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8.2 Types of Crime

LEARNING OBJECTIVES


  1. Describe the major aspects of homicide.

  2. Discuss evidence indicating that white-collar crime is more serious than street crime.

  3. Explain the major issues raised by the concept of consensual crime.

Many types of crime exist. Criminologists commonly group crimes into several major categories: (1) violent crime; (2) property crime; (3) white-collar crime; (4) organized crime; and (5) consensual or victimless crime. Within each category, many more specific crimes exist. For example, violent crime includes homicide, aggravated and simple assault, rape and sexual assault, and robbery, while property crime includes burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Because a full discussion of the many types of crime would take several chapters or even an entire book or more, we highlight here the most important dimensions of the major categories of crime and the issues they raise for public safety and crime control.

Violent Crime


Even if, as our earlier discussion indicated, the news media exaggerate the problem of violent crime, it remains true that violent crime plagues many communities around the country and is the type of crime that most concerns Americans. The news story that began this chapter reminds us that violent crime is all too real for too many people; it traps some people inside their homes and makes others afraid to let their children play outside or even to walk to school. Rape and sexual assault are a common concern for many women and leads them to be more fearful of being victimized than men: In the 2011 Gallup poll mentioned earlier, 37 percent of women said they worried about being sexually assaulted, compared to only 6 percent of men (see Figure 8.1 "Gender and Worry about Being Sexually Assaulted (Percentage Saying They Worry “Frequently” or “Occasionally”)").

Figure 8.1 Gender and Worry about Being Sexually Assaulted (Percentage Saying They Worry “Frequently” or “Occasionally”)

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig08_001.jpg

Source: Data from Maguire, K. (Ed.). (2011). Sourcebook of criminal justice statistics. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook.

Research on violent crime tends to focus on homicide and on rape and sexual assault. Homicide, of course, is considered the most serious crime because it involves the taking of a human life. As well, homicide data are considered more accurate than those for other crimes because most homicides come to the attention of the police and are more likely than other crimes to lead to an arrest. For its part, the focus on rape and sexual assault reflects the contemporary women’s movement’s interest in these related crimes beginning in the 1970s and the corresponding interest of criminologists, both female and male, in the criminal victimization of women.

Certain aspects of homicide are worth noting. First, although some homicides are premeditated, most in fact are relatively spontaneous and the result of intense emotions like anger, hatred, or jealousy (Fox, Levin, & Quinet, 2012). [1]Two people may begin arguing for any number of reasons, and things escalate. A fight may then ensue that results in a fatal injury, but one of the antagonists may also pick up a weapon and use it. About 25–50 percent of all homicides are victim-precipitated, meaning that the eventual victim is the one who starts the argument or the first one to escalate it once it has begun.

Second, and related to the first aspect, most homicide offenders and victims knew each other before the homicide occurred. Indeed, about three-fourths of all homicides involve nonstrangers, and only one-fourth involve strangers. Intimate partners (spouses, ex-spouses, and current and former partners) and other relatives commit almost 30 percent of all homicides (Messner, Deane, & Beaulieu, 2002). [2] Thus although fear of a deadly attack by a stranger dominates the American consciousness, we in fact are much more likely on average to be killed by someone we know than by someone we do not know.

Third, about two-thirds of homicides involve firearms. To be a bit more precise, just over half involve a handgun, and the remaining firearm-related homicides involve a shotgun, rifle, or another undetermined firearm. Combining these first three aspects, then, the most typical homicide involves nonstrangers who have an argument that escalates and then results in the use of deadly force when one of the antagonists uses a handgun.

Fourth, most homicides (as most violent crime in general) are intraracial, meaning that they occur within the same race; the offender and victim are of the same race. For single offender/single victim homicides where the race of both parties is known, about 90 percent of African American victims are killed by African American offenders, and about 83 percent of white victims are killed by white offenders (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2011). [3] Although whites fear victimization by African Americans more than by whites, whites in fact are much more likely to be killed by other whites than by African Americans. While African Americans do commit about half of all homicides, most of their victims are also African American.

Fifth, males commit about 90 percent of all homicides and females commit only 10 percent. As we discuss in Section 3.1 "Racial and Ethnic Inequality: A Historical Prelude", males are much more likely than women to commit most forms of crime, and this is especially true for homicide and other violent crime.

Sixth, the homicide rate is much higher in large cities than in small towns. In 2010, the homicide rate (number of homicides per 100,000 population) in cities with a population at or over 250,000 was 10.0 percent, compared to only 2.5 percent in towns with a population between 10,000 and 24,999 (see Figure 8.2 "Population Size and Homicide Rate, 2010"). Thus the risk for homicide is four times greater in large cities than in small towns. While most people in large cities certainly do not die from homicide, where we live still makes a difference in our chances of being victimized by homicide and other crime.



Figure 8.2 Population Size and Homicide Rate, 2010

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig08_002.jpg

Source: Data from Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2011). Crime in the United States, 2010. Washington, DC: Author.

Finally, the homicide rate rose in the late 1980s and peaked during the early 1990s before declining sharply until the early 2000s and then leveling off and declining a bit further since then. Although debate continues over why the homicide rate declined during the 1990s, many criminologists attribute the decline to a strong economy, an ebbing of gang wars over drug trafficking, and a decline of people in the 15–25 age group that commits a disproportionate amount of crime (Blumstein & Wallman, 2006). [4] Some observers believe rising imprisonment rates also made a difference, and we return to this issue later in this chapter.

Rape and sexual assault were included in Chapter 4 "Gender Inequality"’s discussion of violence against women as a serious manifestation of gender inequality. As that chapter noted, it is estimated that one-third of women on the planet have been raped or sexually assaulted, beaten, or physically abused in some other way (Heise, Ellseberg, & Gottemoeller, 1999). [5] While it is tempting to conclude that such violence is much more common in poor nations than in a wealthy nation like the United States, we saw in Chapter 4 "Gender Inequality" that violence against women is common in this nation as well. Like homicide, about three-fourths of all rapes and sexual assaults involve individuals who know each other, not strangers.


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