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Statistics: Costs of Crime - Distribution Of Costs

victimization risk geographic factors

Although our consideration of private expenditure on crime and crime prevention indicates widespread vulnerability to crime costs, it is important to recognize that costs of crime are not borne equally by all members of society. In particular, there are many geographic and social factors that increase vulnerability to criminal victimization and increase vulnerability to the costs of crime.

Geographic aspects. Over the past century, researchers have documented the importance of place for understanding crime. Differences in crime rates exist across countries, regions, counties, states, cities, neighborhoods within cities, and even across individual locations such as houses, restaurants, bars, and stores. Importantly, particular features of environments appear to influence the amount of crime within those environments and consequently influence risks of crime victimization.

Two factors stand out as prominent geographic risk factors for crime victimization. The first of these is resource deprivation. Areas that have high levels of poverty, higher income inequality, high unemployment, and lower average income tend to have significantly higher levels of crime. In addition to resource deprivation, areas with higher geographic mobility, the rapid turnover in population, are also more crime prone. In such transitional areas, residents are less likely to feel any long-term commitment to the community and are less likely to be involved in community activities. This increases the potential for serious crime. In recognizing geographic differences in crime rates, we also draw attention to important differences in exposure to crime. Residents of such resource-deprived and transitional neighborhoods have significantly greater risk of victimization. Likewise, property and businesses in these communities are also more likely to experience crime. Consequently, residents and businesses in deprived and transitional neighborhoods are more likely to bear the costs of crime.

Social aspects. In addition to geographic risk factors, there are also numerous social attributes that increase vulnerability to crime. Age is consistently related to criminal victimization, with teenagers and early adults having comparatively high risk of victimization. Particularly with respect to violent crime, risk of victimization increases sharply into late adolescence and then declines monotonically with increasing age. Adolescents have victimization rates that are typically three to five times greater than older adults do.

Another factor that influences victimization risk is socioeconomic status. In some research, unemployed people are considerably more likely to suffer personal and violent victimization. Other research shows that low occupational status and low personal or family income also increase risk of victimization. Although often closely related to socioeconomic and geographic effects, there is also evidence of racial susceptibility to crime: African Americans have much higher levels of victimization, particularly for serious violent crime. Finally, while gender differences in victimization are complicated and varied, women are overwhelmingly susceptible to sexual victimization that has some of the most significant and long-term costs.

While this entry has discussed the various factors that increase risks of victimization separately, it is important to recognize that these risk factors have compounding effects. That is, young urban males, particularly minority males living in deprived and transitional neighborhoods, have dramatically higher risk of victimization, particularly for serious violent crime. The tremendous costs that can stem from crime are typically borne by those who already lack social and financial resources. Thus, crime and its ensuing costs may play a significant role in the reproduction of social inequalities.

Statistics: Costs of Crime - Directions For Future Research [next] [back] Statistics: Costs of Crime - Indirect Costs Of Crime

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