Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Online survey of victims of crime in the Australian Capital Territory

Representativeness and general demographics

As a component of the research, an anonymous online survey of victims of crime in the Australian Capital Territory was undertaken in May and June of 2009. The response rate for the survey was not as high as anticipated, with only 149 valid responses received at the end of the extended survey period. The survey results were not representative of the total population and for this reason, the results cannot be compared with statistics from the previous section.

A greater proportion of women than men completed the online survey (n=84 cf n=64; see Table 12). The level of education for those completing the online survey was high, with 85 percent (n=127) of the sample having completed a level of education greater than Year 12.

Respondents were most likely to have reported a break and enter (males 33%; females 31%) or an assault (males 25%; females 18%) as the last crime for which they were a victim (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 Last crime that victims reported occurring in the previous two years by gender (%)

Last crime that victims reported occurring in the previous two years by gender (%)

a: Respondents could select more than one category and therefore percentages do not total 100

Source: AIC, ACT Victims of Crime Online Survey [computer file]

Source: AIC ACT Victims of Crime Online Survey [computer file]

Table 11 Accepted referrals by agency, 2008–09
Supporting agency Issues/referrals (n) Issues/referrals (%)
Home Safety Program (SupportLink) 2,562 56.5
City Rangers 204 4.5
Victim Support ACT 155 3.4
Directions 146 3.2
Richmond Fellowship 119 2.6
DVCS 101 2.2
Conflict Resolution Service 99 2.2
Coroners Support (SupportLink) 98 2.2
Neighborhood Watch ACT 84 1.9
Mental Health Foundation 82 1.8
Centrecare Counselling 81 1.8
Standby Suicide Bereavement (SupportLink) 53 1.2
Menslink 52 1.1
Womens Information and Referral Line 52 1.1
Carers ACT 51 1.1
CRCC 48 1.1
C@W-FSP 43 0.9
National Mensline 37 0.8
PCYC 37 0.8
SCOPE 36 0.8
Relationships Australia 32 0.7
INANNA 31 0.7
ACT Parent line 30 0.7
Home Safety Assessments (SupportLink) 29 0.6
Reconnect 27 0.6
Canberra Family Support 26 0.6
Woden Community Service Family Support 23 0.5
Lone Fathers Association 22 0.5
Centre for Road Trauma 20 0.4
Marymead Family Support 17 0.4
Northside Community Service HACC 16 0.4
Domestic Animal Services 15 0.3
Northside Community Service Family Support 14 0.3
Gungahlin Regional Community Service Family Support 12 0.3
C@W-HACC 12 0.3
Navigate (YWCA) 9 0.2
National Association of Loss and Grief 9 0.2
BCS 8 0.2
Canberra Family Relationship Centre 7 0.2
Parking Operations 6 0.1
Sids and Kids 4 0.1
Canberra Uni Counselling 4 0.1
GRCS-HACC Case Manager 3 0.1
C@W-Youth 3 0.1
Marymead 3 0.1
Supportlink -Manual 2 0.0
Compassionate Friends 2 0.0
NCSI-FSP 2 0.0
PANDSI 2 0.0
Elder Abuse Prevention Service 1 0.0
Winnunga 1 0.0
Public Advocate 1 0.0
Total number of accepted referrals 4,533 100.0

Source: SupportLink personal communication 2009

Table 12 Demographic profile of online victims of crime survey participants
Demographic information n %
Male 64 43
Female 84 56
Indigenous persons 2 1
Married/defacto 78 52
Education (Yr 12 or less) 22 15
Employed full-time or part-time 124 83
Total 149  

Victims’ experience with police

The majority of respondents (n=128; 86%) indicated that they had reported the last crime they were a victim of to the police.

Of those who did not report their last victimisation experience to police (n=21; 14%), six reported they felt that the police would be unwilling to do anything, four said that someone else reported the crime to police and three reported that there was nothing the police could do. There did not appear to be a link between the seriousness of a crime and the likelihood of reporting.

Respondents indicated a range of reasons for reporting a crime to the police, which were supported by the findings from the 1996 ICVS (Van Dijk, Van Kesteren & Smit 2008). These reasons are outlined in Table 13.

For those involved in either a personal offence (assault, sexual assault, stalking or robbery) or a property offence (break and enter, motor vehicle theft, other theft, fraud, arson or property damage), the most important reason for reporting a crime was in the hope that offenders will be caught and punished (see Table 13). Where the most recent offence was a property crime, individuals were significantly more likely to report that the reason for reporting the crime was because all crimes should be reported, in the hope property would be recovered or so I could claim on insurance.

In terms of the level of satisfaction with the police response to reported crime, respondents were asked to respond to a series of attitudinal statements. These statements were:

  • the police treated me fairly;
  • the police were polite and courteous;
  • I was updated regularly about police investigations into my matter;
  • I was provided with information and/or assistance about crime prevention/personal protection;
  • I was told about any modifications made to charges laid against the accused (if applicable); and
  • I was told about charges laid against the accused (if applicable).

Respondents were able to answer on a 5-point Likert scale—strongly agree, agree, no opinion or not sure, disagree, strongly disagree or not applicable. Generally respondents agreed that the police treated them fairly (70%) and that the police were polite and courteous (80%; see Figure 4). However, most respondents disagreed that police updated them regularly (62%) and almost half of respondents disagreed with the statement that they were provided with information about personal protection or crime prevention. Most respondents did not consider the last two statements to be applicable to them, but of those who did respond, most did not report they were informed about charges laid or informed about modifications made to the charges.

Figure 4 Opinions on police services by victims of crime

Opinions on police services by victims of crime

Source: AIC, ACT Victims of Crime Online Survey [computer file]

Respondents were also asked about overall levels of satisfaction with police. Responses were divided fairly evenly across the four choices—very satisfied (17%), quite satisfied (31%), not very satisfied (23%) and not at all satisfied (26%). For those who indicated they were not at all satisfied, they were much more likely to also report having a low level of satisfaction with the police (74%). This suggests that once a negative opinion of police has developed, it may be difficult to change this perception.

Table 13 Reason for reporting crime to police by broad crime typea
  Crime reported was a personal crime Crime reported was a property crime
Reason n % n %
All crimes should be reported/it is the right thing to dob 16 47 66 80
It was a serious/major/upsetting crime 25 74 49 60
In the hope that property would be recovereda 9 26 51 62
In the hope that offenders would be caught/punished 26 76 67 82
Needed to so I could claim insurancea 5 15 48 59
To satisfy other authorities 4 12 11 13
In the hope of avoiding repetition of crime to me 20 59 56 68
In the hope of avoiding repetition of crime to someone else 22 65 56 68
Needed assistance (eg to get home) 3 9 2 2
Third person reported crimea 6 18 1 1
Police were on the spot 3 9 3 4

a: A respondent may have had multiple reasons for reporting a crime to the police

b: Statistical difference exists between groups p<0.1

Note: 7 respondents did not answer this question, 8 respondents’ crime could not be defined

Source: AIC, ACT Victims of Crime Online Survey [computer file]

Police and the referral system

All respondents were asked whether police informed them about victim services in the Australian Capital Territory. Nineteen percent of respondents (n=29) reported they had been informed by police about victim services, 67 percent (n=100) said they had not been informed and the remaining respondents either were not sure or did not report the crime to police.

Of the 29 respondents who were informed about victim services, 19 reported that they accepted the referral. Those who did not accept the referral were asked to identify the reason why they did not take up the offer of assistance; the majority of these respondents indicated that they already had good support systems in place, or that they might contact victim services themselves. Other reasons provided for not accepting referrals included comments that they were ‘just not interested’, or that they did not really know about the types of services that could be provided. Further, an additional 14 individuals reported they had accessed victim support services at some point without being referred by police.

Victims’ experiences with victim support services

As mentioned above, 19 respondents accepted the referral from police and came into contact with victim services. It should be noted here that this small number of respondents does not allow for an effective quantitative analysis to be undertaken. Therefore, analysis of the data was conducted qualitatively.

Respondents were asked to identify the length of time between the victim being referred by police and victim services making contact with them. Only two reported that contact occurred within 24 hours, seven reported contact within one to two days, two in three to four days and six in more than 10 days. It should be noted that delays can be due to difficulties in contacting the victim initially but ideally, the length of time between referral and contact should occur within a matter of days. It would be beneficial to undertake a more thorough examination of the length of time between referral and contact, however, given the small sample size of the data provided, this was simply not possible.

For most respondents, the first contact with victim services came in the form of a visit at their home (n=14). Respondents were also asked to identify the type of support they were offered and the type of support they accepted. Interestingly, almost half of respondents answered ‘none/did not want support’ for one of these questions. This indicates that there is a proportion of people who accept referral but then later decide that they do not require support. Other than ‘none/did not want support’, the most popular categories for the type of support offered were:

  • information about being a victim of crime (n=11);
  • practical help (n=8);
  • help reporting the incident (n=7); and
  • help with the criminal justice system (n=7).

The most popular categories for the type of support accepted were:

  • practical help (n=7);
  • information about being a victim of crime (n=5);
  • help reporting the incident (n=5); and
  • help with the criminal justice system (n=5).

All respondents were asked about the type of further contact they might want with victim services and the type of support that should be offered. There were 137 responses to this question and respondents were able to provide more than one answer, with the four most common answers being:

  • practical help (45%);
  • help with a compensation claim (45%);
  • information about being a victim of crime (42%); and
  • help with the criminal justice system (41%).

Twenty-three percent of the sample identified ‘counseling/someone to talk to’ as something they would like to be offered if they were to access a victim service in the future. This is worth noting, given that preconceptions of victim support services are often premised on a belief that such services are limited to counseling—yet in this case, it is clear that there is a need for services beyond counselling and that some of these relate to a need for very practical assistance. This is reflected in the findings from the review of international literature, outlined earlier, which indicate that victims require practical support as well as psychological support.

In terms of levels of satisfaction of those who accessed victim services, most respondents reported being very satisfied or quite satisfied (n=12), with five respondents reporting being not very satisfied or not at all satisfied. When respondents were asked to identify the reason why they were satisfied with the support provided by victim services, the most common responses were that the victim service listened to them, were empathetic, treated clients with respect and were timely. Negative comments related to a belief that the service was overworked (which some considered produced a lack of sensitivity), that they made people feel like a number, or that there was a general lack of services offered.

There were 35 respondents who accessed victim services through a referral by police or via self-referral. These respondents were asked to respond to a series of attitudinal statements and questions about their experiences. The attitudinal statements included:

  • the victim service treated me fairly;
  • the victim service treated me with dignity and respect;
  • the victim service provided me with useful information;
  • the victim service provided a timely service;
  • the victim service provided me with a service which was tailored to my needs; and
  • if I were the victim of crime again, I would contact a victim service for help.

While it is acknowledged that the sample size is small, percentage responses to these questions are presented in Figure 5.

Figure 5 Opinions on victim services by victims of crime (%)

 Opinions on victim services by victims of crime (%)

Source: AIC, ACT Victims of Crime Online Survey [computer file]

As can be seen in Figure 5, most respondents agreed with the above statements. However, fewer respondents agreed that the victim service provided a timely service or that the service was tailored to the victims’ specific needs.

The final question in the survey asked respondents a series of attitudinal questions about the victim referral process generally. These questions were:

  • If I were the victim of crime again, I would want the police to contact a victim service on my behalf.
  • If I were the victim of crime again, I would like to be contacted directly by victim service after being referred by police.
  • I would want the police to share information on my matter with the victim service so that they understood how to help me.
  • I would prefer to be asked by a police officer before I was referred to a victim service.
  • If I was offered a referral to a victim support service by police, I would take it up.

The range of responses given to these questions is presented in Figure 6. The response to the fourth statement I would prefer to be asked by a police officer before I was referred to a victim service is particularly noteworthy, with 80 percent of respondents indicating that they agreed with this statement.

Figure 6 Opinions from victims of crime of the referral process (%)

Opinions from victims of crime of the referral process (%)

Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. VS=victim services

Source: AIC, ACT Victims of Crime Online Survey [computer file]

Conclusion

The online survey produced a number of interesting results, however, the small sample size does not provide a comprehensive representation of the larger victims of crime population. Despite this, it appeared:

  • Respondents were generally satisfied with the initial behaviour of police, but were less satisfied with police follow-up of their case.
  • Only one in five respondents reported being referred to victim services by police.
  • Practical help, information about being a victim of crime and assistance with navigating through the criminal justice system were identified as being the most sought after services requested by victims.
  • Most respondents who did have contact with victim services were satisfied with the service provided.
  • Eighty percent of victims indicated that they should be asked by police before being referred to a victim support service.