Crime happens every day and it is an unfortunate fact of life. Every day, there is a chance that someone will become a victim. Sometimes crime is unintentional, but not reporting a crime that happens is an intentional decision 100% of the time. What is most disturbing, however, is what kind of crime is not reported to law enforcement.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 3 million violent crimes go unreported annually.
Unreported Crime Facts
The latest data, which comes from 2012, shows that nearly half of all violent crime is never reported to someone. This is a trend that has been going upward since 1994, which is also occurring at the same time that overall crime rates have been dropping. Could the actual crime rate, when all data is included, actually be climbing instead of lowering, as so many people have been led to believe through official statistics?
Why Does Crime Go Unreported?
- The most common reason why people do not report a crime is that they have a concern with the criminal justice system, accounting for 39% of all unreported incidents.
- 13% of people who are the victims of a crime don’t report it because they don’t want to get the offender in trouble or fear that they might become a target of the offender for ongoing victimization.
- 62% of the violent crime that occurs in the United States is perpetrated by someone the victim knows.
- 3 out of every 4 violent crime incidents that occur at a school is never reported to police, even if the incident has been reported to a school official.
- A crime against a 12-17 year old victim is the most likely to never be reported to a law enforcement official.
Would you be a snitch? That’s what the perspective today when someone goes to get legal help when they’ve become a victim of a crime. It’s a shaming perspective that is done to create guilt within the person who has been victimized. The goal is to blame the victim for the crime so that the perpetrator feels justified in the actions that they have committed. The only way to get this to stop is to encourage people to seek out help, even if they are not comfortable in getting help from a police officer. Even for the 4-5% of people who believe that a law enforcement agency will be biased against them, there are options available in almost every community that will provide assistance when unreported crime happens.
How Serious Are The Unreported Crimes That Happen?
- According to a law professor at the University of Kansas, it is estimated that over 1 million rapes have gone unreported over the past two decades in the US alone.
- More than 200,000 cases of unreported sexual assaults are thought to occur every year that go unreported as well.
- Assault reports have gone down by about 10%, but victim reports actually show a 13% increase in injuries being reported.
- The use of a gun to commit a crime occurs in 1 out of ever 4 incidents and this rate has held steady for nearly a generation.
- The most common reason why a crime goes unreported is that a victim chooses to deal with it in another way, which is most often in a personal, private way.
- Even a crime that is committed by a casual acquaintance will go unreported more often than a crime that is committed by a complete stranger.
- It is believe that the amount of series unreported crimes has dropped by 8% over the last two decades, but only as an estimate.
If crime rates are spiraling downward for 20 years, then how are victim reports increasing? Even if one person is committing several crimes at once or in a short period of time, these mass incidents are counted as just one crime. Every victim becomes a statistic here and that seems to indicate that crime is actually going up in some serious categories rather than it going down. That’s not to say that people or agencies are trying to manipulate these statistics in any way. It just means that there is a discrepancy in the unreported crime statistics out there right now which should be accounted for and included in the overall crime data.
What Crime Goes Unreported The Most?
- Sexual assaults are 10% more likely to go unreported than a simple assault.
- Men are 10% more likely to let a crime go unreported than women are.
- About 50% of the crime that occurs at a school goes unreported because school officials attempt to handle the situation on their own instead of contacting law enforcement.
- Whites are more likely to let a crime go unreported than racial minorities. 46% of African American victims would let a crime go unreported, compared to 54% of white non-Hispanics.
- Over 450k violent crimes occur at a school every year and they are never reported to an external law enforcement official.
- Because of the lack of sexual assault reporting, it is estimated that only 3 rapists out of every 100 will ever spend a day in jail for the crime they commit. Only 8% of them will ever be prosecuted.
- For those who reported that someone had been stalking them in the last year, only 19% stated that they had made a police report.
- Only 1 in 5 fraud victims will ever make a report to a law enforcement official.
Why are people so hesitant to report a crime to a police officer? The recent events in Ferguson, MO might have something to do with it from an American perspective. The general public is growing very concerned about the militarization of police. Many believe that their local police don’t care about their individual needs and will only seek out help as a last resort. When officers are breaking down the wrong doors or accused of shooting someone who is unarmed, even if these instances are rare, they are reported quite often on mass media that is consumed on a daily basis. This forms opinions and those opinions keep people from getting the help they need. Or worse – people take matters into their own hands and end up becoming hurt all over again.
Why Are Schools More Likely To Let Crime Go Unreported?
- When crime is at a school, then students are less likely to submit an application or choose to enroll in classes.
- For one school in North Carolina, they had no records of sexual assaults occurring on campus in the last 11 years, yet police discovered at many as 17 victims who may have been assaulted up to 4 times in different instances by the same perpetrator.
- The atmosphere on a campus often involves victim blaming. In one incident, a man was convicted of sexual misconduct and given a $25 fine with 1 year of probation because the rape that was perpetrated wasn’t “severe enough” to be worthy of a stronger penalty.
- 3% of US schools report that they has never been a violent crime on their campus during the entire history of their institution.
- Nearly 20% of US schools do not have any sexual assaults on their records and another 16% show that there has never been a physical altercation.
- In any given year, 50% of US schools report zero incidents of a violent crime occurring.
- Federal education officials have only audited the crime reports of about 1% of the total amount of US colleges and universities.
One of the biggest reasons why unreported crime seems to be happening with greater frequency is the fact that many environments are geared toward allowing the perpetrator to get away with a crime. Law enforcement is lacking, sometimes not even present, and when a crime does occur, the victim is not believed. Why does this happen at schools? It seems that there is a concern that high crime rates would reflect negatively on the school’s reputation. At Urbana University, for example, there are no sexual assaults on their books, yet a female student reported to police that she was gang raped in her dorm room. What is safer? Pretending like something isn’t happening? Or being honest about the data so that true change can be made?
Does Other Crime Go Unreported More Than Violent Crime?
- According to research in 2013, it is believed that 67% of hate crimes go unreported every year.
- From 2007-2011, only 35% of the total amount of hate crime was reported to police. This was down from the 46% of incidents that were reported from 2003-2006.
- 92% of the hate crimes that were committed from 2007-2011 involved some form of violence.
- There are more than 1,000 hate groups that are organized every year, a 50% increase over just a decade ago.
- The increase in violence with the decrease in the amount of reporting is believed to be because of a fear of retribution occurring.
- This means that a hate crime is twice as likely to go unreported than the average crime that exists.
- When graffiti is included in the statistics, which is often reported as a code violation and not a crime, the statistics in many communities will nearly triple.
There will always be unreported crime. Sometimes it is just too much of a hassle to contact a police officer for a report when someone doesn’t have serial numbers recorded or insurance on an item that was stolen. There will always be a few that don’t want to interact with the police because they’ve had poor or negative experiences in the past. Some don’t trust the police. The problem is that when someone needs the help of a law enforcement official the most is when they are the least likely to seek out help. Between violent crime and hate crime, people are more willing to suffer in the silence of their victimization than seek help. Are reprisals a concern? Certainly. The fact that a lack of trust for the police is also a major reason for unreported crime is something that needs to change. If it doesn’t, then criminals are just going to take advantage of this situation.
Unreported Crime Is Not Just An American Issue
- About one-third of all crime that occurs in Canada goes unreported to law enforcement officials every year.
- Canadians allow just 6% of violent crime and sexual assaults to go unreported.
- In the UK, police report a 33% drop in crime over a 5 year period, but independent survey results show just a 17% drop in overall crime.
The issue seems to be one of trust. Sometimes that trust doesn’t come because law enforcement isn’t able to secure an arrest, much less a conviction, because there just isn’t enough evidence. It also tends to be a result of past history and conduct. Even though unreported crime is a global issue, the statistics clearly show that more crime in the US goes unreported than anywhere else in the world.
What Can Lower These Unreported Crime Statistics?
- Relationships with local police officials will increase the amount of reports that are made, but law enforcement must be the first to reach out.
- Easier methods of creating police reports would speed up the process and encourage more reporting.
- Guarantees of not having police action taken against someone who may have a history of police interaction could provide extra support.
- Having transparent policies, fast action, and open lines of communication between the police and the community will always have a beneficial effect.
If a community doesn’t trust its police force, then something needs to change quickly. Otherwise there will be more incidents where the public clashes with police officers and that’s not good for anyone involved. Encouraging victims to reach out for help and to get law enforcement involved is a good first step, especially with violent crime. People don’t have to suffer alone.