Academic journal article Law & Society Review

Examining the Paradox of Crime Reporting: Are Disadvantaged Victims More Likely to Report to the Police?

Academic journal article Law & Society Review

Examining the Paradox of Crime Reporting: Are Disadvantaged Victims More Likely to Report to the Police?

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Reporting crime to the police is well established as a critical issue for the administration of justice. Most crimes become known to the police through victims, witnesses, or other citizens. In traditional practice, the police react to criminal events rather than proactively prevent them. Police rely heavily on both public knowledge and their assistance to become aware that a crime even occurred. Thus, without public cooperation, the police may be unable to maintain public safety (Skogan 1984; Tyler and Fagan 2008; Whitaker 1980). Police notification can also benefit victims by providing them with information about services that can help address socioemotional problems and other needs arising from victimization (Zaykowski 2014). Disadvantaged groups face greater risk of victimization than more affluent and structurally advantaged groups, and consequently may benefit the most from police protection and access to victim services (Desmond et al. 2016; Harrell 2007; Sered 2014). However, multiple studies reveal that many crimes are never reported to the police. Recent estimates indicate that fewer than half of all nonfatal violent crimes are reported (Morgan and Truman 2018).

Many explorations of the gap in reported and unreported crimes focus on crime severity (i.e., injury, use of weapons, greater perceived harm and more expensive property loss) as a key motivator for mobilizing the police (Baumer and Lauritsen 2010; Conaway and Lohr 1994; Goudriaan et al. 2006; Kaukinen 2004; McCart et al. 2010; Skogan 1984). At the same time, this body of literature has predominantly ignored explaining why certain groups may be less likely to report similar crimes, which is an arguably more important concern (for a notable exception, see e.g., Xie and Lauritsen 2012). Other research finds that marginalized groups such as racial and ethnic minorities and lower-class individuals hold more cynical attitudes toward the police as a result of negative personal and vicarious encounters (Anderson 1999; Berg et al. 2016; Brown and Reed Benedict 2002; Carr et al. 2007; Nadal et al. 2017; Sampson and Bartusch 1998), so it would not be surprising that these groups would also be unlikely to call the police for assistance when victimized (Desmond etal. 2016).

Nonetheless, despite evidence pointing to strained relationships between marginalized groups and the police, research suggests that social marginality is not related to reporting or may be associated with greater police mobilization in some circumstances. Findings on the relationship between race and class and reporting have been mixed, though the majority of research finds that females are more likely than males to report (Baumer Eric 2002; Berg et al. 2013; Felson et al. 1999; Tarling and Morris 2010; Wolitzky-Taylor et al. 2011; Zavala 2010). Recent studies have highlighted possible reasons for reporting among marginalized groups, including lack of other alternatives (Bell 2016; Xie and Baumer 2019; Xie and Lauritsen 2012). This research has also found that negative attitudes toward the police can be superseded by instrumental concerns such as immediate need for help (Hagan et al. 2018; Slocum 2018). This literature points to a potential paradox that despite holding cynical attitudes toward the police, some marginalized groups may actually be more likely to seek their help than people who are indifferent or have favorable views of the police.

Although there has been growing evidence of this paradox, research to date has not adequately addressed how reporting to the police varies across social groups within the context of criminal victimization. Questions still remain due to conflicting findings in prior research, particularly with regard to the relationship between race and class and reporting. This paper seeks to demonstrate that using an intersectional lens can resolve mixed findings regarding race and class by addressing the differing structural positions of women and men, including their relationships to economic and social control institutions (Anderson 1999; Bell 2016; Goffman 2009; Rios 2011). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.