There are some crimes that families consider private matters. For a variety of reasons, when some people are assaulted, robbed or their property is stolen or vandalized, they elect not to inform authorities.
When law enforcers lack information, the known information paints an incomplete and inaccurate picture of what's happening in communities. Absent precise information, police have a hard time linking crime prevention resources with impacted areas. For instance, if a neighborhood experiences a rash of auto burglaries and only one person reports the crime, law enforcers would likely give the matter less attention than they would if an entire subdivision reported similar crimes.
On a personal level, the failure to report domestic violence can have deadly consequences. Unfortunately, a new study by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice shows domestic violence was among the least reported crimes in Utah during the study period. The survey found that 58 percent of the victims sustained multiple incidents of violence and 10 percent told researchers they had experienced violence 10 or more times.
Unless there is some type of intervention, the frequency and severity of domestic violence generally escalates, which can result in tragic outcomes. Of the 64 homicides recorded in Utah in 2001, a disturbing 26 of them stemmed from domestic disputes.
Reporting such crimes can be difficult since the victim is either a relative or spouse of the abuser. Yet, reporting domestic violence to police, who refer the cases to prosecutors, can connect abusers with resources they need to stop their behavior. If an abuser completes treatment, some sources say there is a 70 percent greater probability that individual will not repeat the violence.
Once domestic violence is reported, various agencies can work with victims to refer them to counselors and other resources they may need.
The Utah survey, funded by a U.S. Department of Justice grant, had other disturbing findings. For instance, 72 percent of victims who were assaulted without a weapon did not report the crime, and just under 72 percent knew their attacker. More than half of the victims of robbery and assault with a weapon did not report the crime. Two-thirds of the victims assaulted with a weapon knew the perpetrator.
With nonviolent crimes, such as theft or burglary, many victims simply felt the crime didn't merit calling police.
Utahns, for myriad reasons, need to get beyond the feeling that they need not report crime. Every crime is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. When pieces of the puzzle are missing, law enforcers get a skewed view of a community, not to mention how they also lose opportunities to intervene in domestic issues before irreparable damage occurs.