Social Inequality and Predatory Criminal Victimization Essay

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Criminal Victimization

Crime is the breaking of rules or laws for which a legal system can provide a conviction (Darrow & Baatz, 2009). Historically, individual human societies have defined crimes differently. Crimes can be considered local, state, or international and can occur in several stages such as planning, disclosure, and intent (Darrow & Baatz, 2009). Many crimes are often unreported, not recorded, not followed through on, and unable to be proved.

According to professors Lawrence Cohen, James Kluegel, and Kenneth Land "the relationships of social inequality to criminal behavior and to the arrest, prosecution, and sentencing of alleged criminal offenders are among the most frequently studied topics in American criminology (1981, p. 505). Cohen, Kluegel, and Land also report that "many citizens and criminologist alike believe that the disadvantaged are less adequately insulted than the advantage from conditions that stimulate crimes and that the disadvantaged receive less favorable treatment from predatory criminals" (1981, p. 505). This research analysis will examine the perspectives of Cohen, Kluegel, and Land on the five major risk factors on criminal victimization, the main cause of property crime, and how the ideal of guardianship relates to income level. Sacco and Kennedy's perspective on guardianship, income levels and proximity will also be evaluated and compared and contracted with Cohen, Kluegel, and Land's observations.

Five Major Risk Factors for Criminal Victimization

Many criminologists and psychologists believe that there are a variety of risk factors involved in the criminal victimization process (Farrington & Welsh, 2007). Cohen, Kluegel, and Land believe that there are five major risk factors for criminal victimization. The five risk factors identified are exposure, proximity, guardianship, target attractiveness, and definitional properties of specific crimes. Each risk factor will be considered and investigated thoroughly to obtain a better perspective of each one individually.

The first factor for criminal victimization to be considered is the idea of exposure. According to Cohen, Kluegel, and Land exposure is the "physical visibility and accessibility of persons or objects to potential offenders at any given time or place" (1981, p.507). Criminals can stalk his or her victims upon visibility and the ease in which a potential victim can be overpowered, conquered, or brought to his or her knees. A good example is the cable television show Dexter, in which Michael C. Hall portrays a serial killer who stalks his victims; Dexter likes to study his victims and garner the upper hand over them by observing his or her visibility and accessibility.

The second factor for criminal victimization to be considered is the concept of proximity. Cohen, Kluegel, and Land describe proximity as "the physical distance between areas where potential targets of crime reside and areas where relatively large populations of offenders are found" (1981, p.507). Proximity is geographically considered the nearness in place, time, order, occurrence, or relation. In laymen's terms proximity is the place and time in which events can occur. Some psychologists believe that many crimes occur in proximities that protect the criminal, such as areas that offer distractions or even the cover of evening darkness.

The third factor for criminal victimization to be considered is the premise of guardianship. Cohen, Kluegel, and Land define guardianship as "the effectiveness of persons (housewives, neighbors, pedestrians, private security guards, and law enforcement officers) or objects (alarms, locks, windows) in preventing violation from occurring, either by their presence alone or some sort of direct or indirect action" (1981, p.508). Examples of guardianship can be a neighborhood watch group, home or car alarms, or the presence of law enforcements in a community. Guardianship is a preventive measure that may keep prospective crime and criminals away from individuals and areas that are guarded; if a community lacks guardianship h criminal activity may occur much more frequently.

A fourth factor for criminal victimization to be considered is target attractiveness. According to Cohen, Kluegel, and Land target attractiveness is "the material or symbolic desirability of persons or property targets to potential offenders, as well as, the perceived inertia of a target against illegal treatment (i.e. The weight, size and attached or locked features of property inhibiting its illegal removal and the physical capacity of persons to resist attack) (1981, p. 508). A potential victim's attractiveness may be one of the most important characteristics of criminal victimization. For example, Ted Bundy, a serial killer, was known to have a type that he was attracted to. Bundy's looked for a blond girl, attractive, relatively thin, and to try and attack the women when they were vulnerable.

The fifth and final factor for criminal victimization to be considered is the definitional properties of specific crimes. Cohen, Kluegel, and Land describe the definitional properties of specific crimes as "the features of specific crimes that act to constrain strictly instrumental actions by potential offenders" (1981, p. 508). Cohen, Kluegel, and Land also explain that "the more constrained strictly instrumental action is, the stronger will be the effects of exposure, guardianship, and proximity on victimization risk relative to the effect of target attractiveness (1981, p. 509).

Property Crimes

Cohen, Kluegel, and Land view property crime as a much different type of crime than many other types. Property crime consists of a calculated risk taken by a potential criminal based on a hypothesis about the potential value of a residential property (Cohen, Kluegel, & Land, 1981). The successful completion of a property crime requires the potential criminal to gather information and data about the potential victim. Cohen, Kluegel, and Land state that exposure and guardianship play the biggest roles in property crimes.

Exposure gives the potential home invader and opportunity to physically view the property and better determine the value of a property crime such as a burglary. Guardianship in a potential property crime might deter a criminal from committing a property crime. For example, when a neighborhood has a watch group or a series of homes have security and alarm systems they will make a potential criminal stay away from that location. Proximity is another factor in property crimes, it is not as important as exposure or guardianship, but the closer a person lives to a potential offender the easier it is to follow the daily activities of a potential victim (Cohen, Kluegel, & Land, 1981).

Guardianship and Income Levels

Cohen, Kluegel, and Land believe a person's income level makes the prospect of guardianship more obtainable (1981). When people possess more financial means they are able to use the excess money to enhance security measures around them. For example, if an individual has more financial means they are able to install car alarms, home alarms, and take other measures that people with limited financial means cannot.

According to Cohen, Kluegel, and Land it is "more economically feasible to marry" (1981, p. 511). Married couples create more guardianship possibilities for two reasons. First, guardianship improves because a partnership is stronger than an individual. Second, a married couple has a better opportunity (because of dual incomes) to improve guardianship with increased income. Money may not buy happiness, but it can provide increased security opportunities and extended guardianship.

Opposite Views: Sacco and Kennedy

Professors Vincent Sacco and Leslie Kennedy present the idea of criminology and the act of committing a crime as a process instead of an isolated event. Sacco and Kennedy believe two main ideals pertaining to guardianship, income levels, and proximity that differ slightly from Cohen, Kluegel, and Land's views. According to Sacco and Kennedy "the more time individuals spend in public places (especially at night), the more likely they are to be victimized" and "certain lifestyles make it more likely that individual will frequent public places" (2011, p. 183). Sacco and Kennedy imply with the above beliefs that when individuals have money they are more prone to becoming victimized and that wealth is not an enhancement of guardianship. The proximity Sacco and…[continue]

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