Earlier this month, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released new data on unreported crime from the National Crime Victimization Survey. Among other things, the data demonstrate the limitations of the FBI’s uniform crime reporting system, which even in theory only captures crimes that come to the attention of police.
There is a great deal from the BJS report that merits highlighting, but I’ll focus here just on the under-reporting of sexual assaults. This was the second-least reported type of crime covered in the report. The non-report rate for theft, the least reported crime, was only slightly higher, 67% to 65%. By contrast, the non-report rate for car theft was only 17% and robbery 41%.
It is not surprising that theft leads the way in non-reporting, because theft is often a quite minor crime. Indeed, 31% of the theft victims who did not report the crime to police identified as the main reason that the crime was not important enough to them. Another 35% said that they thought the police could not or would not help; presumably, this perception, too, is largely a function of the minor nature of the crime.
What drives the non-reporting of sexual assault seems to be a quite different set of dynamics. (more…)