Characteristics Of Offenders
Most robbers are male, and in the United States approximately 60 percent are between fifteen and twenty-four years of age. Approximately 30 percent are under eighteen, and the peak years appear to be those between the ages of sixteen and nineteen. A high proportion of robbers, both as described by victims and according to arrest rates, are black. Abroad as well, minority and disadvantaged groups figure prominently in the statistics.
The majority of robbers have previously committed some other kind of crime, and many do not commit repeated robberies. The extent to which offenders progress from lesser to more serious forms of theft such as robbery is in dispute, but many do appear to follow this path. Most robbers devote little time to planning their offenses and give scant thought to the possibility of being caught. A high proportion carry out their robberies within their own neighborhood or city.
Some common kinds of robbers include first offenders, persistent thieves and hustlers, drug addicts, disorganized opportunists, violent robbers, habitual robbers, and skillful planners.
Probably the largest group is that of persons who commit a single robbery and then stop. This group includes persons who have committed other crimes but who choose not to continue with an active robbery career, as well as persons who for situational or other reasons commit robbery as a first offense.
Persistent thieves and hustlers tend to be drifters who seek to acquire money in any possible way. They are often involved in burglary, shoplifting, and other forms of theft, as well as in robbery.
Another category consists of narcotics addicts who support their habit in whole or in part through robberies. While it is clear that many addicts are not involved in robbery, those who are tend to commit the offense repeatedly.
Other offenders do not set out to commit a robbery but simply take advantage of passing opportunities. Many street robberies and many robberies committed by youths fall into this opportunist category.
Some persons who commit robberies seem more interested in violence than profit. These offenders often use far greater force than is necessary; the theft they commit sometimes seems almost incidental.
Certain robbers develop very specific habits, for example, robbing liquor stores on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons. Having mastered a technique that is at least initially successful, these robbers tend to repeat their pattern over and over again until caught.
A few robbers—the skillful planners—plan their crimes very carefully, often manifesting the qualities of a military tactician. They generally commit the most spectacular robberies, usually small in number but highly lucrative.
As might be expected, different kinds of robberies are committed by different kinds of robbers. Armed and commercial robberies tend to be committed by white older offenders. Street robberies, on the other hand, are most frequently committed by younger offenders from minority groups.
Because the crime is a forceful and direct one, robbers tend to be viewed favorably by other criminals. Even among the general public, robbers sometimes achieve folk-hero status: Robin Hood, Butch Cassidy, and the Brink's robbers are but a few of many examples.