First-Ever Survey of California Crime Victims Reveals
New Picture of Who Victims Are, What They Need,
and Surprising Views on Justice System Priorities
Significant Majority Support Public Safety Realignment, More Focus on Other Approaches than Prisons and Jails
SACRAMENTO — June 6, 2013 — Californians for Safety and Justice (www.SafeandJust.org), a nonprofit working with crime victims and community stakeholders to improve public safety and save tax dollars, today released the results of a first-ever survey of crime victims in California. The findings paint a revealing picture of who experiences crime most in California, the impacts on and unmet needs of those survivors, and their views on criminal justice priorities.
“These findings will surprise people,” said David Binder, Principal of David Binder Research. His firm conducted the study in April 2013 with 2,600 Californians that matched the state’s demographics and geographies according to the 2010 Census. The full survey was conducted with the 500 respondents who identified as crime victims. “We found that a small portion of the population – mostly young men of color – experiences the lion share of crime, whereas a larger majority experience none at all.”
The survey also asked victims about the impact of crime, their awareness of post-crime services, the ease of using such services, and their views on criminal justice policies and priorities in California.
“This report turns on its head the notion that victims only care about tough-on-crime sentences,” said Lenore Anderson, Director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Crime victims clearly want our leaders to be smart on crime. They believe we send too many people to prison, and they want more investment in education, mental health and drug treatment, supervised probation, and rehabilitation. In that way, their views very much align with overall public opinion, despite victims’ unique and often tragic experiences with crime.”
Last August, David Guizar, 39, of Los Angeles lost his second sibling to a homicide, after his brother Gilbert was shot and killed after trying to stop a stranger from entering a wedding party. “These horrific events opened my eyes,” said Guizar. “I see a justice system that focuses most of its resources on prisons, instead of other forms of accountability and rehabilitation that could reduce the conditions that lead to crime in the first place.”
The full report can be found here, and key findings include:
- One in five Californians has been a victim of crime in the last five years. Half of these acknowledge being a victim of a violent crime.
- Two in three victims have been victims of multiple crimes in the past five years. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to have been victims of three or more crimes in the past five years.
- Victims of violent crime are more likely to be low-income, young (especially under 30), and Latino or African American.
- Two in three crime victims report experiencing anxiety, stress, and difficulty with sleeping, relationships or work. Half of these felt that it takes more than six months to recover from these experiences.
- Four of the five services available to crime victims tested – including assistance with accessing victims’ compensation and navigating the criminal justice process – were unknown to the majority of victims. Of those who had used the services, nearly half found them difficult to access.
- When asked about California’s rates of incarceration, more victims say that we send “too many” people to prison than “too few.”
- Victims want a focus on supervised probation and rehabilitation by a two-to-one margin over prisons and jails.
- Victims prefer investments in mental health and drug treatments by a three-to-one margin over incarceration.
- Three in four victims believe that prisons either make inmates better at committing crimes or have no impact at all. Only a small minority believes that prisons rehabilitate people.
- Sixty-five percent of victims support Governor Brown’s Public Safety Realignment law that, in 2011, shifted responsibility and funding for people convicted of nonviolent, non-serious offenses from the state to counties.
California Crime Victims Survey Methodology
David Binder Research conducted the survey in April 2013 in English and Spanish. They contacted respondents by telephone (landlines and mobile phones) and online to ensure inclusion of harder-to-reach demographics. Using the 2010 Census, this survey began with a pool of 2,600 Californians aged 18 and up that represented the full diversity of the state in terms of geography and racial and ethnic groups. Of those, 500 self-identified as having been a victim of a crime within the past five years (robbery, burglary, theft/identity theft, assault, rape, vandalism, stalking, and/or murder of an immediate family member). The overall margin of error is 1.1 percent, while the margin of error for crime victims is 4.4 percent.
About Californians for Safety and Justice
Californians for Safety and Justice, a project of the Tides Center, is a nonprofit bringing together crime victims, business and community leaders, policymakers, law enforcement, health professionals, educators and crime-prevention experts to replace prison and justice system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save public dollars. Through collaborations, policy research and analysis, toolkits and trainings, and community engagement, we are working to build a justice system that improves public safety and health without draining resources from our schools, hospitals and other community needs. www.SafeandJust.org