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Victims of Crime

Chapter 2
Victims of Crime

THE TRAUMA OF BEING VICTIMIZED

Becoming a crime victim can have serious consequencesoutcomes the victim neither asks for nor deserves. Victims rarely expect to be victimized and seldom know where to turn for help. Victims may end up in the hospital to be treated and released, or they may be confined to bed for days, weeks, or longer. Injuries may be temporary, or they may be permanent and change forever the way the victims live. Victims may lose money or property, or they may even lose their livesthe ultimate cost for which victims and their families can never be repaid.

The effects of crime are not limited to the victims. Relatives of victims may also experience feelings of fear, anger, shame, self-blame, helplessness, and depressionemotions that can taint life and health for years after the event. Those who have been attacked in their homes or whose homes have been entered may no longer feel secure anywhere. They often blame themselves, feeling that they could have handled themselves better or done something differently to prevent being victimized.

In the aftermath of crime, when victims most need support and comfort, no one may be available who understands what victims have been through. Parents or spouses may be dealing with their own feelings of anger or guilt for not being able to protect their loved ones. Friends may withdraw, not knowing what to say or do. As a result, victims may experience a loss of self-esteem or may find it difficult to trust other people.

FEAR OF BECOMING A VICTIM

The fear of becoming a victim is often much greater than the likelihood of being one. Fear of crime has permeated American society so completely that it plays a role in many people's daily lives. In 2006 despite a steadily declining crime trend, 51% of respondents to a Gallup Poll thought there was more crime in their area than the year before, and 68% thought there was more crime in the United States as a whole (http://www.galluppoll.com/content/default.aspx?ci=1603). More than half of those surveyed thought that crime was either a very serious or extremely serious problem.

The crime that Americans were most frequently worried about was having their home burglarized when they are not there; 50% of respondents in 2006 said that they worried about this either frequently or occasionally. Those who were polled also expressed concerns about having their car stolen or broken into (47%), being a victim of terrorism (44%), and having their school-aged children physically harmed at school (40%). A higher percentage of the public expressed concern in 2006 than in previous years about the possibility that their children would be harmed at school. The percentages of those worried about burglary while people were home and about terrorism also increased substantially in 2006 over previous years.

THE NATIONAL CRIME VICTIMIZATION SURVEY

In 1972 the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration established the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). This annual federal statistical study measures the levels of victimization resulting from criminal activity in the United States. The survey was previously known as the National Crime Survey, but it was renamed in 1991 to emphasize the measurement of victimization experienced by citizens. Each year the NCVS collects data from a nationally representative sample of 77,200 households representing nearly 134,000 people on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States.

The survey was created because of a concern that the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not fully portray the true volume of crime. The UCR provides data on crimes reported to law enforcement authorities, but it does not estimate how many crimes go unreported.

The National Crime Victimization Survey is sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and is designed to complement the Uniform Crime Reports. It measures the levels of criminal victimization of persons and households for the crimes of rape, robbery, assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and larceny. Murder is not included because NCVS data are gathered through interviews with victims. Definitions for these crimes are the same as those established by the FBI in the Uniform Crime Reports.

Many observers believe that the National Crime Victimization Survey is a better indicator of the volume of crime in the United States than the FBI statistics. Nonetheless, like all surveys, it is subject to error. The survey depends on people's memories of incidents that happened up to six months earlier. Many times, a victim is not sure what happened, even moments after the crime occurred.

Errors can come from other factors as well. Individuals who have been repeatedly victimizedby spousal or parental abuse, for examplemay not remember individual incidents or may remember only the most recent event. In addition, the NCVS data show that a disproportionately large number of incidents occurred at the end of the time period covered by the survey when the victim's memory was perhaps fresher. Furthermore, the NCVS only collects data from victims aged twelve and olderan admittedly arbitrary age selection. Despite these factors, however, the Bureau of Justice Statistics claims a 90% to 95% confidence level in the data reported in the NCVS.

The National Crime Victimization Survey and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports are generally considered the primary sources of statistical information on crime in the United States. Like all reporting systems, both have their shortcomings, but each provides valuable insights into crime in the United States. Over the years, some significant differences have occurred in their findings. For example, the UCR documented a 15% increase in crime from 1982 to 1991, while the NCVS reported a leveling off and, in 1990, a decrease in crime. These differences require the reader to evaluate both sets of statistics carefully, not relying solely on one or the other.

Redesigned Survey

Beginning in 1979 the NCVS underwent a thorough, decade-long redesign. The new design was intended to improve the survey's ability to measure victimization in general and particularly difficult-to-measure crimes, such as rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Improvements included the introduction of "short cues" or techniques to jog respondents' memories of events. In general, as anticipated, the redesign resulted in an increased number of crimes counted by the survey. Therefore, pre-1992 data cannot be directly compared with the later data.

A GENERAL DOWNTURN IN CRIME

From 1993 to 2005 the NCVS found that the rate of violent crime fell 57.6%. During this period, the violent victimization rate dropped 57.6%, the personal theft rate fell by 59.6%, and the rate of rape and sexual assault plummeted by 68.6%. Property crime rates also fell, by 51.7%, between 1993 and 2005. Specifically, household burglary rates fell by 49.3%, motor vehicle thefts dropped by 56%, and there were 51.9% fewer thefts. (See Table 2.1.)

HOW MANY VICTIMIZATIONS IN 2005?

The National Crime Victimization Survey shows that in 2005 U.S. residents aged twelve and older were the victims of approximately 23.4 million crimes. About eighteen million were property crimes, and 5.4 million were personal crimes. The 5.4 million personal crimes in 2005 included 1.7 million completed acts of violence and 3.5 million acts of attempted violence. (See Table 2.2.)

Victims of Violent Crimes

Victimization rates in 2005 were 22.1 per 1,000 population for personal crime and 154 per 1,000 households for property crime. Among violent crimes, the victimization rate was highest (17.8 per 1,000 population) for assault, followed by attempted or threatened violence (14.4 per 1,000) and simple assault without injury (10.3 per 1,000). (See Table 2.2.)

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/cvusst.htm) violent crime rates for all age groups fell between 1973 and 2005. Rates rose from 1986 to 1991 for people under age twenty-five but have decreased steadily and significantly since the early 1990s. In contrast, violent crime victimization rates have dropped only slightly for those aged fifty and older. For people aged twenty-five to forty-nine, rates of violent crime remained relatively stable from 1973 to the mid-1990s and have declined steadily since then (See Figure 2.1.)

Victims of Property Crimes

In 2005 property crimes accounted for about 77% of all victimizations. Respondents to the NCVS reported eighteen million property crimes, including 13.6 million thefts, 3.5 million household burglaries, and 978,120 motor vehicle thefts. Among property crimes, the highest victimization rate was for theft (116.2 per 1,000 households), followed by household burglary (29.5 per 1,000 households) and motor vehicle theft (8.4 per 1,000 households). (See Table 2.2.)

TABLE 2.1
Rates of criminal victimization and percent change, 1993 and 2005
[Per 1,000 persons age 12 or older per 1,000 households]
Type of crime Victimization rates
1993 2005 Percent changea 19932005
Note: In 1993 the total population age 12 or older was 211,524,770; and 244,493,430 in 2005. The total number of households in 1993 was 99,927,410; and 117,110,800 in 2005.
aDifferences between the annual rates shown do not take into account changes that may have occurred during interim years.
bThe National Crime Victimization Survey is based on interviews with victims and therefore cannot measure murder.
cCompleted violent crimes include rape, sexual assault, robbery with or without injury, aggravated assault with injury, and simple assault with minor injury.
dIncludes pocket picking, completed purse snatching, and attempted purse snatching.
eIncludes theft with unknown losses.
Source: Shannan M. Catalano, "Table 3. Rates of Criminal Victimization and Percent Change, 1993 and 2005," in Criminal Victimization, 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, September 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cv05.pdf (accessed January 9, 2007)
Personal crimesb 52.2 22.1 57.7%
Crimes of violence 49.9 21.2 57.6
   Completed violencec 15.0 6.8 54.8
   Attempted/threatened violence 34.9 14.4 58.8
Rape/sexual assault 2.5 0.8 68.6
   Rape/attempted rape 1.6 0.5 66.7
        Rape 1.0 0.3 71.6
        Attempted rape 0.7 0.2 64.5
    Sexual assault 0.8 0.3 68.5
Robbery 6.0 2.6 57.4
    Completed/property taken 3.8 1.7 55.3
        With injury 1.3 0.6 55.1
        Without injury 2.5 1.1 55.4
    Attempted to take property 2.2 0.9 61.0
        With injury 0.4 0.3 34.1
        Without injury 1.8 0.6 67.0
Assault 41.4 17.8 57.0
    Aggravated 12.0 4.3 64.1
        With injury 3.4 1.4 60.3
        Threatened with weapon 8.6 3.0 65.7
    Simple 29.4 13.5 54.0
        With minor injury 6.1 3.3 46.7
        Without injury 23.3 10.3 55.9
Personal theftd 2.3 0.9 59.6
Property crimes 318.9 154.0 51.7%
Household burglary 58.2 29.5 49.3
    Completed 47.2 24.8 47.5
        Forcible entry 18.1 9.1 49.6
        Unlawful entry without force 29.1 15.6 46.2
    Attempted forcible entry 10.9 4.7 56.5
Motor vehicle theft 19.0 8.4 56.0
    Completed 12.4 6.6 46.7
    Attempted 6.6 1.7 73.7
Theft 241.7 116.2 51.9
    Completede 230.1 112.0 51.3
        Less than $50 98.7 34.8 64.7
        $50-$249 76.1 39.8 47.8
        $250 or more 41.6 27.6 33.7
Attempted 11.6 4.2 64.0

In 2005 about 58% of all reported crimes were thefts. Of the 13.1 million completed thefts, 4 million involved property worth less than $50. Another 4.7 million involved items valued between $50 and $249, and 3.2 million thefts were of property worth $250 or more. The value of the losses from the remaining thefts was unknown. (See Table 2.2.)

REPORTING CRIME TO POLICE

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables, less than half of all violent crimes (47.4%) committed in 2005 were reported to the police. Black, Hispanic, and white women were more likely than men to report crimes of violence. White female victims reported 53.9% of the violent crimes that they experienced, but white male victims reported only 42.8%. The difference in reporting rates was even greater for African-Americans; African-American female victims reported 58.3% of the violent crimes they experienced, compared with 41.5% of violent crimes reported by African-American males. Similarly, Hispanic females reported 60.3% of the violent crimes against them, compared with 43.5% reported by Hispanic males. (See Table 2.3.)

Victims in 2005 reported 39.6% of the property crimes they experienced to the police. Similar rates of males and females reported these crimes. For example, 38.8% of white females reported property crimes, compared with 39.6% of crimes reported by white males. The rates for African-Americans were 44.7% for females and 44% for males, and 36.8% for Hispanic females compared with 37.8% for Hispanic males.

Reasons for Reporting and Not Reporting Crimes

In Reporting Crime to the Police, 19922000 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, March 2003, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/rcp00.pdf) Timothy C. Hart and Callie Rennison indicate that a higher percentage of violent crimes were reported to the police than property crimes in 2000. Violence against females was more likely to be reported than violence against males. Similarly, violence against older persons was more likely to be reported than violence against younger persons. Victims were more likely to report a violent crime to the police if the offender had a weapon or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In 2000 victims reported violent crimes more often than property crimes to prevent future violence, stop the offender from hurting others, or protect other people. The main reasons why some violent crimes were not reported were that victims perceived the crimes as a private or personal matter, the crime did not seem important enough to report, or the victims had reported the crime to an official other than the police.

CHARACTERISTICS OF VICTIMS

Gender

White males are more likely than white females to be victims of every category of violent crime, except rape/sexual assault, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables. African-American males are also more likely to be victims of violent crime than African-American females. In 2005, 24.6 of every 1,000 white males were victimized by violent crime, compared with 15.6 per 1,000 white females. For African-American males the rate was 31.6 per 1,000, compared with 23.2 per 1,000 African-American females. (See Table 2.4.)

TABLE 2.2
Number of personal and property crimes, 2005
Type of crime Number of victimizations Percent of all victimizations Rate per 1,000 persons or households
Note: Detail may not add to total shown because of rounding.
*Estimate is based on about 10 or fewer sample cases.
Percent distribution is based on unrounded figures.
Not applicable.
aIncludes verbal threats of rape.
bIncludes threats.
Source: "Table 1. Personal and Property Crimes, 2005: Number, Percent Distribution, and Rate of Victimizations, by Type of Crime," in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cvus05.pdf (accessed January 9, 2007)
All crimes  23,440,720 100.0%   
Personal crimes   5,400,790  23.0%  22.1
Crimes of violence   5,173,720  22.1  21.2
   Completed violence   1,658,660   7.1   6.8
   Attempted/threatened violence   3,515,060  15.0  14.4
   Rape/sexual assault     191,670   0.8   0.8
      Rape/attempted rape     130,140   0.6   0.5
         Rape      69,370   0.3   0.3
         Attempted rapea      60,770   0.3   0.2
      Sexual assaultb      61,530   0.3   0.3
   Robbery     624,850   2.7   2.6
      Completed/property taken     415,320   1.8   1.7
         With injury     142,830   0.6   0.6
         Without injury     272,490   1.2   1.1
      Attempted to take property     209,530   0.9   0.9
         With injury      64,450   0.3   0.3
         Without injury     145,090   0.6   0.6
   Assault   4,357,190  18.6  17.8
      Aggravated   1,052,260   4.5   4.3
         With injury     330,730   1.4   1.4
         Threatened with weapon     721,530   3.1   3.0
      Simple   3,304,930  14.1  13.5
         With minor injury     795,240   3.4   3.3
         Without injury   2,509,690  10.7  10.3
Purse snatching/pocket picking     227,070   1.0   0.9
   Completed purse snatching      43,550   0.2   0.2
   Attempted purse snatching       3,260*   0.0*   0.0*
   Pocket picking     180,260   0.8   0.7
Total population age 12 and over 244,493,430      
Property crimes  18,039,930  77.0% 154.0
Household burglary   3,456,220  14.7  29.5
   Completed   2,900,460  12.4  24.8
      Forcible entry   1,068,430   4.6   9.1
      Unlawful entry without force   1,832,030   7.8  15.6
   Attempted forcible entry     555,760   2.4   4.7
Motor vehicle theft     978,120   4.2   8.4
   Completed     774,650   3.3   6.6
   Attempted     203,470   0.9   1.7
Theft  13,605,590  58.0 116.2
   Completed  13,116,270  56.0 112.0
      Less than $50   4,079,120  17.4  34.8
      $50-$249   4,656,120  19.9  39.8
      $250 or more   3,231,440  13.8  27.6
      Amount not available   1,149,590   4.9   9.8
   Attempted     489,320   2.1   4.2
Total number of households 117,110,800      

Age

Although teenagers and young adults are more likely than older persons to be victims of violent crime, the rates for all age groups have been falling over the last three decades. In 2005 the victimization rate among 12- to 15-year-olds was 44 victims per 1,000 teens; the rate for 16- to 19-year-olds was 44.2 per 1,000 in that age group, and the rate for 20- to 24-year-olds was 46.9 per 1,000 (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cvus/current/cv0503.pdf). The rates for victims aged 12 to 15 and 16 to 19 in 2005 were the lowest recorded since 1973; the rate for young adults aged 20 to 24 increased slightly between 2003 and 2005. By contrast, only 2.4 of 1,000 people 65 or older were victims of violent crime in 2005; this rate has increased slightly since its lowest point of 2 per 1,000 in 2003.

According the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, youth in single-parent families experience more violence than those in two-parent families (Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report, March 2006). They are also more likely to be victims of violent crime if they live in a disadvantaged community (with many people living in poverty, many single-parent families, high unemployment, and many households receiving public assistance).

Race and Ethnicity

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables that in 2005 African-Americans were more likely than whites or persons of other races to be victims of most types of violent crime. (See Table 2.4.) For example, 31.6 of every 1,000 African-American males were victims of violent crimes, compared with 24.6 of every 1,000 white males. Similarly, 23.2 per 1,000 African-American females were victimized by violent crime, compared with 15.6 per 1,000 white women.

Further, Table 2.4 also shows that African-American males were more than twice as likely to be victims of completed violence (15.8 per 1,000 African-American males compared with 7.1 per 1,000 white males), robbery (7.3 per 1,000 African-American males compared with 3.3 per 1,000 white males), and aggravated assault (9.1 per 1,000 African-American males compared with 5.3 per 1,000 white males). However, they were less likely than white males to be victims of attempts to take property (0.4 per 1,000 African-American males compared with 1.7 per 1,000 white males), attempted or threatened violence (15.7 per 1,000 African-American males compared with 17.5 per 1,000 white males), or simple assault (14.9 per 1,000 African-American males compared with 15.9 per 1,000 white males).

TABLE 2.3
Percent of victimizations reported to police, by type of crime, gender, and race or ethnicity of victims, 2005
Characteristic Percent of all victimizations reported to the police
Crimes of violencea Property crimes
*Estimate is based on about 10 or fewer sample cases. Excludes data on persons whose ethnicity was not ascertained.
aIncludes data on rape and sexual assault, not shown separately.
bIncludes American Indian, Eskimo, Asian Pacific Islander if only one of these races is given.
cIncludes all persons of any race, indicating two or more races.
Source: "Table 91b. Violent Crimes, 2005: Percent of Victimizations Reported to the Police, by Type of Crime and Gender and Race or Ethnicity of Victims," in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cvus05.pdf (accessed January 9, 2007)
   Total 47.4% 39.6%
Male
White only 42.8 39.6
Black only 41.5 44.0
Other race onlyb 49.0 37.2
Two or more racesc 25.9* 42.1
Female
White only 53.9 38.8
Black only 58.3 44.7
Other race onlyb 58.1 30.2
Two or more racesc 49.3 31.6
Male
Hispanic 43.5 37.8
Non-Hispanic 42.3 40.3
Female
Hispanic 60.3 36.8
Non-Hispanic 53.5 39.6

Similarly, African-American women were more than twice as likely as white women to be victims of completed violence (9.5 per 1,000 African-American females compared with 4.7 per 1,000 white females), rape and sexual assault (3.1 per 1,000 African-American females compared with 1.1 per 1,000 white females), and robbery (2.4 per 1,000 African-American females compared with 1.2 per 1,000 white females). They were less likely than white women to be victims of attempts to take property without injury (0.0 per 1,000 African-American females compared with 0.3 per 1,000 white females) and simple assault with minor injury (2.2 per 1,000 African-American females compared with 2.4 per 1,000 white females). (See Table 2.4.)

In 2005, 155.7 per 1,000 white households and 144.6 per 1,000 African-American households were victims of property crime. Whites were more likely than African-Americans to be victims of theft (119.6 per 1,000 households compared with 96.9 of every 1,000 African-American households) and attempted robbery (4 per 1,000 households for whites compared with 3.6 per 1,000 households for African-Americans). African-Americans were more likely than whites to be victims of household burglary (35 per 1,000 African-Americans compared with 28.6 per 1,000 whites) and motor vehicle theft (12.7 per 1,000 African-Americans compared with 7.6 per 1,000 whites). (See Table 2.5.)

Income, Marital Status, and Area

INCOME

In general, the less money that households earn, the more likely they are to become victims of violent crime. In 2005 those earning less than $7,500 annually were victims of violent crime at a higher rate (37.7 per 1,000 persons) than any other income group, and this rate was more than twice as high as the rate for those earning $75,000 or more (16.4 per 1,000). (See Table 2.6.)

MARITAL STATUS

In 2005 the violent crime victimization rate for males who never married (44.5 per 1,000 population) was nearly four times higher than the rate for married men (12.7 per 1,000). Rates for never-married women (29.3 per 1,000) were also about four times higher than for married women (7.8 per 1,000). Victimization rates for divorced or separated men (29.2 per 1,000) and women (33.4 per 1,000) were significantly higher than for married men and women, respectively. (See Table 2.7.) The rate for divorced or separated persons (30.7 per 1,000) was almost three times higher than the rate for married people.

REGIONS AND TYPES OF RESIDENCE

Those living in the West and in urban areas are more likely to be victimized by property crimes than those living in other parts of the country and in rural or suburban areas. In 2005, 206.5 per 1,000 households in the West and 200 per 1,000 urban households nationally were victims of property crimes. Rates in all categories of property crime in the West and in urban locations were higher than rates in other regions and locations, respectively. The lowest rates of property crime victimization were in rural and suburban areas of the Northeast. (See Table 2.8.)

Victim/Offender Relationship

Table 2.9 from Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 displays victimization rates per 1,000 persons age twelve and over in several demographic categories. According to data on crimes for which the

TABLE 2.4
Number of victimizations and victimization rates for people age 12 and over by crime type, gender, and race of victims, 2005
Type of crime Rate per 1,000 people age 12 and over
Male Female
White only Black only White only Black only
Number Rate Number Rate Number Rate Number Rate
Note: Detail may not add to total shown because of rounding.
Excludes data on persons of "other" races and persons indicating two or more races.
*Estimate is based on about 10 or fewer sample cases.
Not applicable.
aIncludes verbal threats of rape and threats of sexual assault
Source: "Table 6. Personal Crimes, 2005: Number of Victimizations and Victimization Rates for Persons Age 12 and Over, by Type of Crime and Gender and Race of Victims," in Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005 Statistical Tables, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cvus05.pdf (accessed January 9, 2007)
All personal crimes  2,504,510 25.5    437,900 32.6   1,686,100 16.5    408,830 25.5
Crimes of violence  2,419,750 24.6    423,560 31.6   1,596,160 15.6    373,240 23.2
    Completed violence    698,330  7.1    212,720 15.8     479,810  4.7    151,930  9.5
    Attempted/threatened violence  1,721,430 17.5    210,840 15.7   1,116,350 10.9    221,310 13.8
    Rape/sexual assaulta     12,430*  0.1*      2,700*  0.2*     112,500  1.1     49,280  3.1
    Robbery    320,590  3.3     98,330  7.3     126,430  1.2     37,990  2.4
       Completed/property taken    157,480  1.6     92,490  6.9      95,800  0.9     35,310*  2.2*
         With injury     74,300  0.8     13,730*  1.0*      31,950*  0.3*     14,960*  0.9*
         Without injury     83,170  0.8     78,750  5.9      63,850  0.6     20,360*  1.3*
       Attempted to take property    163,120  1.7      5,840*  0.4*      30,640*  0.3*      2,670*  0.2*
         With injury     58,100  0.6          0*  0.0*           0*  0.0*      2,670*  0.2*
         Without injury    105,020  1.1      5,840*  0.4*      30,640*