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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 built upon 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 2010 edition) are not comparable to 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.

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 16

Figure 33 Reported experiences of household crime, 2010–11 to 2011–12 (%)

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Note: Population totals excluded households that did not report any incident of household crime in 2010–11 and 2011–12

2010–11: n=1,798,000

2011–12: n=1,748,400

  • An estimated 1,748,400 households experienced at least one incident of household crime in 2011–12.
  • Compared with the number estimated in 2010–11, there were fluctuations in the proportion of household crime for all categories, with the exception of break-ins and other theft. Specifically, 14 percent experienced break-ins and 16 percent experienced other theft in both years.
  • Attempted break-ins and theft from a motor vehicle both increased by two percent from 2010–11, while MVT and malicious property damage decreased by one and three percent respectively.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 34 Experiences of repeat victimisation for household crimes, 2011–12 (%)

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Note: Population totals excluded households that did not report any incident of household crime

  • It is estimated that the majority of households experiencing crime in 2011–12 were involved in only a single incident. These proportions ranged from 95 percent that experienced MVT to 77 percent that experienced other theft.
  • Where it occurred, repeated victimisation was greater in 2011–12 for break-ins, malicious property damage, attempted break-ins and other theft.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 35 Persons over the age of 15 years experiencing personal crime, 2010–11 and 2011–12 (%)

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a: Includes physical and threatened assault

Note: Population totals excluded individuals who did not report any incident of personal crime

2010–11: n=1,213,100

2011–12: n=1,211,000

  • Assault remained the most commonly experienced personal crime in 2011–12. There was a minimal increase in reported victimisation, with assault increasing by one percent compared with the previous year.
  • In 2011–12, it is estimated that five percent of people over the age of 15 years experienced a robbery, while four percent were the victim of sexual assault.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 36 Experience of repeat victimisation for personal crimes, 2011–12 (%)

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Note: Population totals excluded individuals who did not report any incident of personal crime. Excludes incidents of personal crime that could not be categorised

  • For robbery and physical assault, greater proportions of people over the age of 15 years experienced one incident rather than two or more incidents. In 2011–12, approximately 76 percent of people who were the victim of a personal crime were the victim of a single robbery, while 46 percent were a victim of a single incident of physical assault.
  • It is estimated that of those people who experienced personal crime, 44 percent were threatened with assault on three or more occasions compared with 35 percent who reported one incident and 21 percent who reported two incidents.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 37 Victim of personal crime by sex, 2011–12 (%)

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Note: Population totals excluded individuals who did not report any incident of personal crime

  • Of all males who experienced personal crime in 2011–12, 42 percent were physically assaulted, compared with 39 percent of females. Forty-eight percent of females were threatened with assault compared with 52 percent of males.
  • It is estimated that only one percent of males were sexually assaulted in 2011–12 compared with eight percent of females.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 38 Male victims of assault by location, 2011–12 (%)

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

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

  • In 2011–12, males were most likely (24%) to have been physically assaulted in their place of work or study, followed by the street (21%), their own home (19%) or a place of entertainment (13%).
  • Similarly, male victims were more likely to have been threatened with assault at their place of work or study (34%), followed by their home (19%) or the street (14%).
  • Only an estimated four percent of physical assaults and three percent of threatened assaults of males occurred in a public or private vehicle.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 39 Female victims of assault by location, 2011–12 (%)

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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 nearly half of females who were physically assaulted in 2011–12 were assaulted in their own homes (48%). A further 19 percent were assaulted at their work or place of study, 11 percent were assaulted in another person’s home and eight percent were assaulted on the street.
  • Females were also slightly more likely to be threatened with assault in their own home (34%) than at their place of work or study (32%).
  • The smallest proportions of females experienced assault in a vehicle—two percent were physically assaulted and three percent were threatened.

Source: Reference 16

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 2011–12 Crime Victimisation Survey are shown in Figure 40.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 40 Incidents of household crime reported to police, 2009–10 to 2011–12 (%)

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  • The proportion of victims who reported household crime to police varied depending on the type of crime. For instance, in 2011–12, it is estimated that 93 percent of those who experienced MVT and 79 percent who experienced a break-in informed police. However, only an estimated 38 percent who experienced other thefts reported the crime to the police.
  • Reporting decreased slightly in 2011–12 for all household crime types with the exception of other thefts. The most noticeable was a five percentage point decrease in reporting of attempted break-ins.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 41 Reasons for not reporting selected household crimes to police, 2011–12 (%)

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  • 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 57 percent of victims who experienced malicious property damage, 51 percent of victims who experienced theft from a motor vehicle and 50 percent who experienced other theft.
  • 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 theft from a motor vehicle.
  • An estimated nine percent of other thefts were not reported because it was considered a personal matter.
  • Twenty-eight percent of break-ins were not reported because the victim believed that nothing could be done about the crime.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 42 Incidents of selected personal crimes reported to police, 2008–09 to 2011–12 (%)

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  • It is estimated that the proportion of victims threatened with assault who report to police has been increasing over the past four years. In 2008–09, only an estimated 30 percent of victims threatened with assault reported the incident to police while in 2011–12, the proportion increased to 38 percent.
  • An estimated 53 percent of victims reported robbery to police in 2011–12. This was a decrease of seven percentage points from 2010–11.
  • In 2011–12, it is estimated that just under half of victims (49%) reported incidents of physical assault to police.

Source: Reference 16

Figure 43 Reasons for not reporting incidents of assault to police, 2011–12 (%)

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  • The belief that the incident was too trivial or unimportant was the most common reason for not reporting assault to the police. This proportion was the same for physical assault and threatened assault (34% respectively).
  • 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 19 percent of physical assault victims compared with 16 percent of threatened assault victims.
  • In 2011–12, an estimated 14 percent of victims who experienced physical assault and 14 percent of victims who were threatened with assault did not tell police because they believed that nothing could be done about the crime.

Source: Reference 16

Perception of the criminal justice system

Confidence in the criminal justice system encourages the public to report crime and participate in court processes (Reference 16). In the Crime Victimisation Survey, the ABS measured the degree to which respondents were confident that the criminal justice system operated effectively in providing services.

Figure 44 Perceptions of criminal justice institutions, 2011–12 (%)

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a: Includes those with no opinion

Note: n=17,153,900. All respondents aged 18 years and over

  • It was generally agreed by respondents that police treated people fairly (80%) and could be relied upon (82%).
  • Views were mixed in the perceived effectiveness of criminal courts in giving punishments that suit the crime. Specifically, 43 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, 36 percent agreed and 21 percent neither agreed nor disagreed. Similarly, 42 percent of respondents felt that prisons did not rehabilitate prisoners, while 29 percent agreed that they did and another 29 percent neither agreed nor disagreed.
  • Over half of respondents agreed that courts ensured a fair trial (57%) and prisons acted as a form of punishment (62%).

Source: Reference 16

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 2012 involved:

  • advance fee/upfront payment;
  • computer hacking (including malware and viruses);
  • lottery and sweepstakes;
  • banking and online account (including phishing and identity theft);
  • online auction and shopping (including classifieds);
  • unexpected prizes;
  • job and employment (including business opportunity);
  • false billing;
  • dating and romance (including adult services); and
  • mobile phone (including ringtones, competitions and missed calls).

Source: Reference 17

Figure 45 Proportion of scams reported to ACCC, 2011 and 2012 (%)

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  • The proportion of reported scams involving advance fee/upfront payment and computer hacking decreased between 2011 and 2012. Specifically, reports of advance fee/upfront payment scams decreased by five percentage points and computer hacking by 10 percentage points.
  • Conversely, the proportion of scams involving lottery and sweepstakes, banking and online accounts, online auction and shopping, and unexpected prizes increased between 2011 and 2012.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 46 Money lost to scams by proportion of victims (%)

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Note: n=10,572

  • In 2012, 10,572 people reported losing money to a scam.
  • Less than one percent of victims reported losing between $500,000 and $999,999 or $1m or greater in 2012. The greatest proportion of victims reported losing less than $1,000.

Source: Reference 17

Figure 47 Reported monetary losses by selected scams, 2012 (%)

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a: Includes betting

b: Includes adult services

c: Includes business opportunities

d: Includes phishing and identity theft

  • The greatest proportion of scam victims who reported monetary losses were victims of computer prediction software (47%). The next highest proportion were victims of dating and romance scams (46%).
  • Despite being the most commonly reported scam in 2012, 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 (9%), banking and online accounts (6%), unexpected prizes (3%), and lottery and sweepstakes (3%).

Source: Reference 17

Figure 48 Method of scam delivery, 2012 (%)

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Note: n=83,803

  • In 2012, 43 percent of scams were delivered by phone or fax machine, while 35 percent of scams were delivered by internet or email.
  • Scams were less likely to be delivered in person (1%) or by mail (7%).

Source: Reference 17