Universität Bielefeld

© Universität Bielefeld

Institute for
Interdisciplinary Research
on Conflict and Violence

Post-Crime Conflict Regulation: The Fear of Crime and Variations in Reporting Offenses Depending on the Age and Ethnicity of Offenders

Short Description
The starting point for the project is differences in involvement in crime revealed by the data for different population groups. Specifically, the police crime statistics show a larger difference between crime rates for (young) migrants and Germans of the same age than are found than using dark-figure research or prosecution statistics. We investigated the role played in these discrepancies by the reporting behavior of victims and witnesses and the selection practices of the prosecution organs involved in investigations. To this end we:
- conducted a representative population (victim) survey,
- compared police and prosecution statistics on the basis of personal data, and
- analysed prosecution files.

We investigated the extent to which the reporting behavior of victims and witnesses of crimes depends on specific characteristics of supposed perpetrators and the extent to which reporting behavior and fear of crime are moderated by other factors, as well as the decisive mechanisms that lead persons who have committed criminalizable acts to actually be registered as suspects by the police, charged, prosecuted, and sentenced. On the basis of stress theory we are able to show that (encouraged by media reporting and public discussion) parts of the population perceive and assess members of clearly identifiable population groups (e.g. migrants, adolescents) as a threat because of their supposedly criminal behavior. Reporting supposedly criminal behavior to the police can function to counteract the subjectively felt threat.

The population (victim) survey found that victims and witnesses who believed that the perpetrator was, for example, not (native) German were more likely to file a police report. Alongside characteristics of the supposed perpetrator, reporting behavior is also moderated by victim characteristics (e.g. xenophobia, mistrust of migrants). On the basis of data drawn from analysis of prosecution files we are able to show that this reporting behavior toward migrants leads disproportionate initiation of investigations against migrants for trivial offenses. This is a major reason why ? as we found by comparing personal data from the police and prosecution statistics ? charges laid against young migrants are more likely to be dropped at a later stage by the prosecution service. Alongside ethnicity gender is also an important selection criterion for on the path from police suspect to sentenced criminal. Female suspects are less likely to be charged than male.
Herr Prof. em. Dr. Günter Albrecht
Herr apl. Professor Jürgen Mansel
Cooperation Partners
Fakultät für Soziologie
Institut für interdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft