Reporting a crime is an essential first step toward securing justice for the aggrieved. As Skogan (1977) notes, crime reports are also a basis for authorities to allocate limited resources for public protection. Not reporting crimes may therefore doubly disadvantage communities. It makes investigations of crime and access to justice difficult, which in turn can create room for perpetrators to continue victimizing others.
It can also lead to skewed allocation of resources to the detriment of communities where crime experiences are high but incidents are not systematically reported. When they have reliable reports of victimization events, the authorities can more reliably identify places that suffer insecurity and that, as a result, need to be prioritized in resource allocation.
Despite the Tanzanian police force’s efforts during the past decade to encourage citizens to report crime, Afrobarometer survey data indicates that a majority of Tanzanians who are victims of crime do not make reports to the authorities. This is not unusual; crime reporting rates are low in many countries around the world (Baumer, 2002; Gouldriaan, 2005; Fishman, 1979). Studies in other parts of the world show that people’s perceptions of police conduct and of how well the justice mechanism works can influence decisions on whether to report crimes. Fishman (1979), Baumer (2002), and Bennett and Wiegand (1994), for example, show that when the police are perceived to be inefficient, unhelpful, or uncaring, the chances of crime being reported decline. Azfar and Gurgur (2008) show that police corruption discourages crime reporting.
In the 2012 Afrobarometer survey, Tanzanian respondents attributed victims’ failure to report crimes to several factors, most importantly to inaccessibility of police stations, unresponsiveness of the police, and police corruption. But people’s beliefs about the motives and likely behaviours of others may not always be accurate. Moreover, there
may be other factors, not mentioned by survey respondents, that also influence whether or not victims will choose to report a crime. This analysis uses 2012 Afrobarometer survey data from Tanzania to examine to what extent crime victims’ decision to report or not report crime is influenced by views regarding police integrity, government performance in fighting crime, and accessibility of police services. The paper also offers some pointers about problem areas that may need attention in ongoing efforts to encourage crime reporting and ultimately improve security and safety.