An estimated 1,910,100 households experienced at least one incident of household crime in 2010–11. Compared with the number estimated in 2009–10, there was no significant variation in proportion for four of the six categories of crime. Specifically, 40 percent experienced malicious property damage, 16 percent experienced theft from a motor vehicle, 16 percent experienced other theft and four percent experienced MVT.
  • While break-ins increased by one percentage point from 2009–10 (rising to 14%), attempted break-ins decreased from 11 to 10 percent in 2010–11.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 36 Experiences of repeat victimisation for household crimes, 2010–11 (%)

Experiences of repeat victimisation for household crimes, 2010–11 (%)

Note: Population totals excluded households that did not report any incident of household crime in 2009–10 or 2010–11

  • It is estimated that the majority of households that experienced crime in 2010–11 were involved in only a single incident. These proportions ranged from 90 percent that experienced MVT to 75 percent that experienced malicious property damage.
  • Repeated victimisation was greater for attempted break-ins, malicious property damage, break-ins and other theft. Specifically, it is estimated that 16 percent experienced two attempted break-ins in 2010–11, while 14 percent experienced two incidents of other theft. Further, 10 percent of households were the victim of three or more incidents of malicious property damage and seven percent of three or more break-ins.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 37 Persons over the age of 15 years experiencing personal crime, 2009–10 and 2010–11 (%)

Persons over the age of 15 years experiencing personal crime, 2009–10 and 2010–11 (%)

a: Includes physical and threatened assault

Note: Population totals excluded individuals who did not report any incident of personal crime in 2009–10 or 2010–11

2009–10: n=1,110,200

2010–11: n=1,213,100

  • Assault remained the most commonly experienced personal crime in 2010–11. There was a minimal decrease in reported victimisation, with assault decreasing by one percent compared with the previous 12 months.
  • In 2010–11, it is estimated that six percent of people over the age of 15 years experienced a robbery, while five percent were the victim of sexual assault. The proportion reporting sexual assault victimisation increased by one percent from 2009–10.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 38 Experience of repeat victimisation for personal crimes, 2010–11 (%)

Experience of repeat victimisation for personal crimes, 2010–11 (%)

Note: Population totals excludes individuals who did not report any incident of personal crime in 2009–10 or 2010–11. Excludes incidents of personal crime that could not be categorised

  • The majority of people over the age of 15 years experienced just one incident of personal crime in 2010–11. For example, it is estimated that of those people who experienced personal crime, 55 percent experienced one incident of physical assault and only 19 percent experienced two. Similarly, 46 percent were threatened with assault on one occasion compared with 21 percent who reported two incidents of victimisation.
  • For assault, greater proportions of people aged 15 years and over experienced three or more incidents rather than just two. In 2010–11, it is estimated that 26 percent were physically assaulted on three or more occasions, while 33 percent were threatened.
  • Approximately, 76 percent of people who were the victim of a personal crime were the victim of a single robbery in 2010–11, compared with 12 percent who were the victim of two robberies and a further 12 percent who were robbed in three or more incidents.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 39 Victim of personal crime by sex, 2010–11 (%)

Victim of personal crime by sex, 2010–11 (%)

Note: Population totals excluded individuals who did not report any incident of personal crime in 2009–10 or 2010–11

  • Of all males who experienced personal crime in 2010–11, 44 percent were physically assaulted, compared with only 39 percent of females. Forty-five percent of females were threatened with assault compared with 48 percent of males.
  • It is estimated that only one percent of males were sexually assaulted in 2010–11 compared with 10 percent of females.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 40 Male victims of assault by location, 2010–11 (%)

Male victims of assault by location, 2010–11 (%)

a: Includes locations such as train stations, bus stops or interchanges and shopping centres

Note: POS=place of study. POE=place of entertainment

  • In 2010–11, males were most likely (22%) to have been physically assaulted in their own home, followed by their place of work or study (18%), the street (18%) and a place of entertainment (17%).
  • Conversely, males were more likely to have been threatened with assault at their place of work or study (25%), followed by their home (21%) and the street (18%).
  • Only an estimated four percent of physical assaults and seven percent of threatened assaults of males occurred in a public or private vehicle.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 41 Female victims of assault by location, 2010–11 (%)

Female victims of assault by location, 2010–11 (%)

a: Includes locations such as train stations, bus stops or interchanges and shopping centres

Note: POS=place of study. POE=place of entertainment.

  • It is estimated that 45 percent of females who were physically assaulted in 2010–11 were assaulted in their own homes. A further 17 percent were assaulted at their work or place of study, while nine percent were assaulted in another person’s home or on the street, respectively.
  • Females were also more likely to be threatened with assault in their own home (33%) than at their place of work or study (24%).
  • The smallest proportions of females experienced assault in a vehicle—five percent were physically assaulted and four percent were threatened.

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 estimated proportions of reports to police for selected offence categories in the 2010–11 Crime Victimisation Survey are shown in Figure 44.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 42 Incidents of household crime reported to police, 2008–09 to 2010–11 (%)

Incidents of household crime reported to police, 2008–09 to 2010–11 (%)

  • The proportion of victims who reported household crime to police varied depending on the type of crime. For instance, in 2010–11, it is estimated that 95 percent who experienced MVT and 80 percent who experienced a break-in informed police—the highest in the last three years. However, only an estimated 37 percent who experienced ‘other theft’ reported the crime to the police.
  • Reporting decreased in 2010–11 for a number of crime types. The most noticeable was the 37 percentage point decrease in reporting of theft from a motor vehicle. Similarly, the reporting of malicious property damage declined by six percentage points.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 43 Reasons for not reporting selected household crimes to police, 2010–11

Reasons for not reporting selected household crimes to police, 2010–11

  • Victims who did not report household crime to police did so predominantly because they considered it to be trivial or unimportant. This was the case for an estimated 58 percent of victims who experienced theft from a motor vehicle and 56 percent who experienced malicious property damage.
  • The second most common reason was that the victim felt that there was nothing that could be done by the police. It is estimated that this was the reason for not reporting for 31 percent of victims who experienced an attempted break-in in 2010–11.
  • An estimated eight percent of break-ins and eight percent of other thefts were not reported because it was a personal matter.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 44 Incidents of selected personal crimes reported to police, 2008–09 to 2010–11(%)

Incidents of selected personal crimes reported to police, 2008–09 to 2010–11(%)

  • It is estimated that the proportion of victims who report personal crime to police has been increasing over the past three years. For example, in 2008–09, only an estimated 30 percent of victims threatened with assault reported the incident to police; in 2010–11, the proportion moderately increased to 34 percent.
  • In 2008–09, only an estimated 39 percent of victims reported robbery to police. Despite decreasing by one percentage point from 2009–10, in 2010–11, 60 percent had reported the robbery to police.
  • In 2010–11, it is estimated that over half of victims (51%) reported incidents of physical assault to police.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 45 Reasons for not reporting incidents of assault to police, 2010–11 (%)

Reasons for not reporting incidents of assault to police, 2010–11 (%)

  • The belief that the incident was too trivial or unimportant was the most common reason for not reporting. This proportion was higher for threatened assault than for physical assault (36% as opposed to 29%).
  • The second most common reason for not reporting an incident of physical assault was that the respondent believed it was a personal matter. Specifically, this was the case for an estimated 22 percent of physical assault victims compared with 15 percent of threatened assault victims.
  • Conversely, it is estimated that 18 percent of victims who experienced threatened assault did not tell police because they believed that nothing could be done about the crime.

Source: Reference 17

Fear and perception of crime

Concerns about crime are generally more widespread than recent direct experiences of victimisation (Reference 28). In the Crime Victimisation Survey, the ABS measured the degree to which respondents perceive certain antisocial behaviours as neighbourhood problems.

Figure 46 Perceived social and neighbourhood problems, 2010–11 (%)

Perceived social and neighbourhood problems, 2010–11 (%)

Note: n=16,861,100

  • Driving-related problems were the most commonly cited neighbourhood and social problem in 2010–11. For example, it is estimated that 44 percent of people believed that dangerous driving was a large social problem while 37 percent thought the same about noisy driving.
  • Views were mixed in the perceived magnitude of the problem posed by graffiti, public drunkenness and the use or selling of drugs. An estimated 19 percent of people felt that graffiti was a small problem, while a further 19 percent thought the problem was large. Similarly, while 19 percent of people felt public drunkenness was a large problem, a further 17 percent felt that it was only a small problem.
  • It was estimated that of those people who felt that using or selling drugs was a problem in 2010–11, the majority (14%) believed it to be only a small issue.

Source: Reference 17

Scams

Scams aim to defraud an individual through deception. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) monitors the level of scam activity in Australia and publishes the findings in Target Scams: Report of the ACCC on Scam Activity.

The top 10 scams reported to the ACCC in 2011 involved:

  • advance fee/upfront payment;
  • computer hacking;
  • lottery and sweepstakes;
  • banking and online accounts (including phishing);
  • online auction and shopping;
  • unexpected prizes;
  • false billing;
  • job and employment (includes business opportunity);
  • dating and romance (includes adult services); and
  • computer prediction software (includes betting).

Source: Reference 18

Figure 47 Proportion of scams reported to ACCC, 2010 and 2011 (%)

Proportion of scams reported to ACCC, 2010 and 2011 (%)

a: Includes phishing

b: Includes business opportunity

c: Includes adult services

d: Includes betting

  • The proportion of scams involving advance fee/upfront payment, computer hacking, and lottery and sweepstakes increased between 2010 and 2011. This increase was most noticeable for computer hacking scams, which increased from 12 percent of all reported scams to 23 percent—a total increase of 11 percentage points.
  • Conversely, the proportion of reported scams involving online auctions and shopping, unexpected prizes and false billing all decreased between 2010 and 2011. For example, reports of online auction and shopping scams decreased by seven percentage points and false billing by four percentage points.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 48 Money lost to scams by proportion of victims (%)

Money lost to scams by proportion of victims (%)

Note: n=10,028

  • In 2011, 10,028 people reported losing money to a scam.
  • Less than one percent of victims reported losing between $500,000 and $999,999 or $1 million or greater in 2011. The greatest proportion of victims who reported losing money to scams lost less than $1,000.

Source: Reference 18

Figure 49 Reported monetary losses by selected scams, 2011 (%)

Reported monetary losses by selected scams, 2011 (%)

a: Includes adult services

b: Includes betting

c: Includes business opportunities

d: Includes phishing

  • The greatest proportion of scam victims who reported monetary losses were victims of dating and romance scams (48%). The next highest proportion were victims of computer prediction software (45%).
  • Despite being the most commonly reported scam in 2011, only nine percent of victims of advance fee/upfront payment scams reported any monetary loss. Similarly, small proportions reported losing money to scams involving computer hacking (8%), banking and online accounts (5%), unexpected prizes (4%), and lottery and sweepstakes (4%).

Source: Reference 18

Figure 50 Method of scam delivery, 2011 (%)

Method of scam delivery, 2011 (%)

Note: n=83,150

  • Only 28 percent of scams were delivered by internet or email in 2011. Over half (52%) were delivered by phone or fax machine.
  • Scams were less likely to be delivered in person (1%) or by mail (8%).

Source: Reference 18