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Survey: Crime Victims Want More Help, Less Punitive Justice 

When it comes to public policy and criminal justice reform, victims surveyed largely took a less hawkish and more reform-minded stance: nearly 70 percent of victims surveyed told AJS that they would prefer reducing the number of people in jail by “releasing those who can safely await trial in the community or serve their sentence through diversion, community service, or treatment programs over keeping people in jail.”

A new report from the Alliance for Safety and Justice collects surveyed experiences and safety policy preferences among people who report being the victim of a crime. Study authors report that the survey results indicate a widespread disconnect between victim needs and justice system priorities.

The 2022 National Survey of Victims Views used a 10-year reference period to capture the experiences of repeat victims and a cross-section of occasional victims. More than six in ten survey respondents said they were victim of a crime in the previous decade, or 64 percent of all Americans.

Repeat crime victims bear a disproportionate share of crime and violence, according to the 2022 survey. More than 90 percent of respondent victims reported being the victim of more than one crime, and 63 percent of victims of violent crime reported being victimized repeatedly. AJS’ analysis found that victims of violent crimes were three times more likely to have been victimized four or more times.

According to the report, victims are turning to their families and personal support networks – to mixed results – in the absence of victim resources from the justice system.

ASJ’s survey found that 74 percent of victims did not receive mental health counseling. Around 80 percent of victims received help from friends, family, or the healthcare system; 20 percent from the justice system. The vast majority of violent crime victims did not receive any form of victim’s compensation, at 96 percent.

When it comes to public policy and criminal justice reform, victims surveyed largely took a less hawkish and more reform-minded stance: nearly 70 percent of victims surveyed told AJS that they would prefer reducing the number of people in jail by “releasing those who can safely await trial in the community or serve their sentence through diversion, community service, or treatment programs over keeping people in jail.”

People with prior criminal records themselves are more likely to be victims of crime, according to the survey. Those who have a past conviction are 140 percent more likely to report being a victim of a crime in the past decade than someone who has never been convicted as a crime, and they are nearly twice as likely to report being a victim of a violent crime.

Crime victims overall reported not feeling safe to report and, generally, a lack of trust in the justice system to protect them or deliver results. One in four victims of violent crime admitted that they did not report the incident to law enforcement. Among all victims who at some point decided not to report a crime, 42 percent cited a belief that “police wouldn’t do anything,” as one reason not to report, while another 25 percent selected they “didn’t trust the justice system to protect [them]” if they reported.

Unfortunately, those concerns are not completely unfounded, according to the surveyed outcomes from crime victims who did report incidents to the police. For more than 4 in 5 victims who reported crime to law enforcement, the crime was not solved.

For victims of violent crime, 23 percent reported that the case was never solved, 37 percent that ‘nothing happened,’ and 23 percent that police never communicated information about the case’s outcome. For victim’s families who lost a loved one to homicide, only 25 percent reported that law enforcement were able to solve the case and that a prosecution followed.

And family members who have lost a loved one to homicide are more likely to be victimized too — 62 percent reported being the victim of multiple crimes in the last ten years.

The Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) is a multi-state organization that works to advance public safety reform in states across the country through coalition building, research, education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing.

Read the full report here. 

Audrey Nielsen is a contributor to The Crime Report


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