Dennis Giever, Department of Criminology, along with IUP alumnus A. Avdija, recently published an article, “Path Analysis: Constructing a Causal Path Model of Correlates that Directly and Indirectly Affect Crime-Reporting Behavior,” in the Law Enforcement Executive Forum Journal.
PDF Article available for download
Many people experience crime, but choose not to report it to the police. If members of the public fail to contact the police about a criminal incident they have experienced or witnessed, it will remain undetected (Coleman & Moynihan, 1996; Mosher, Miethe, & Philips, 2002). Unfortunately, a large number of crimes never reach the attention of the police. In fact, the number of crimes not reported to the police is much larger than the number of crimes reported to the police or recorded by police officials (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c; Helfgott, 2008; Mosher et al., 2002; Pilkington, 1995; Taylor, 2003). Research shows that in 2000, only 39 percent of approximately 25.4 million crimes against persons and property crimes were reported to the police (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003). Although willingness to report crimes to the police has shown an increase in recent years, still more than half of crimes do not get the attention of the police. By the type of crimes, less than 40 percent of property crimes get reported to the police. Violent crimes, on the other hand, are reported at slightly higher rates (47 percent) compared to property crimes (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007).
The problem of unreported crimes to the police becomes much more disturbing when looking within the age category of those victimized. Most crimes against children, for example, are not reported to the police. Comparing the number of unreported crimes against children with the number of unreported crimes among the general population, statistics show that the number of unreported crimes against children is twice as high (Finkelhor, Wolak, & Berliner, 2001). Research shows that most cases of sexual and physical assaults against children are kept in secrecy. Only 28 percent of crimes against children are reported to the police (Finkelhor & Ormrod, 1999, 2000). Demographically, statistics show that young people ages 12 to 24 comprise 22 percent of the population in the United States, but disproportionately represent 35 percent of murder victims and 49 percent of serious violent crime victims (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997). Yet, their crime-reporting behavior is much lower than that of the older population (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002b, 2003, 2005a, 2007; Byrne, Conway, & Ostermeyer, 2005; Carcach, 1997; see also Hindelang, 1976; Tanton & Jones, 2003). This gives us grounds to believe that crime-reporting is selective, and many reasons why people do not report crimes to the police are not well understood.