Using the Theory of Planned Behavior to Predict Intent to Report Crime
AuthorKeller, Pam Harvey
AdvisorMiller, Monica K.
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This research uses the Theory of Planned Behavior to expand scientific knowledge about the decision by potential crime victims to report their victimization to the police. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) is a social science research tool, which has been used in many diverse fields of study to determine whether certain factors (attitudes, norms, and perceived behavioral control) predict intentions to act. Since the introduction of crime reporting data and victim surveys over forty-years ago, many politicians, criminologists, and law enforcement managers have used this information to make major social and managerial decisions. More recently the "CompStat" and "Intelligence-led Policing" models have dominated the police management information circles as a way to improve performance and management of resources. These management strategies base much of the decisions in deployment of resources on the crime reports from victims and the trends in criminal incidents. Valuable information that would improve efficiency in the investigations and in police management is lost, because victims report only about half of the criminal incidents. If influential factors could be identified, it would assist in addressing the notion that victim reporting is a static decision, it would give researchers and police managers information they could use when evaluating the impact of victims' decision-making in the community. It could also provide improvements in the approach to encouraging victims to report and enable them to engage in the justice system.University students and members of the community participated in surveys that were provided to them manually on paper or by using a computer via the internet. These surveys described an incident in which a small amount of money was stolen from a person. The participants were asked to assume it was stolen from them and given multiple questions regarding the incident. The participants indicated whether they would report the crime or not, and answered numerous other questions regarding their decision and attitudes towards the criminal justice system. The survey data was then transferred to a statistical software program and analyzed.Using these surveys of self-report crime reporting questions, this research explored how well victims' attitudes, norms, and perceived behavioral control affect their crime reporting intentions, by placing select questions into the TPB model. Two hypothesis and one research question were explored. The first hypothesis was that TPB would predict intention to report a crime. A single research question investigated which TPB factor is the strongest predictor of the reporting decision. The second hypothesis was whether an enhanced model, which included TPB factors and other variables studied in previous research, predicts intent better than the basic model with TPB factors alone. The results showed that the TPB does predict crime reporting intent, the strongest predictor was the social norms, and the enhanced model for TPB was not a significantly better model than the basic TPB model.The success of the TPB model in predicting crime reporting intent indicates a strong tie between crime reporting intent and the three factors included in the TPB. In criminal justice research and in law enforcement performance models the low victim reporting rates should be further explored and using the TPB model can provide insight into the influences involved in victim decision making. If victim reporting rates increase, crime analysts will have more data in which they can review crime events and gain important investigative information. Public service groups can use the information from this crime reporting intent model to influence victims who might choose not to report. This would mean that in addition to interviewing the victims, and family members, it would be important for law enforcement and others to continually encourage all citizens (neighbors, co-workers, community groups) by promoting reporting as a community responsibility. Knowing that social norms are important and relevant in victim reporting, community leaders can formulate a message that incorporates social norms. Political and police leaders can include the social norms influence and impact when interacting with citizen groups. The importance of victim reporting can be included in public service announcements, victim awareness and school educational campaigns.By exploring this social science model, this research found the most influential factor in crime reporting intent using the TPB model was social norms. The strong predicting influence of social norms heavily overshadowed attitudes and perceived behavioral control when measuring intent to complete a crime report. Further research specifically designed to test victim reporting behavior using the TPB model should be explored.