More on Crime Victimization Surveys

Image From the responses I got to my earlier post on this subject on this blog and otherwise, I understand that the readers are seeing one of two possible benefits of Crime Victimization Surveys: 1. People will benefit from such surveys as they will get a tool to verify improving police performance, and 2. Police will benefit from such surveys as they get a tool to demand better resources for bettering their performance.

Both views are essentially saying that such interventions will make the  police more democratic(people-oriented) in its performance and it will be resourced with due accountability.  So if these outcomes  become a reality, the periodic surveys can become an instrument for the much desired ‘police reforms’.

Crime Victimization Surveys are not a new policy tool for focusing police’s attention on the actual victimization due to various types of crime taking place in society, irrespective of the police statistics on crime. Basically, the surveys bring into measurement focus the specific crime and safety issues that need attention locally. They have also been used to allocate resources to police to enable delivering better services.  In the USA, such surveys have been part of the process since 1973 (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=245). The Australian Government conducts this periodic crime victimization and safety perception survey through its agency, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/cat/4509.0). Similarly detailed is the Hong Kong Crime Victimization Survey.

A Crime Victimization and Safety Perception Survey envisages eliciting answers to simple questions, from a statistically representative number of people, randomly chosen, police station wise. It further envisages repeating the questionnaire after a gap of time like say, six months or a year, to a substantial part of the same set of people from the earlier data set, and adding a small percentage of new interviewees into the subsequent surveys. This gives a continuum for assessing the systemic improvements made by police on the safety concerns thrown up in the earlier survey. The Safety perception part of the survey questionnaire will have questions like, ‘What time of the evening will you start worrying if your daughter is not home yet?’ or ‘How many days do you feel safe keeping your home locked when you are out on a holiday?’ or ‘How safe do you feel living alone in the house as a senior citizen in your locality?’, and will give some sense of public perception of safety in each police station area. The findings will give the police stations and the supervisory police hierarchy definite goals with which to improve this public perception on specific concerns. Similarly on the crime victimization part, the survey asks questions about  experiences of being victimized by crimes, irrespective of whether they were reported to police or not.  These questions could be like, whether one has been robbed of one’s possession in public spaces, whether one has been a victim of house breaking, or whether women respondents have experienced violence-sexual or otherwise in public spaces or in homes, whether anyone has been a victim of violent, rowdy behavior in public spaces, whether one was threatened with injury etc. The survey delves into supplementary questions to each such experience reported in order to extract details of time, place and narrative of these incidents. The answers to these questions can give a sense of actual crime taking place in society, notwithstanding the police statistics on crime.

Periodic surveys could encourage more reporting of crime to the police by the public, indicating the building of more faith in the police portion of the criminal justice system. They would also encourage more registration of crime at the police station and lessen the police tendency to not register as FIR all the reported crimes, since actual crime victimization in the jurisdiction is being periodically measured.

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