Crime: Why and How Much?VICTIMOLOGY: The Other Side ofCrime
Understanding Victimology Understanding victimology as well as criminalbehavior is an important aspect ofcomprehending the criminal justice system.Victimology is the study of victims and theirpatterns of victimization. From this perspective,the question is not why certain individuals (orgroups) engage in criminal behavior; instead, theemphasis is on explaining why certain people (orgroups) experience victimization at certain timesand in certain places. Similarly, research oncriminal justice has focused on how offenders areprocessed through the criminal justice system.Victimologists, in contrast, examine the dynamics
The Demographics of CriminalVictimization Like criminaloffending, criminalvictimization is notrandomly distributedamong the populace.Patterns ofvictimization show ahigh degree ofconsistency withrespect to where andwhen they occur andwho is victimized.
The Demographics of CriminalVictimizationViolent Crime Rates Individuals between theages of 12 and 24 havethe greatest chance ofbecoming the victims ofcrime, especially violentcrime. Generally, fromthe early to mid-20s, asone gets older, the rateof victimizationdecreases, with thoseolder than age 65having the lowest rateof victimization for allcrimes across genderand race.
The Demographics of CriminalVictimization Men are victimized at higher rates thanwomen are. For every offense exceptsexual assault or rape and simpleassault, men have higher victimizationrates than women. Males report that they are almost aslikely to be victimized by someoneknown to them (51%) as they are bystrangers (49%).
The Demographics of CriminalVictimization Females most often are victimized bysomeone they know. Females reportthat more than three fourths (78%) ofthose who violently victimize them areknown to them. Women are much morelikely to be violently victimized by familymembers, spouses, boyfriends, or otherpersons known to them. The relationalphenomenon is known as intimatevictimization.
The Demographics of CriminalVictimization Violent victimization of women is more likely tobe repetitive and occurring over a period of timerather than as an isolated event, a random attackby a stranger, or a secondary consequence ofbeing a crime victim (i.e. a robbery victim who isassaulted by the assailant.) Even when women are the offenders rather thanthe victims, the data suggests that more than halfof the incidences in which women were arrestedfor killing a male intimate partner wereprecipitated by some sort of physical attack bytheir victim or claims of self-defense.
The Demographics of CriminalVictimization Blacks were victims of overall violence, robbery,aggravated assault, and personal theft at rateshigher than those for Whites in 2003. Blacks andWhites were equally likely to experience rape orsexual assault in that same year. Native Americans experienced violence at a ratesignificantly higher that all other races. AmongNative Americans age 25-34, the rate of violentcrime victimizations was more than 2 ½ timesthe rate for all persons the same age. Between1992-2001, Native Americans experiencedviolence at rates more than twice that of Blacks, 2½ times the rate of Whites, and 4 ½ times that of
The Demographics of CriminalVictimization Hispanics were victims of overall violence atabout the same rate as non-Hispanics.However, Hispanics were significantly morelikely to be victims of aggravated assault thanwere non-Hispanics. In general, the wealthier a person is, the lesschance there is that he or she will be a victimof violence. According to 2003 data, therelationship between victimization and incomevaries but is not consistent in all categories ofvictimization.
Situational Characteristics ofVictimization Victimization is more likely to occur in placeswhere there is a high density of high-risk socialgroups. Urban centers hold the bulk of those living at orbelow the poverty level in in the United States,and the victimization rate for cities reflects thisfact. In 2002, urban residents had a rate ofviolent victimization nearly 1.5 times that of ruralresidents. Suburban and rural residents werevictimized at similar rates.
Theoretical Explanations forVictimization National data support the observation that crimevictimization is not random. If this is the case,then what are the factors that influence who isvictimized and when the victimization occurs? Descriptive Data Theories Scholars who study victimization constructtheories to explain why some people are victimsand others are not. The two most prominent explanations as to thecause of victimization are victim-precipitationtheories and lifestyle theories of victimization.
Victim-Precipitation Theories These theories are basedon the concept thatvictims themselvesprecipitate, contribute to,provoke, or actuallycause the outcome.These theories assumethat some crimes,especially violent crimes,are interactions, ortransactions, betweenvictims and offenders. Victim precipitationmeans that the victim isnot simply an object
Three Facets of Victim-Precipitation 1. Victim Contribution: Victim Contributionrefers to a person’s actions or lack of action thatmakes their victimization more likely. 2. Victim proneness: This implies that someindividuals or groups have a quality that makesthem more likely to become victims of crimes.This can also refer to the fact that some victimsare easy targets. For example, illegal immigrantsmay be targeted because they cannot reportvictimization to the police for fear of beingdeported. 3. Victim Provocation: The victim provocationtheory suggests that the victim is the primarycause of his or her victimization.
Victim Provocation, continued… Marvin Wolfgang’s 1958 study of Philadelphiahomicides, taken from police records for theyears 1948 to 1952, brought the concept ofvictim provocation into the mainstream ofcriminological thought. Wolfgang found that,in a significant proportion of criminal homicideincidents (26 percent), the victim had actuallyinitiated the confrontation, either verbally orthrough physical force.
Lifestyle Theories of Victimization These theories seek to explain why victimization candiffer in quantity but remain the same in quality. In cities being researched, it was found that youthswere at a much greater risk of victimization thanolder persons, and men had substantially higherrates of victimization than women. The researchers found that the following conditionswere met: The victim and offender had the opportunity tocome in contact with one another There was some dispute between the two The offender was willing to use force or stealth toachieve his or her goal. The researchers believed that these factors were
Theory of Personal Victimization Lifestyle stands at the centerpiece of the theory ofpersonal victimization because it is the patternedroutines of a person’s everyday activities thatpredict the chances of exposure to high-risksituations. Differential association refers to the conceptthat people who associate regularly with othersengaged in unlawful behavior are more likely tobe victimized because of their increasedexposure to high-risk situations andenvironments.
Routine Activities Theory Another theory of victimization focuses on thecontexts of crime in the terms of the opportunities forvictimization. In 1979, Lawrence Cohen andMarcus Felson developed an approach for analyzingchanges in the level of crime over time known asroutine activities theory. Like lifestyle theories, it recognizes the importance ofpeople’s everyday actions in an explanation forcriminal victimization . Routine activities theoristsassume that all humans are motivated by the desireto have things that give them pleasure or benefit andto avoid those things and situations that inflict pain.Most important to the explanation for criminalvictimization, according to Cohen and Felson, arethe differential opportunities that exist for
Differential Opportunities Differential opportunities aredetermined by the structureof our everyday lives: thetime we leave home, theroute we take to work, ourmode of transportation, ourfavorite places forentertainment, and otherroutines of contemporaryexistence. Routineactivities theory focuseson the circumstances inwhich crime occurs.
Routine Activities Approach The routine activities approach to crime is limitedto an explanation for predatory crime. Cohen andFelson define predatory crime as “actsinvolving direct physical contact between atleast one offender and at least one person orobject which that offender attempts to take ordamage.” This theory is not limited to interpersonal offensessuch as assault, robbery, and rape. Propertyoffenses such as burglary and larceny areconsidered predatory crimes as well.
Predatory Victimization Predatory victimizationdepends on the interactionof three variables in asocial situation: 1. the presence of at leastone likely offender 2. the presence of at leastone suitable target 3. the absence of capableguardians (who mightprevent the crime)
Routine Activities TheoryCriminalVictimizationSocial SpaceLikely Offender(RationalThinker)Suitable Target(Person or Thing)EXITCapable GuardianCohen and Felson’s theoryemphasizes that crime doesnot occur in a vacuum. Inother words, crime requiresthe interaction of an offenderand a victim at a particulartime and place. Thus, thelifestyle choices of a victimplay an important role inwhether or not a crimeoccurs. Also, the presence ofa “capable guardian” mayprevent a crime fromoccurring. In modern society,many believe that videosurveillance cameras can actas a “guardian” to detercrime. As a result, videosurveillance of entiremetropolitan areas iscommon.The suitable target arrivesin the social spacethrough lifestylebehaviors. The likelyoffender arrives throughrational choices. Theopportunity for crime isenhanced as the potentialguardian departs or isabsent from space.
Rational Choice Theory of Crime The key assumption of routine activities theory isthe idea that crime is motivated through rationalchoice. Rational choice theory is based on thefundamental belief that human behavior isdirected toward those things that bring pleasureor benefit or that minimize painful, unpleasantexperiences. If rational choice theorists are correct, altering thebalance of costs and benefits for likely offenderscan reduce victimization. One way to do this iscalled target hardening.
Target Hardening Target hardening is the foundationfor many popular crime-reductionprograms. Crime-preventionprograms, such as NeighborhoodWatch programs, programs toincrease the level of lighting instreets and neighborhoods, andsurveillance cameras, are basedon the assumption that thesechanges will cause the potentialcriminal to reevaluate the risk ofcommitting a crime in these target-hardened environments. Anotherexample of target hardening isvehicles that have integratedignition-steering wheel lockingsystems, antitheft alarms, built-inglobal tracking devices, andsatellite-activated ignition cut-offsystems.
Target Hardening Target hardening is one of thekey components of defenseagainst terrorist attacks in theUnited States. Particularlyattractive targets of terrorism –such as commercial aviation,nuclear reactors, federalbuilding, infrastructure (e.g.bridges and tunnels), andsymbolic targets (e.g. famousmonuments and symbols ofgovernment and business) –have been examined for thevulnerability, and additionalsecurity measures have beentaken to make it more difficultto attack these targets.
The Victim’s Rights Movement Several events were key to the emergence of thevictim’s rights movement. 1960’s civil rights and women’s rights movements Governmental initiatives which increased awarenessand provided financial support for victim-assistanceprograms. LEAA provided funds to assist in theprofessionalization of law enforcement LEAA also provided funds for the support ofinnovative programs to reduce crime and research toevaluate the impact of these programs. The number of victim’s rights organizationsincreased dramatically, and national coordinatingbodies such as the National Organization for VictimAssistance (NOVA) were founded.
NOVA The accomplishments ofNOVEA, founded in 1976,include helping to pass the1984 Victims of Crime Actand the 1982 Victim andWitness Protection Act, bothof which provide counseling,information, referrals , anddirect assistance to crimevictims, as well as supportand training to victimadvocates.
Victim’s Rights Movement Almost all legislative initiatives proposed by the1982 President’s Task Force have been enacted. All 50 states have passed a crime victim’s bill ofrights, attempting to ensure that victims aretreated with dignity and compassion, are informedabout the decisions made regarding their cases,and are able to participate in this decisionmaking. In 1982, the federal Victim and WitnessProtection Act established policies andprocedures regarding how federal officials shouldtreat crime victims and also served as a nationalmodel for state legislation.
Crime Victim’s Rights Act The new law, known as the Crime Victim’s RightsAct, is the most successful effort of the crimevictim’s rights movement to date. The law amends Title 18 (Part II, Chapter25/Section 3771) of the Federal Criminal Code. Federal law now guarantees crime victims thefollowing rights: The right to be reasonably protected, notified,present, and heard at various stages in the criminaljustice system The right to confer with the prosecutor The right to receive restitution The right to expect proceedings free fromunreasonable delay
“Victimless” crimes? Can There Be aCrime Without a Victim?