More than half of the nation’s violent crimes between 2006 and 2010 were not reported to police, according to a study released this month by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The study estimates that nearly 3.4 million violent crimes went unreported each of those years.
One of the most common responses among victims as to why they didn’t report being victimized is that they believed police couldn’t do anything about the crime.
Rapes and sexual assaults are among the most unreported crimes, the study says. It estimates that 65 percent of all such assaults – more than 200,000 – go unreported to police every year.
According to the study, the majority of those crimes were not reported because the victim was afraid of reprisal or getting the offender in trouble.
University Hospital generally finds victims willing to report the crime after seeking help at its emergency room, it said. The clinic does receive calls, however, from victims assaulted in the past who never reported the crime but now want help.
“You wonder how many people are out there who have had this happen and never told anyone,” said Charlotte Murton, a crisis specialist at University Hospital’s Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services. “The majority of the time the offender is someone the (victim) knows, so that creates a dynamic of whether they’re going to be supported or be blamed.”
According to the study, victims in all crimes are less likely to report a crime if the perpetrator was someone they know or if it occurred at school, in public or at work.
About three-quarters of violent crimes that occurred at a school were not reported to police, the study estimated. The majority of the 450,000 crimes not reported at schools annually were dealt with in other ways, such as by notifying a staff member.
Property crimes also rank high among unreported crimes, with the study listing household crimes as the No. 1 unreported crime; about 67 percent of them were not reported to police.
Richmond County authorities say they see that on a regular basis. Victims often tell investigators they never reported the crime because they didn’t think the property would be found.
“We encounter people daily who have stolen property and we don’t know whose (property) it is,” Lt. Blaise Dresser said.
Investigators working on Operation Smoke Screen realized how many property crimes had gone unreported after the media reported that stolen property recovered in the undercover sting was being returned to owners. For seven months, undercover officers operated Cheap Cigarettes II, a pawnshop previously operating illegally on Peach Orchard Road, where they obtained a host of stolen merchandise and a list of burglary suspects.
The operation recovered 64 guns, 10 cars, numerous televisions, ATVs, lawn mowers and other items.
Sgt. Jason Vinson said many people called the sheriff’s office wanting to file reports months after the property had been stolen in case the property turned up in the sting.
The least likely crime to go unreported was motor vehicle theft. According to a study, 17 percent of motor vehicle thefts go unreported.