Vol. 79, No. 1On the leading edge

Woman sits with her head in her hand as she speaks to a police officer.

Latest research in law enforcement

There are several factors that create a barrier to reporting online fraud, including the level of shame and stigma associated with this particular type of victimization.


The following are excerpts from recent research related to justice and law enforcement and reflect the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of the organizations for which they work.

The reporting experiences and support needs of victims of online fraud

By Cassandra Cross, Kelly Richards and Russell G. Smith

Online fraud poses a substantial threat to the financial and overall well-being of Australians. The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that fraud costs Australian victims more than $6 billion a year, and online fraud is responsible for a considerable proportion of this amount. This study explores the nature of these harms, victims' experiences of reporting to authorities, how victims deal with their fraud victimization and what support they require to do so.

There were 80 participants that ranged in age from 30 to 77 years, with a mean age of 56. Forty-six (58 per cent) were men and 34 (42 per cent) were women. Participants reported a variety of countries of birth, predominantly Australia (68 per cent), the United Kingdom (11 per cent) and New Zealand (5 per cent).

This study asked participants to describe the various financial and non-financial impacts of their victimization experience. Specifically, they were asked, 'What impact has the incident had on your life?' and then prompted about financial, social and emotional impacts as appropriate.

A wide variety of factors can influence reporting behaviour including demographics, attitudes towards police, previous history of victimization, knowledge of the offender, seriousness of the offence, opportunities for compensation and the time and effort involved in reporting.

Several factors create a barrier to reporting online fraud. This includes the level of shame and stigma associated with this particular type of victimization.

As well, there's a vast array of agencies that victims of fraud can report to, which includes law enforcement, consumer protection and other government and non-government agencies, as well as private sector organizations such as financial institutions and telecommunications companies.

The existence of this network creates three main problems: victims don't know which organization to approach; they may need to report to multiple organizations; and they may be referred from one to another in a merry-go-round of responses, with no one able to assist. This wastes victims' time and energy, incurs additional expense and can be a source of further stress and emotional harm.

Overall, victims of online fraud are a heterogeneous group of individuals who've experienced a wide variety of consequences of their victimization and who, therefore, have a diversity of needs to be satisfied.

While some participants shared positive stories of reporting, gaining the support they needed from either formal or informal channels, others who were unable to disclose their victimization experienced a greater level of adversity and, as a result, were unable to obtain either formal or informal support. Further, many of those who were able to disclose to family, friends or authorities were met with judgement and blame, highlighting the importance of education for both those to whom victims report and the broader community.

Read the full report.

Lifecycle of First Nation administered police services in Canada

By Savvas Lithopoulos

Canada's First Nations administered (FNA) police services have a unique history, a distinctive mandate and structure, and play a complex role in policing First Nation communities. Of special interest is the challenge faced by the FNA police services of providing 24/7 coverage and ensuring adequate response times to calls for service for remote and isolated First Nation communities. On average, these communities have about 3,000 residents who are usually policed by micro-sized police detachments of about nine officers.

Research on police service lifecycles has shown that small police services, usually deploying fewer than 10 officers, are more apt to fail due to their inability to maintain or meet ever-increasing policing standards.

This research was undertaken to find out why some FNA police services were disbanded and why some were able to survive.


Since launching the First Nations Policing Program (FNPP) in 1992, 58 FNA police services have been created. Of this number, 20 have disbanded, representing a failure rate of about 34 per cent of all FNA police services.

The 20 disbanded FNA police services suffered from both a "liability of newness" and their diminutive size. Few of the disbanded agencies were operational for more than a decade and the average disbanded department employed five or fewer than five officers and provided services to communities of approximately 1,700 residents. Their average budget was $700,000. In contrast, the 38 surviving FNA police services, on average, police 4,500 residents by a detachment of about 22 officers with a policing budget of about $4 million.

This finding confirms previous policing research, which suggests that new and very small police services are more apt to fail due to their inability to maintain or meet ever-increasing policing standards or deal with crises.

FNPP policing agreements are terminated for cause. Usually, it involves serious violations of agreement terms and conditions, major operational and ethical breeches, or an inability to meet increasing provincial policing standards. Both levels of government are involved in the decision to disband an FNA police service.

A major factor that previous research on the lifecycle of police services didn't take into account is that young organizations also tend to have younger and inexperienced employees including police officers, non-commissioned officers, senior management and police governance authorities.

The creation of micro-sized FNA police services in the 1990s went against the major long-term trend in Canadian policing since the 1970s. This entailed amalgamating small police services into larger police services. Research into this area indicates that merging micro-sized police services into larger and medium-sized regional entities may be a valid strategy for the future direction of Aboriginal policing.

Read the full report.

Race, street life and policing: Implications for racial profiling

By Steven Hayle, Scot Wortley and Julian Tanner

There's a long history of scholarship investigating police encounters with those from marginalized populations. Research suggests that officers stop and search racial minorities and immigrants, the impoverished and the homeless at disproportionately high rates. However, scholars disagree about why this is.

Some propose that police attention is legitimately triggered by the criminal behaviour of marginalized people, while others maintain that these individuals are subject to biased policing triggered by their marginalized status. Theoretically, this represents a disagreement over whether consensus or conflict perspectives are best suited for explaining the disproportionate use of stop-and-search procedures with marginalized people.

We address this debate by examining stop-and-search experiences for youth from two marginalized populations in Toronto, Canada: street youth and black high school students. We explore whether black youth and street youth are stopped and searched at higher rates due to their behaviour, marginalized status, or both.

We find that although illegal behaviour, and not marginalized status, primarily explains why street youth are disproportionately stopped and searched by police, marginalized status plays a very significant role in explaining why black high school students are disproportionately stopped and searched by police. This is exemplified by our observation that, unlike black high school students, black street youth do not experience racial profiling during police stops and searches.

This is significant because it attests to the greater importance of criminal behaviour rather than minority status in explaining why police stop and search black street youth. It makes an important contribution to research because this finding has yet to be documented in criminological scholarship. We conclude that while conflict theory best explains disproportionate stops and searches among black high school students, consensus theory best explains disproportionate stops and searches among street youth.

Research questions

This paper contributes to knowledge about police stop-and-search activities by analyzing survey data drawn from a sample of high school students and street youth. The analysis addressed four research questions:

  1. Are street youth more likely to be stopped and searched by police than high school students?
  2. Are black youth more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white youth?
  3. Do racial differences in stop-and-search activities exist among both high school students and street youth?
  4. To what extent do lifestyle factors — criminal behaviour and public leisure activities — explain the over-representation of street youth and black youth in stop-and-search activities?

This study addresses both empirical and theoretical questions about police bias and the profiling of street youth and racial minorities.

Read the full report.

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