Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


David Kennedy

Subject Categories

Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Sociology


Legal cynicism; Victim reporting


Criminologists have considered reporting as an important aspect in the criminal justice process and most studies focus on micro characteristics that influence reporting, such as victim, offender and crime characteristics. The few studies that have explored macro social characteristics dealt mostly with social ties, socioeconomic status and perception of police competency. Scholars have suggested legal cynicism, a cultural frame that views the law and law enforcement agents as illegitimate, unresponsive and ill equipped to ensure public safety (Kirk & Papachristos, 2011), as an important and necessary in victim reporting research (Baumer, 2002; Xie & Lauritsen, 2011). To expand our understanding of reporting decisions, particularly in relation to macro variables, this study explores the effect of legal cynicism on reporting, using actual reporting behaviors and controlling for variables that were shown to influence reporting. In addition, this study aims to further research in the relationship between cynicism and reporting by adding different dimensions of cynicism (police cynicism and criminal justice cynicism, and respectfulness/fairness and competency) and testing for possible differences by area socioeconomic status.

Using the British Crime Survey, the study showed that different dimensions of cynicism have differential effects on reporting, with individual cynicism being more influential than area cynicism and police cynicism having a bigger impact than criminal justice cynicism. Individual police cynicism had a negative relationship with victim reporting for both contact and property crimes but different dimensions of police cynicism mattered for different crimes. Respectfulness and fairness is important for contact crimes and a mix of respectfulness and fairness and competency is influential for property crimes. At the area level, cynicism did not affect reporting for neither contact crimes nor property crimes, with the exception of the negative relationship between area criminal justice cynicism and reporting in low disadvantage areas for contact crimes.