Crime steady in Indiana, though public perceives increase

July 23 2007

A new Indiana State University survey suggests crime has held steady statewide over the past four years, despite an apparent public perception that it is on the rise.

The survey of 747 adults from all 92 Indiana counties found 17 percent reported being the victim of a property crime in the past year while 3.5 percent said they had suffered a violent personal crime and 15 percent said they know someone who has been charged with a crime related to methamphetamine use.

Responses in all three categories were virtually unchanged from an Indiana State University survey conducted in 2003. Yet 40 percent of those surveyed said they believe crime in their neighborhood has increased over the past year, compared with 31 percent in the earlier survey.

“There are a lot of factors other than personal experience that influence the public’s perception of crime. That perception could have been impacted by extensive media coverage of recent cases around the country involving missing children and murdered women,” said Bob Huckabee, associate professor of criminology at Indiana State. “It could even have been influenced by the many police dramas and so-called reality shows on television.”

The survey found 66 percent of property crimes and 77 percent of violent crimes were reported to police, compared with 83 percent of property crimes and 93 percent of violent crimes in 2003.

Asked to grade their local police and sheriff’s departments, 65 percent of respondents awarded an A or B, a slight drop from 68.5 percent four years ago.

“People are more likely to report a crime if they think the police can do something about it. While the survey shows a slight drop in the confidence the public has in their local police departments, it is within the survey’s margin of error. I’m not ready to draw any conclusions from that,” Huckabee said.

Fewer than half of the respondents gave high marks to prosecutors (47 percent) and judges (49 percent), while only 23 percent of respondents assigned an A or B to the Indiana Department of Correction.

Familiarity may play a large role in the public’s confidence in police, Huckabee said.

“People are closer to their local police. They see them and have more frequent contact with them than with others in the criminal justice system,” he said.

Another part of the survey suggests emergency officials have a long way to go in achieving public confidence in their ability to handle a terrorist incident. Only 25 percent of respondents say local first responders police, fire and medical personnel are “very prepared” or “prepared” to deal with a terrorist-like incident.

The Sociology Research Lab at Indiana State conducted the survey between May 14 and June 7. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.

Contact: Bob Huckabee, associate professor of criminology, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2195 or rhuckabee@indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

A poll conducted for the Indiana State University criminology departent by the ISU Sociology Research Lab found crime virtually unchanged in Indiana over the past four years, but the public perceives an increase in crime. About 17 percent of persons surveyed say they were the victim of a property crime in the past year.

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