What is Country of birth information in police recorded crime statistics and what can it tell you?

What is country of birth data?

Country of birth data comes from a question Victoria Police can ask alleged offenders and victims of crime and record on the LEAP system. The CSA obtains this information from Victoria Police and can then use it to produce statistics for the state of Victoria.

You can look at unique alleged offenders (a count of people) and alleged offender incidents (all the times people have been processed as an offender by police) by country of birth. For more information about these populations, see our glossary or explanatory notes on the www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au (External link) website.

 

What is the quality of this data?

Country of birth information is as self reported by the alleged offender or victim of crime. Victoria Police does not record an answer to this question in all instances. For alleged offenders, the rate of unknowns is approximately 11.3% and for victims of crime it is 66.8%[1]. Therefore, it is not possible to know the country of birth of all people involved in recorded crime and known to police.

The countries produced in the CSA crime statistics are as recorded by Victoria Police. Changes to country names or boundaries occur over time. Victoria Police record country of birth responses according to a list of available country names in their crime recording system.

 

What country of birth data can tell you

Which country an alleged offender was in when they were born.

 

What country of birth data cannot tell you

Knowing a person’s country of birth does not necessarily tell you anything definitive about a person’s:

  • appearance
  • ethnic or racial background or ancestry
  • language skills
  • religious affiliation
  • visa or citizen status.

It is not possible for the CSA to know if someone is a descendant of migrants from a particular country or region.

 

Do you know how much crime people born in a particular country are responsible for?

No.

There are several reasons for this:

  • not all crime comes to the attention of police
  • of the recorded crime that has come to the attention of police, investigations may be ongoing and not all crimes end up having an alleged offender identified
  • of all those alleged offenders recorded, not all are recorded with an entry for country of birth.

As a result, statements such as: “XX% of all crime in Victoria is committed by people from [particular country]” may be misleading and are not supported by the data. An accurate statement that the data supports would be along the lines of: “XX% of recorded alleged offenders with a known country of birth were born in [country]”.

Similarly, statements such as “X% of [particular offence] were committed by people from [particular country]” are not supported by the data. Whereas, “X% of alleged offenders who had committed at least one [particular offence] in the past year were born in [particular country]” would more accurately reflect the data.

 

What about overrepresentation and underrepresentation of groups from different countries in the crime statistics?

What people are generally trying to do when looking for under- or over-representation is to a) compare the size of a population relative to the broader community; b) compare the size of that group in the recorded alleged offender population relative to all offenders; and c) look at differences between their results from steps a and b. Interpretation becomes difficult for a range of reasons, including:

  • population data are not always up to date for emerging and/or small communities, and may be less accurate the further away we are from refreshed ABS population figures after the conduct of a Census of Population and Housing every 5 years
  • crime seems to be committed at different rates at different stages of life, therefore if a particular group of people are much younger or older than the general population, comparisons may not be as valid.

CSA advises caution when attempting to make these comparisons – it is trickier sometimes than it looks. Further queries about population figures and how you can best calculate and compare rates for specific groups are best directed to either the ABS demography area or a demographer.

 

Still not sure?

Give us a call or let us know what you are trying to look at and we’ll be happy to try and assist.

Crime Statistics Agency

info@crimestatistics.vic.gov.au (External link)

03 8684 1808 (business hours only)

 

[1] As per an assessment of the CSA’s recorded crime information as received from Victoria Police as at 30 June 2018. Country of birth information for victims of crime is generally considered to be unfit for general use due to the high levels of unknowns and is not released by the CSA as part of the regular recorded crime statistics.

Author
Crime Statistics Agency, 2018
Publisher
Crime Statistics Agency, 2018
Date of Publication

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