WP180: Police-citizen interaction in Africa: An exploration of factors that influence victims’ reporting of crimes

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Working papers
Davin O’Regan

While personal insecurity in Africa is typically associated with civil wars, crime is actually a far more common threat to the continent’s citizens. Rates of homicide, sexual assault, and property crime in Africa are often far higher than global averages. Despite such threats, many Africans do not report crimes to the police.

According to surveys conducted in 32 African countries in 2011, 2012, and 2013, 56% of respondents who had experienced a crime within the previous 12 months did not report it to the police. Common explanations for such inhibited reporting of crimes include a general lack of trust in the police, the politicization of police forces, citizens’ inability to easily access the police, or low community cohesion where victims reside. Using multilevel logistic regression techniques, this study tests these explanations.

Findings suggest that neither trust in police nor politicization of police forces displays significant influence on citizens’ likelihood of reporting crimes. Likewise, community cohesion bears no consistent relationship with higher rates of reporting, while access to police does appear positively associated with the likelihood of reporting victimizations. Contrary to findings in many developed countries, women in Africa appear to be less likely than men to report crimes to the police.

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