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Violent Crime: Crime Against a Person


The UCR Program defines robbery in Crime in the United States, 2002 "as the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear." The seriousness of a robbery and its punishment is not based on the value of what was stolen, but on how much force was used to frighten the victim. This is why robbery is considered a crime against a person not a crime against property.

Armed robbery in which the robber threatens the victim with a weapon receives the harshest penalties since the victim could be seriously harmed. Robbery is punishable by imprisonment in a state or federal prison. Armed robbery results in a longer prison term than a robbery without the use of a weapon. Unlike murders, most victims of robbery do not know their robber. Robberies often take place in public places, on streets or sidewalks, rather than inside buildings or homes.

The motivation for most robberies is the need for cash to support a lifestyle of gambling and partying, buying drugs, or simply to be the most successful and powerful street hustler. Robbers on the street strike suddenly with a threatening pose that allows the victim no time to think how to escape or stop the robbery. Most victims hand over what is demanded.

Robbers are generally rational or reasonable individuals who commit their crime after deciding what type of person, where, and how they will rob and get away with their crime. Individual targets are often those who do not look like they will fight back such as elderly men or women. People in poor neighborhoods are frequently targeted as they are more likely to carry cash than those in more affluent neighborhoods where credit cards are preferred to cash. Staking out victims at cash machines is common. Convenience stores and gas stations open late at night are also favorite targets. While banks present a more difficult target, the temptation of larger amounts of cash can prove irresistible.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawViolent Crime: Crime Against a Person - Crimes Against Individuals, Hate Crime, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Forcible Rape, Stalking, "three Strikes" Laws