Identity theft is increasing in Maine, according to a crime survey released Monday, but only about one in five respondents who said they’d been victimized during the previous year had reported it to police.

Overall, 36 percent of respondents to the 2011 Maine Crime Victimization Report said they had been a crime victim in the previous 12 months, compared with 33 percent in 2006. Only 40 percent of respondents who said they had been a crime victim reported the incident to police, compared with 53 percent in 2006.

The report, prepared by the Maine Statistical Analysis Center at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, seeks to glean Mainers’ attitudes about public safety, demographic data about crime victims, and the percentage of crimes that are never officially reported — information that is generally not available in police statistics.

The Muskie report is based on telephone surveys of 837 residents from January through May and covers respondents’ experiences during the previous year. The survey has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points and a 95 percent confidence level, meaning if the survey was conducted 100 times, the results would be the same in 95 of them.

The survey found that most respondents felt safe from crime — even those who had been crime victims.

“I’m reassured that people feel relatively safe. I don’t see any hysteria coming out of these numbers,” said Mark Rubin, an author of the report. “People are also really resilient. Even if they’ve been the victim of crime, they don’t think it’s going to happen (again).”

The report was presented at a forum at USM on Thursday.

The survey included 100 questions that asked, among other things, whether people had been victims of any of several categories of crime.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had been victims of identity theft in the previous year, compared with 10.4 percent in the 2006 survey. Identity theft was also the crime most likely to go unreported — just 20 percent of the respondents who said they’d been victims reported the crime to police, compared with 66 percent of property crime victims.

“There’s been an explosion of identity theft in the U.S.,” said Jane Carpenter, assistant complaint examiner for the Attorney General’s Office, in a written statement. “We’re going to take this data and continue to educate the public on this type of crime, train law enforcement and assist victims.”

Identity theft — someone making fraudulent charges on a credit card, for example — is often not reported because the credit card company typically insulates the cardholder against losses.

Some other criminal behaviors, such as threatening, might not be reported because victims think it is not serious enough or consider it a personal issue, Rubin said.

Mainers are generally satisfied with their local law enforcement, with 72.5 percent describing it as good or very good. Crime victims are less likely to view local law enforcement positively — 64.8 percent compared with 77 percent of those who said they hadn’t been crime victims.

Respondents with household incomes above $100,000 per year also were more likely to view law enforcement favorably than those earning less — only 62 percent of those earning less than $20,000 per year had a positive impression.

The groups most likely to be crime victims were those ages 18 to 24 and those making less than $20,000 per year, the survey said.

Rubin said the data can help guide policy and legislation.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of opportunity for the public and for victims to say generally how they’re feeling about their community or their safety,” he said. “Perception questions are worthwhile to investigate because policymakers make decisions based on perceptions.”

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]