The previous chapter painted the “big picture” about all forms of victimization in the entire country in recent years. This chapter focuses on certain inter- personal crimes of violence and theft in greater depth. People attacked by murderers, other danger- ous assailants, and robbers are examined first. Indivi- duals and households whose homes are burglarized, whose cars are driven off by thieves, and whose identities are stolen by impostors are investigated later in the chapter. (The plight of abused children is examined in Chapter 8; the dilemma faced by intimate partners who are beaten by batterers is explored in Chapter 9; and the suffering imposed by rapists is examined in Chapter 10.)

Victimologists gather and interpret data to answer disturbing questions such as: How many

people are robbed, wounded, and even murdered by criminals each year? How rapidly are the ranks of people who have suffered these misfortunes growing? Researchers want to find out where and when the majority of crimes occur, and, in the age of globalization, where in the world are the streets much more dangerous and where are they dramat- ically safer?

A matter of particular concern is which groups are targeted the most and the least often.

Specifically, which groups are at a higher risk of getting slain, shot, stabbed, or robbed? Data from the UCR and the NCVS will be used to answer a set of unsettling questions:

What are the odds of being attacked during any given year? Incidence rates measure the number of new victims per 1,000 or per 100,000 persons annually and thereby reveal the risks people face.

How many people know what it is like to be confronted by a robber who growls, “Your money or your life!” Prevalence rates esti- mate the proportion of people per 1,000 or per 100,000 who have ever experienced some misfortune.

What are the chances that a person will be harmed by a violence-prone opponent at least once during his or her entire life (not just in a single year) [incidence rate], or during previ- ous years [prevalence rate]? Cumulative risks estimate these lifetime likelihoods by project- ing current situations into the future.

Is violence a growing problem in American society, or is it subsiding? Trend analysis provides the answer by focusing on changes over time.

Does violent crime burden all communities and groups equally, or are some categories of people more likely than others to be held up, physically injured, and killed? Differential risks indicate the odds of an unwanted event taking place for members of one social demographic group as compared to another.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES To understand the meaning of differential risks.

To appreciate the complications of making international comparisons.

To discover which countries and which cities across the globe have the highest and lowest homicide rates.

To use official statistics to spot national trends in murders, aggravated assaults, and robberies in recent decades.

To discover the profile of the typical victim in order to determine which demographic groups face the highest and lowest chances of getting murdered and also of being robbed.

To appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of statistical projections about the risk any given individual faces of being on the receiving end of violence.

To grasp the meaning of cumulative risks.

To become acquainted with the suffering of people whose homes are burglarized.

To become knowledgeable about the situation of people whose cars are stolen.

To become familiar with the aggravation arising from identity theft.

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Identifying Differential Risks: Which Groups Suffer More Often Than Others?

The first step in a victim-centered analysis addresses the issue, “Which groups sustain the greatest casualties? Which groups face lesser threats of harm?

Victimization rates for the entire population indicate how frequently murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults are committed against “average” Americans and how often “typical” households suffer burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, and identity theft. It is reasonable to suspect that the chance of becoming a victim is not uniform for everyone but is more likely for some types and less likely for others.

The discussion about comparative risks at the conclusion of Chapter 3 revealed that different age groupings of people do not all face the same odds of getting killed accidentally—say, from a skiing mishap—or of dying from a particular dis- ease, such as cancer. People with attributes in common such as age or sex may be affected by crime much more or much less often than others. If these suspicions can be documented, then any overall rate that projects a risk for all Americans might mask important variations within sub- groups. In other words, it is necessary to “disag- gregate” or “deconstruct” or break down victimization rates into their component pieces in order to reveal the differential risks faced by particular categories of people.

A pattern within a victimization rate is recog- nizable when one category suffers significantly more than another. The most obvious example is the incidence of rape: Females are much more likely to be sexually violated than are males. Search- ing for patterns means looking for regularities within a seemingly chaotic mass of information and finding predictability in what at first appear to be random events.

The differential risks derived from patterns identified in the data will be investigated in this chapter for the violent crimes of murder and rob- bery and for the property crimes of burglary, motor vehicle theft, and identity theft.

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