Trends in reporting criminal victimization to police, 1999 to 2009: highlights

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  • According to the 2009 General Social Survey (GSS), about one-third of self-reported victimization incidents were reported to police. Break and enter, along with theft of motor vehicle or parts had the highest rate of reporting to police. Spousal violence and sexual assaults were the most likely to go unreported.
  • Trends in reporting to police generally vary by offence type. Reporting of non-violent victimization and spousal violence to police have decreased between 1999 and 2009, while reporting of violence committed by someone other than a spouse remained stable over this same time period.
  • Based on the GSS, the heightened seriousness of an offence generally increases reporting to police. For non-violent forms of victimization, large dollar losses were linked to higher levels of reporting. In 2009, about 7 in 10 household incidents with a dollar loss of at least $1,000 came to the attention of police. This compares to 27% of losses with less than $500.
  • Between 1999 and 2009, the likelihood of reporting household crime incidents with large financial losses dropped from 84% to 68%, while actual incidents resulting in losses of $1,000 or more also decreased in prevalence (from 22% to 16%).
  • In 2009, more than half of victims who experienced the most severe forms of spousal violence indicated that the police were contacted, including 49% of victims who were sexually assaulted and 55% who were beaten, choked, or had a weapon used against them. This compares to 13% of spousal violence victims who experienced less severe forms of violence, namely being pushed, shoved or slapped.
  • The most severe forms of spousal violence, such as being beaten or sexually assaulted, have decreased in prevalence between 1999 and 2009, dropping from 19% of spousal violence victims in 1999 to 15% in 2009. Injury levels, however, have remained unchanged over this period.
  • Three measures of offence seriousness were associated with reporting non-spousal violence to police - injury, weapon use and multiple perpetrators. All three have remained unchanged between 1999 and 2009.
  • Reasons for reporting to police remained relatively constant over time. Topping the list of reasons for reporting violent victimization was the desire to stop the incident or receive protection from police, though this was more commonly cited by spousal violence victims. For non-violent victimization, a sense of duty and a desire to catch and punish the offender were leading reasons for reporting to police.
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