A new report released by the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service details the number of individuals in the state of Maine who have been victims of criminal activity in the last year.
More than half (54.0%) of all respondents to the 2015 Maine Crime Victimization Survey (MCVS) report being a victim of some type of criminal activity in the past 12 months. This important finding comes from the 2015 Maine Crime Victimization Report released by the Maine Statistical Analysis Center at USM's Muskie School. The report is based on telephone interviews conducted with 843 Maine adults earlier this year. The survey's findings have a 95% confidence level with a confidence interval of +/- 3.4%.
The findings were released at a press conference on Dec. 1, where a panel of experts responded to the report's findings. In attendance were Maine Representative Lori Fowle, House Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, South Portland Chief of Police Edward Googins, Jane Carpenter, founder of Maine Identity Services, and Destie Hohman Sprague, assistant director at the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
"Being a victim of criminal or unwanted behavior is more common than many might think," posits George Shaler, one of the report's authors. Shaler adds, "The MCVS examines whether Mainers were victims of the following types of criminal or unwanted behavior in the past 12 months: violent crime, property crime, threat of violence, stalking, domestic violence and identity crime."
Among the other key findings is that more than one in three (36.4%) survey respondents report being victimized by identity theft in the past 12 months. For this report, identity theft could entail any of the following: unauthorized use or attempted use of existing credit cards, unauthorized use or attempted use of existing accounts such as bank accounts, unauthorized use of personal information to obtain new credit cards, misuse of personal information to obtain services, unauthorized use of social security numbers and/or unauthorized access of bank or department store accounts.
These numbers may encourage lawmakers to update Maine's 17-year-old laws prohibiting identity theft, said Jane Carpenter, founder of Maine Identity Services and formerly of the Maine Attorney General's Office.
"Maine is one of the very few states in which identity theft is still on the books as a misdemeanor," Carpenter said. She called on legislators to make the theft a felony and set harsher penalties for severe data breaches. "Unfortunately, this type of criminal activity shows no signs of letting up."
While an overwhelming percentage (91.0%) of respondents feel safe in their communities, the percentage drops for those who have been victims of a property crime (78.1%) or a violent crime (67.6%). More than three-quarters (79.2%) of respondents feel that drug abuse contributes most to crime. After drugs, respondents identified exposure to domestic violence, lack of parental discipline, alcohol, poverty, and the breakdown of family life as contributors.
The drug numbers should spark further policy discussion among lawmakers, said Fowle, who represents House District 80.
"My concern is how we get in front of it," she said. "I think it's something that we in policy need to look at really closely and work hard on."
Another significant finding is that nearly one in every seven (14.4%) respondents indicated they had been the victims of stalking behavior. Single, divorced or widowed women reported being recipients of unwanted stalking behaviors more than twice as often as women who were married or cohabitating with a partner (23.9% compared to 9.3%).
"Stalking can be a terrifying and isolating experience for individuals who experience it, and these findings are a call to action to continue integrating effective anti-stalking services into sexual and domestic violence service provision," said Elizabeth Ward-Saxl, Executive Director of Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
The stalking numbers were even higher among people with household incomes below $25,000, Shaler said. "They were almost three times more likely to be stalked than someone from a household over $100,000," he said.
The Maine Crime Victimization Survey and Report were conducted under the auspices of the State Justice Statistics Program, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Department of Justice. For more information, please contact George Shaler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-228-8344.
Click here to read the full report.
View additional coverage on the 2015 Maine Crime Victimization Survey:
Identity theft emerges in survey as Maine’s most common crime -- Portland Press Herald
Identity theft on the rise in Maine, but few victims report crime to police -- Bangor Daily News
Our View: Keeping up with identity thieves requires action -- Portland Press Herald
The ‘dark figure of crime’: Why many Maine crimes go unreported -- "The Point" -- Bangor Daily News