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Also by Ezzat A. Fattah


JUSTICE (co-author)

Reorienting the Justice System

Edited by

Ezzat A. Fattah
Professor, Department of Criminology
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

Editorial matter and Chapters 1-4 and 6-15 © Ezzat A. Fattah 1986
Chapter 5 Crown Copyright and Her Majesty's Stationery Office © 1986
Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 1986
All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission
of this publication may be made without written permission.

No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied

or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance
with the provisions ofthe Copyright Act 1956 (as amended).

Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to

this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and
civil claims for damages.

First published 1986

Published by
Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 2XS
and London
Companies and representatives
throughout the world

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

From crime policy to victim policy: reorienting
the justice system.
1. Victims of crime
1. Fattah, Ezzat A.
362.8'8 HV6250.2
ISBN 978-1-349-08307-7 ISBN 978-1-349-08305-3 (eBook)
DOl 10.1007/978-1-349-08305-3
To Jenny, Sonia and Eric, who have given me a
new aim in life . ..
Acknowledgements ix
Foreword xi
Notes on the Contributors Xlll

Prologue: On Some Visible and Hidden Dangers of Victim

Movements Ezzat A. Fattah 1



1 The Ideal Victim Nils Christie 17

2 Society's Attitude to the Victim Paul Rock 31


3 Official and Survey Statistics Albert J. Reiss, Jr 53

4 Methodological Issues in the Study of
Victimization Wesley G. Skogan 80

5 Victims of Violent Crime: Findings from the British

Crime Survey Mike Hough 117



6 Lifestyles and Victimization: an Update

James Garofalo 135

7 Responding to Crime: Reflections on the Reactions of

Victims and Non-Victims to the Increase in Petty
Crime Jan van Dijk 156
VIll Contents

8 The Fear of Crime and its Behavioral Implications

Wesley G. Skogan 167



9 Victims of Crime in the Criminal Justice System

David N. Weisstub 191

10 Victims and the Criminal Justice System

Joanna Shapland 210

11 Victim Assistance and the Criminal Justice System:

the Victim's Perspective Joanna Shapland 218



12 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy Inkeri Anttila 237

13 Policy Implications of Crime Victim Surveys

Albert J. Reiss, Jr 246

14 Victims and Policy in Canada: the Emergence of the

Justice for Victims of Crime Initiative Paul Rock 261

15 Community Control, Criminal Justice and Victim

Services Robert Elias 290

Epilogue: On the Rights of Victims David Weiss tub 317

Index 323
The 33rd International Course in Criminology on Victims of Crime
(Vancouver, 1983), for which the papers in this volume were
prepared, was generously funded by grants from Simon Fraser
University, the Solicitor General of Canada and the Federal Ministry
of Justice. Their contribution is acknowledged with sincere thanks.

The editor and publishers wish to thank the following who have
kindly given permission for the use of copyright material: Sage
Publications, for extracts from D. Lewis (ed.), Reactions to Crime,
pp. 19-46 (chapter by Wesley Skogan, "On Attitudes and Be-
haviours"); and the Institute for the Study and Treatment of
Delinquency, for extracts from "Victims, the Criminal Justice System
and Compensation", British Journal of Criminology, vol. 24, no. 2,
April 1984, pp. 131-49.


The international course in criminology has an impressive history and
is universally considered to be one of the major scholarly events in
the field of criminology. Organized jointly by the International
Society of Criminology (Paris) and one of the world's leading
universities, the course has been held in various cities and capitals all
over the globe. Each year the course is devoted to a general theme
chosen for its importance and currency. The theme selected for the
33rd international course was "Victims of Crime", a most timely
topic. The course was held at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Vancouv-
er, Canada, in March 1983 and was generously funded through grants
from Simon Fraser University, the Solicitor General of Canada and
the Federal Department of Justice. The course dealt with both
theoretical and applied aspects of victimology and examined in depth
the problems of research and practice encountered in this young and
growing discipline. The course was attended by one hundred and fifty
participants from Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa and
Asia. The international faculty for the course consisted of some of the
world's best experts and recognized authorities in the field of
victimology. Each faculty member invited was asked to prepare one
or two original papers for the course. This yielded over forty
previously unpublished papers. The present volume, devoted mainly
to research and policy issues, contains seventeen of the best papers
prepared. The papers were selected for their superior quality and the
importance of the topics they cover. The result is a book that
hopefully will be useful to academics, policy-makers, researchers and
criminal justice practitioners in a field where there are but few
scholarly publications. A project of this scope could obviously not be
realized without the help, co-operation and collaboration of many
individuals. I wish therefore to express my warm and sincere thanks
to the contributors who gave generously of their time, to Dr Denis
Szabo, President of the International Society of Criminology, for
asking me to organize and direct the course, to my colleagues at
Simon Fraser University for their understanding and support, to my
XlI Foreword

wife Jenny and to Glenys Bailey, my secretary at the time the course
was held, for all the help and encouragement they offered me, and
finally to Ms Anne-Lucie Norton, senior editor at the Macmillan
Press Ltd, for her editorial guidance and assistance.
Notes on the Contributors
The editor
Ezzat A. Fattah is Professor of Criminology at Simon Fraser Uni-
versity. He studied law at the University of Cairo where he obtained
an LL.L. degree. He worked for thirteen years as a prosecutor in his
native country, Egypt; this was followed by three years of graduate
work at the Institute of Criminology, University of Vienna, Austria.
In 1964 he moved to Canada and received his M.A. and a Ph.D. from
the University of Montreal. He taught criminology at that university
until 1974 and then he was invited to found and chair a Department
of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. Dr Fattah is
a pioneer in victimology and has written on the topic as early as 1966.
He has published six books and eighty papers and has received
several honours including the Beccaria Prize and the Alex Edmison
Award. He served for many years as a national councillor for the
Canadian section of Amnesty International and is a member of the
Board of Directors of the International Society of Criminology.

The other contributors

Inkeri Anttila is a Doctor of Law and Licenciate of Political Sciences
(Sociology). She is Director of the Helsinki Institute for Crime
Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations, Finland.
Dr Anttila served as Professor of Criminal Law at the University of
Helsinki, Director of the Institute of Criminology (Ministry of
Justice), Chairperson of the Scandinavian Research Council for
Criminology, and Vice-Chairperson of the United Nations' Commit-
tee for Crime Prevention and Control. She belongs to the Board of
Directors of the International Association of Penal Law and to the
scientific committee of the International Society of Criminology, and
she is chairperson of the International Penal and Penitentiary Found-
ation. She has published many books and several articles including a
general introduction to criminology text written with Patrik T6rnudd
and published in Stockholm in 1973.
xiv Notes on the Contributors

Nils Christie is Professor of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University

of Oslo, Norway. He is a sociologist by training and has published
seven books and numerous articles. His writings include studies of
guards in concentration camps; of a cohort of young Norwegian
criminals and several studies within the field of sociology of law and
sociology of education. Professor Christie is the Director of the
Scandinavian Research Council for Criminology and a member of the
Norwegian Academy of Science. He has often been a visiting lecturer
in North America, as well as in Eastern and Western Europe. His
recent publications include Conflicts as Property, Neo-classicism: Its
Hidden Message, and Limits to Pain.

Jan van Dijk is Director of the Research and Documentation Centre,

Ministry of Justice, Netherlands. He received an M.A. from the
Faculty of Law, Leyden University and his Ph.D. in Criminology
from the University of Nymegen. Dr van Dijk has been a member of
several committees of experts of the European Committee on Crime
Problems of the Council of Europe. He is a member of the Select
Committee of Experts on the Victim, the Criminal and Social Policy
and of the editorial board of the Dutch Journal of Criminoloy. Dr van
Dijk's publications include The Extent of Public Information and the
Nature of Public Attitudes towards Crime, Public Attitudes Towards
Crime in the Netherlands, and The R.D.C. Victim Surveys, 1974-

Robert Elias is Associate Professor of Political Science, Tufts Uni-

versity, Boston, USA. He has taught politics and criminal justice at
Pennsylvania State University and at the University of Maryland at
College Park and in Europe, and has been a past Research Associate
at the Vera Institute of Justice. He has written (including articles on
victims) for the Journal of Social Issues, Victimology, Citizen Parti-
cipation, The Progressive, Social Policy, and the Antioch Law
Review, is author of Victims of the System: Crime Victims &
Compensation in American Politics & Criminal Justice.

James Garofalo received his Ph.D. in criminal justice from the State
University of New York at Albany (SUNYA), and is Executive
Director, Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center, at SUNYA.
He has conducted several research projects pertaining to victims of
crime and has written a number of monographs and journal articles
on the fear of crime, victim compensation, and victimization surveys.
Notes on the Contributors xv

He co-authored (with Michael Gottfredson and the late Michael

Hindelang) Victims of Personal Victimization, in which the life
style/exposure model of victimization was introduced.

Mike Hough is a Senior Research Officer, Home Office Research and

Planning Unit, London. He has carried out research on police
effectiveness, on crime prevention and, more recently, on victimiza-
tion. He has been closely involved in the design and execution of the
British Crime Survey, which was first conducted in 1982 and is being
repeated in 1984.

Albert J. Reiss, Jr is the William Graham Sumner Professor of

Sociology, Yale University and Lecturer, Yale Law School. He
served as a consultant to several US commissions and for the last few
years has been a member of the Technical and Executive Committees
for the Redesign of the National Crime Survey. Professor Reiss has
published many books including The Police and the Public, Studies in
Crime and Law Enforcement in Major Metropolitan Areas and Data
Sources on White-Collar Law-Breaking. Professor Reiss has received
the Bruce Smith, Sr award of the Academy of Criminal Justice
Sciences and the Edwin H. Sutherland award of the American
Society of Criminology and is President of the American Society of

Paul Rock is Reader in Social Institutions, London School of

Economics, England. He held several visiting appointments at Uni-
versities in the UK and North America. In 1982 he served as a
consultant for the Canadian Federal-Provincial Task Force on Justice
for Victims. He is a member of the editorial boards of a number of
learned journals. He has published eight books, the most recent of
which is Understanding Deviance (with David Downes), other titles
include Making People Pay, Deviant Behavior, and The Making of
Symbolic Interactionism.

Joanna Shapland is Research Fellow at the Centre for Criminological

Research, Oxford University, and Junior Research Fellow, Wolfson
College, Oxford, where she has researched a project on victims of
violent crime and their experiences with the criminal justice system
and compensation. She has published several articles on victimology,
mitigation, self-reported delinquency, mentally abnormal offenders
and law and psychology and a book Between Conviction and Sent-
xvi Notes on the Contributors

ence: the Process of Mitigation. She is a Consultant to the Select

Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe.

Wesley G. Skogan is Professor of Political Science and Urban Affairs,

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA. His research
interests include victimization, crime policy, evaluation research, and
research methodology. He has published Sample Surveys of the
Victims of Crime, Coping with Crime (with M. Maxfield), and Crime
Victimization of the Elderly (with others). He has written extensively
on victimization surveys and survey methodology, the police, and
fear of crime. His teaching manual and survey data set, The Fear of
Crime, is widely used in classrooms throughout the USA.

David Weisstub is Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York

University in Toronto, and Professor of Psychiatry, Faculty of
Medicine, University of Montreal, Canada. He is the editor of the
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. His contributions to
these two disciplines have earned him world-wide recognition.
Prologue: On Some Visible
and Hidden Dangers of
Victim Movements

Recent years have witnessed a revival of interest in the victims of

crime. Today there seems to be a genuine concern in our society for
this disenfranchised and neglected group of citizens who suffer the
direct consequences of criminality. Ever since the State monopolized
the right to criminal prosecution and converted the "Wergeld," i.e.
the indemnity payable to the victim or his family, to a fine destined
for the king's coffers, the victim has been the forgotten man in the
criminal process, the party in the shadow, used to buttress the State's
case and abused if he refused to co-operate or testify. And despite
some progress in the last decade society's reaction to crime victims
has not changed much. When a crime is committed, society's energies
and resources are mobilized to find, catch and punish the culprit.
Very little is done to help the victim recuperate from the traumatic
effects of victimization or recover the material losses incurred as a
result of the crime. The millions and millions of dollars society
willingly spends on punishment and incarceration are in sharp
contrast to the token amount devoted to compensate the victims.
Society has failed the victims of crime, has ignored, neglected and
often mistreated those who are criminally victimized.
The current renewed interest in the victim manifests itself in both
research and action. At present, every aspect of criminal victimiza-
tion is being studied and analyzed. Every facet of the plight of the
victim is being debated and scrutinized. Criminologists are trying to
assess the needs of crime victims and to find ways and means of
alleviating their suffering and distress. On the applied side, groups
have been formed in many countries, not only to offer help and

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
2 Prologue

assistance to crime victims but also to lobby on their behalf. Although

in many cases the action of these groups is neither orchestrated nor
coordinated, the term "victim movements" is appearing with amazing
consistency in the popular and scientific literature. It should be futile
to challenge the need for victim advocacy or to deny that the time has
come for the victims of crime to have their voice heard in matters of
criminal policy. There are, however, certain dangers associated with
the present trend. And although "victim movements" as organized
action-and-pressure groups are still in the early stages of develop-
ment, some of these dangers are becoming more and more apparent.
Identifying and debating these dangers is necessary to prevent the
exploitation of these movements for political purposes and to ensure
that their action is geared toward the achievement of their primary
and foremost goal, namely justice for the victims of crime. The
ultimate success of the movements in reaching this worthwhile goal
will naturally depend on the future orientation they will take. The
aim of this chapter is to outline and discuss some of the visible and
hidden dangers that loom on the horizon of victim movements in
Canada, the United States, and many other countries.



As Elias points out (Chapter 15), the now long-term cry for addres-
sing victim needs and for orienting the criminal process away from
the offender and toward the victim, has been closely associated with a
"law and order" approach to law enforcement. Get-tough criminal
policies have combined nicely with an apparent concern for the
Most victim advocates do not restrict their demands to a charter of
victim rights or to a better lot for those who are victimized. These
demands are usually coupled with, and in fact overshadowed by, calls
for harsher penalties, stricter measures and more oppressive treat-
ment of offenders. Getting-tough with offenders is often advanced as
the central or, at least, as an essential component, of society's
obligation to the victims of crime and as a sine qua non for redressing
the wrong done unto the victim. In this way, the noble cause of the
victims of crime is used as a pretext to unleash suppressed vindictive
impulses or as an excuse to act out the inhibited aggression against
Prologue 3

the offender. The danger is that a healthy victim movement might

thus be transformed into a backlash against criminals and that the
progress that has been realized over the years in humanizing the
criminal policy and the criminal justice system will be reversed.



Recent experience with well-intentioned criminal justice programs,

such as diversion and community service orders, reveals the inherent
tendency of these programs to widen the net of formal social control
and to intensify the mechanisms of such control. Many of the new
services for crime victims carry with them a similar danger. As Elias
(Chapter 15) points out, victim services are associated with building
police forces and are more concerned with controlling social discon-
tent than crime. His evaluation of victim services in the USA
inevitably leads to the conclusion that most seem oriented more to
either narrowly controlling victims or broadly controlling discontent
than to controlling crime or meeting victim needs. According to
Elias, most government-sponsored victim services seem devoted to
more than merely restoring the victim in some way. They also seek
some kind of control. In particular, victim-witness programs seek to
control victims in the criminal justice process. Victims seem to be
channeled into the process for official needs and perspectives, instead
of providing a co-operative spirit, greater citizen participation, and
effective crime control.
Other evidence shows that victims of crime are being used for
political purposes and as a vehicle that serves only the interests of
opportunistic politicians and criminal justice practitioners. Rock
(Chapter 2) notes that very few of the organizations supposedly set
up for helping victims were in fact established in a world figured by a
politics of victims. They were founded to accomplish distinct sets of
purposes which touched only obliquely on victims. This is echoed by
Joanna Shapland (Chapter 10) who points out that the major projects
aimed at fulfilling victims' needs have been set up without regard to,
or even investigation into, victims expressed needs. Elias (Chapter
15) provides at least a partial explanation to this obvious paradox. He
notes that victim compensation programs were set up in many
American states because they were regarded as very valuable for
building public opinion and electoral support. They did not imply a
4 Prologue

strong commitment to victims or to the notion of compensation. He

also refers to the reputation victim-witness programs have for
"using" victims to pursue certain criminal cases deemed important by
the prosecution and for preferring official over victim needs.



One of the dangers of the present orientation of the victim movement

is to divert attention and to direct funds and resources away from
effective crime control policies and promising crime prevention
strategies. Existing victim services are geared to the alleviation of the
effects of victimization. As such, they are more concerned with what
happens after the crime than they are with reducing victimization or
preventing people from becoming victims in the first place. Actually
crime prevention does not appear on the program of most victim
advocates. And by advocating a retributive criminal justice policy
they are apt to increase the cost of the punitive segments of the
system to the detriment, or at the expense, of the system's preventive
components. In the current climate created by the victim movement
the root causes of crime are bound to be overshadowed and the
conditions that breed crime are bound to be neglected.
Elias (Chapter 15) points out that victim services and schemes do
not seek to fundamentally root out the problem they are addressing.
They do not genuinely seek to eliminate crime. In fact they seem to
ignore the value of serious crime control for preventing victims in the
first place. He notes that while official rhetoric consistently empha-
sizes an apparent concern for reducing crime, the effectiveness of the
policies actually promoted is very questionable. And there is little
evidence to indicate that the programs have any concrete effect on
reducing crime. One might argue, he writes, that government-
inspired victim services, as currently constituted, actually increase
crime by promoting discredited policies that only encourage crime,
and do not effectively combat it. Furthermore, the victim orientation
of these programs may serve to abdicate responsibility for addressing
the sources of crime since they emphasize a false contest of rights (not
needs) and promote a kind of complacency towards crime, now that
some post-victimization relief appears available.
Prologue 5



As Anttila (Chapter 12) points out, a victim-centered approach

would put the emphasis on the traditional offenses more than is
already done today. This would especially be true of those offenses
that cause immediately perceptible damage. Offenses of endanger-
ment, and offenses which only cause indirect or slowly accumulating
damage (such as labor and environmental offenses) would be left
without sufficient attention. The emergence of the victim movement
seems to have refocused the notion of criminality on the traditional
crimes which have a direct, immediate and tangible victim. White
collar crimes, corporate actions causing grievous social harms,
whether they are legally defined as crimes or not, have been once
again relegated to the background. Victim movements have focused
their attention on, and directed their action to, the so-called conven-
tional crimes. This is understandable. Homicide, rape, robbery,
assault, burglary have visible, identifiable victims. This is not always
the case with corporate and business crimes which may victimize
millions and millions of people and still go largely unreported and
unprosecuted. Despite the scope of white collar crime and despite the
fact that its depredations far exceed those of conventional crime it is
totally left out from victim campaigns. And so are other socially
harmful actions such as the pollution of the environment, the
production of hazardous substances, the manufacture and sale of
unsafe products, and so on, although they cause more death, injury
and harm than all violent crimes combined. And what about victims
of violations of health and safety codes, victims of social injustice and
of racial discrimination, victims of state terrorism, victims of abuse of
political and/or economic power? The lot of these latter victims is
even a sadder one than that of victims of conventional crime. The
reason is that they lack any means of redress and usually have no
recourse against the perpetrators of the abuse.



To awaken the social conscience and to gain sympathy and support

for the noble cause of crime victims, victim movements try as much as
6 Prologue

possible to emphasize the dangers and consequences of victimization

and to highlight the plight and misfortunes of those who are
victimized. The danger of this strategy is that it could inadvertently
raise anxiety over crime and heighten the fear of victimization.
Placing too much stress on the weakness and vulnerability of certain
groups can produce similar effects. It may well be that the exagger-
ated fear women and the elderly have of crime is due in all or in part
to the great attention being given to their potential status as victims.
As Christie (Chapter 1) notes, singling out certain groups such as the
old or women and paying excessive attention to their proneness to
victimization is likely to produce fear and anxiety in their minds and
the more attention they are given as victims, the more they fear. And
although empirical evidence is still lacking the hypothesis of a
positive link between attention and fear seems, at least, plausible.
The record high level of fear of crime reported in Canada and the
USA in recent years (Skogan, Chapter 8) may not be totally
unrelated to the growing attention and publicity being given to the
victims of crime. The publicity given to the risks and effects of
victimization, the graphical portrayal of the sufferings and anguish
victims go through, can only arouse feelings of anxiety about crime
and amplify the fear of becoming victim. This can indirectly hurt the
cause of the victims by discouraging samaritan interventions. There is
an inverse relationship between the degree of fear of crime and the
willingness to intervene, the higher the fear, the less willing are
people to come to the rescue of fellow citizens being victimized for
fear of personal injury or harm (van Dijk, Chapter 7).



No one would dispute the fact that there is an urgent, pressing need
to care for and to protect the victims of crime. Any initiative and
every move aimed at achieving this goal should therefore be wel-
comed and encouraged. But as with other noble, worthy social
causes, there is always the danger of too much paternalism, of too
much interference in victims' personal lives, of overreaction and of
overdoing what we set out to do. One of the dangers of the present
orientation of the victim movement is that rather than bringing the
feuding parties together it will widen the gap that separates them,
that it will intensify the conflict instead of solving it. Some victim
Prologue 7

programs have a well-deserved reputation for discouraging recon-

ciliation and for urging victims not to accept any settlement that does
not involve the punishment of the offender. An example from the
area of family violence would help illustrate this policy. Many shelter
homes for battered wives set as a formal or informal requirement for
admission that the wife does not return to her husband under any
circumstances. Residents may even be threatened with dismissal from
the shelter in case they agreed to mediation that might lead to the
resumption of marital cohabitation. While some of these require-
ments may be essential in certain cases to protect the woman against
further abuse, they are usually dictated not by the best interests of the
victims but by the ideological orientation of those running the
Some of the actions advocated by the victim movement might also
be in conflict with other goals of the criminal justice policy. Giving
victims a say in parole decisions may result in unnecessarily lengthy
incarceration and in delaying the social reintegration of the offender.
Victim impact statements are likely to bring about more prison
sentences and might discourage the use of prison alternatives.
Victims' involvement in plea bargaining negotiations is apt to make
the justice process slower and render the system more inefficient than
it is at present.



The labelling approach has amply shown the nefarious effects of

stigmatizing offenders and deviants and of branding them as social
enemies, misfits or outcasts. This should sensitize us to the dangers of
formal, intensive intervention with at least certain categories of crime
victims. The labelling of certain crime victims as a weak, vulnerable
group in dire need of assistance, care and compassion carries with it
the danger of attaching to those who are victimized a social stigma
similar to the one attached to welfare recipients, beneficiaries of
unemployment insurance and other unprivileged groups. Rock
(Chapter 2) refers to such stigma when he quotes the arguments often
made by feminists urging raped and battered women to resist the
ignoble title of "crime victim."
The dangers of stigmatization are greater still when popular
stereotypes of certain victims are created. Even more general prog-
8 Prologue

rams such as state compensation schemes do not escape the pitfalls of

stereotyping. Shapland (Chapter 10) draws attention to the prevailing
view in terms of society's attitudes to victims and victim assistance
according to which it is the deserving, innocent victim who should be
compensated or helped and that help should be given as a form of
charity. A stereotype is thus created and only those who fit this
stereotype (and this is decided by the schemes themselves) become
entitled to compensation!
The dangers of stigmatization and stereotyping could be reduced if
laws and programs designed to help, assist or compensate crime
victims were to emphasize their right not their plight, their strength
not their weakness and if they were based on the notion of risk not of
Stressing the weakness, the vulnerability, the helplessness and the
plight of crime victims carries with it yet another danger, the danger
of ostracizing the offender. By casting offenders and victims into
socially predefined antagonistic roles as predators and prey, as
outsiders and insiders, by amplifying their differences rather than
their similarities (similarities so well described by Hough - Chapter 5
- and by Garofalo - Chapter 6) and by magnifying the guilt of the
doer and the innocence of the sufferer, the wickedness of the former
and the virtue of the latter, we risk to reach what Rock (Chapter 2)
calls "the most extreme form of the divide" encountered in totalita-
rian societies which banish criminals and deviants to a metaphysical
exile outside the true community. By so doing, and by dismissing
criminals as strangers, totalitarian societies intentionally propagate
the view that these criminals are less than human thus rationalizing
and justifying the cruel, inhuman or extremely repressive measures
that are usually taken against them.



The welfare state has often been criticized for generating insatiable
demands for social services and for breeding an army of citizens
totally or partially dependent on these services. The critics maintain
that social services in the welfare state, whether run by professionals
or volunteers, whether they cater to the needs of the young or the
old, the poor, the unemployed or the handicapped, have a tendency
to develop dependency among their clients and even to extract these
Prologue 9

clients from their natural social networks. The truth of such allega-
tions is, of course, open to challenge. There can be no doubt,
however, that many social services do in the long run weaken social
ties by freeing the members of the traditional social network (rela-
tives, friends, neighbors, peers and so on) from some of the their
social obligations. Social services provide an alibi for our conscience.
They allow us to turn our backs on the needs of those fellow citizens
closest to us and to lay these needs at the doorstep of state agencies.
Victims of crime are now being defined as "society's orphans," as
the new herd of society's weaklings who are in dire need of the care of
the welfare state. Setting up social services for the victims allows us to
escape our own social responsibilities. And when victims are not
helped, when their needs are not met, when they are ultimately left to
suffer alone and in silence we need not feel guilty about our inaction,
we need not blame ourselves for not having lived up to our social and
civic obligations, we can always blame the authorities for their
The professionalization of victim services presents yet other dan-
gers. The personalized care of the victim's social network is replaced
by the depersonalized care of the state. The victim who within his
family, his neighborhood or his small community is treated as a
person and who in such setting feels and acts as an individual is
converted into "a client," or a "recipient of services." He/she has to
suffer the dehumanization of being transformed from a person to a
number. In addition, the psychological support and regeneration the
victim feels when cared for by family or friends is replaced by the
agony and humiliation of having been placed within the hands of
strangers who have to deal daily with dozens of other victims.



The psychology of the victim remains an unexplored field. To

understand the physical and emotional effects of victimization it is
necessary to turn to research done in other older disciplines such as
psychiatry and child psychology.
Child care is an area where psychologists have made important
contributions. They advise parents to protect their children but warn
them not to be overprotective. Too much attention, too much
concern, too much care tend to develop weak, dependent, fearful,
10 Prologue

passive and withdrawn individuals. In providing the care, help and

support victims need, caution should be exercised to avoid causing
greater harm to the victim. Intensive and/or excessive intervention
can delay the natural healing process. It can prolong the agony and
the trauma resulting from the offense, create undue anxieties about
the crime situation and the risks of victimization, and nurture
attitudes of distrust or mistrust among actual and potential victims.
There is already some empirical evidence that should sensitize us to
such danger. Psychiatrists have always been amazed at the remark-
able healiug capacity of the human psyche. Studies of victims of
violent victimization revealed that though the immediate and short-
term effects might in some cases be both dramatic and traumatic, the
victim is likely, in the long run, to make a healthy recovery and to
come away from the experience with little or no damage to his or her
psyche. Catamnestic studies of sexually molested children showed
that the victims whose cases were handled properly without too much
fuss, too much fanfare, did not suffer lingering ill effects. On the
other hand, in cases where the parents overreacted, the victims were
likely to suffer, years after the experience, from emotional side
effects. Follow-up studies of Austrian women gang-raped by Russian
soldiers in the final days of World War II reported that even such
grave, humiliating, and highly traumatic experience did not leave
permanent scars on the psyche of most victims.
The difficulty many victimization survey respondents have in
recalling the incidents of which they were victims (Skogan, chapter 4)
indicates that such experiences do not occur often enough to make a
major impact on their lives or to affect their way of life to any
considerable extent. Furthermore, even those offenses which do
occur sufficiently often do not seem to be important enough in
people's lives to be remembered vividly for any length of time
(McIntyre, 1967). McIntyre concluded that" ... most incidents of
victimization do not appear to constitute very important events in a
person's life experience" and hence are not readily recalled in an
Conklin (1975) found that personal victimization does not seriously
affect victims' attitudes and behaviour except perhaps in the short
run. He attributes this to the fact that most of the crimes people
suffer are trivial in nature such as the theft of a small sum of money.
He writes

Reaction to such crimes is minimal, even in the short run. Also,

reaction to even the more serious crimes of robbery and rape is apt
Prologue 11

to diminish over time; a sense of invulnerability returns after a

period during which no additional crimes occur.

Findings of recent studies, however, paint a drastically different

picture. To cite just one example, a study by Rich and Salasin in the
USA, reported in 1983, found that 90% of rape victims suffer
long-term emotional problems and the percentage was even higher
for burglary victims, 94%. These victims were found to be suffering
from what the authors called the "post-traumatic stress syndrome."
How can these findings, in sharp contrast with previous ones cited
above, be explained? They can be interpreted as indicating that
researchers in the social sciences tend to see what they want to see
and to find what they set out to find. The second and more plausible
explanation is that the traumatic effects suffered by crime victims are,
at present, more widespread, more profound, more intense than they
used to be, and last longer than they used to last. If that is true, could
there be a relationship between the change in our attitudes to crime
victims, between our new interventionist techniques with victims and
the growing pains of victimization? Could the heightened fear of
victimization reported in recent years be related in any way to the
increasing attention, the outpour of sympathy and the wide publicity
being given to the victims of crime? Do policies of intervention
prolong rather than shorten the traumatic effects of victimization?



The publicity currently being given to victim services is apt to create

or heighten expectations among crime victims. Such expectations, if
not met, can only lead to various levels of insatisfaction and
frustration with the criminal justice system and with the greater
society. The history of victim services, as brief as it is, is one of
unfulfiled promises and unmet expectations. This does not imply that
victim needs are so diverse or that their expectations are so high that
they cannot be met. It is simply a realistic assessment based on
various evaluations of existing victim services. The chapters by
Shapland and Elias (Chapters 10, 11 and 15) provide evidence ofthe
inadequacy of the services and the frustrations that ensue. In her
studies of crime victims in England, Shapland detected a mismatch
between victims expectations of the system and the system's assump-
12 Prologue

tions about victim needs. Consequently she warns that public state-
ments about the worth of victims, which are later shown to be hollow,
may rebound on any who set up such ineffective schemes. This is
confirmed by her finding that by the end of police and court
processes, there was a significant decline in victim's satisfaction with
the police handling of the case and also a decline in attribution of
positive qualities to the police generally.
Elias's assessment of the state of victim services in the USA paints
a more negative and gloomier picture. Referring to victim compensa-
tion, he notes that there is overwhelming evidence that the most
apparent goal of compensation schemes, namely to help restore
victims by providing financial payments, is not being met. For a
variety of reasons, only a very small percentage of victims receives
any assistance, and when it does come, it is with much delay and
considerable inconvenience. Elias notes further that for the most part
offender restitution is unused and ineffective. Regarding social
service referals, he observed that most social services do not address
victim needs and do not accept victim cases.
The inadequacy of existing victim services may be traced to many
factors not the least of which is the insufficient funding and the
shortage of personnel. In the present climate of austerity and
financial restraint it seems totally unrealistic to expect major commit-
ments of funds and resources to victim services even when such
commitments entail the prospect of political gain. If that is the case
then it may not be too pessimistic to expect most justice for victims
initiatives to remain, at least in the near future, in the realm of
political rhetoric rather than becoming a social reality.


The claim that victims' desire for justice can only be satisfied through
the infliction of harsher penalties is neither logical nor rational and is
belied by empirical research on what victims really want. Inhumane
treatment of the offender is not and need not be be an outcome or a
corollary of humanitarian consideration for the, victim. And it is not
necessary to sacrifice the basic or the constitutional rights of the
offender in order to affirm and safeguard the rights of the victim.
Unfortunately, most of the so-called victim bills passed or are being
considered by legislatures of some American states contain disposi-
tions that amount to the abrogation of some of the legal safeguards
Prologue 13

which for centuries have been the pride of criminal justice in the
USA. How regressive and retrograde it would be to sacrifice, under
the guise of protecting the victim, any of the fundamental principles
of democratic justice, be it the presumption of innocence, the
requirement of corroboration in certain crimes, or the exclusionary
rule. Such action can only backfire! How easy it is to forget that "we
are all potential aggressors - differently placed and variously moti-
vated to harm our fellows." Yes, it is always easier to see or to
perceive ourselves as potential victims than as potential aggressors.
The suffering of the victim is not diminished by increasing the
suffering of the offender. Inflicting undue pain on the perpetrator of
the crime does not alleviate the victim's distress. And the humiliation
suffered by the victim is not erased by the degradation of the
offender. Humaneness is indivisible. We cannot be humane to one
party and inhumane to the other, be kind to the victim and cruel to
the offender. We cannot preach justice for the aggressed and at the
same time tolerate injustice toward the aggressor.
Furthermore, our concern for the victim's plight should not blind
us to the fact those we label as criminals are more often than not
victims themselves. Without subscribing to a purely deterministic
view of criminal behavior, without negating individual responsibility,
we cannot but recognize that criminal hehavior has causes. And
whether one believes in nature or nurture, in the bad seed or the bad
environment, in theories of innate criminal tendencies or theories of
learning, we cannot escape the conclusion that everytime a crime is
committed against one of our fellow citizens, we as parents, brothers,
neighbors, educators, friends or peers, have failed in someway. We
have to accept a share in the blame and a part of the responsibility.
The crime, therefore, does not create a one-sided obligation, but a
dual responsibility on our part, to the one who transgressed and the
one who suffered. Both need help and support, both need sympathy
and compassion. It would be against the teachings of Christ and the
spirit of Christianity to care for the aggressed but not for the
aggressor or inversely to care for those who have sinned but not for
those sinned against. And in the long run, the interests of victims and
of society at large are best served by humanity and compassion, by
tolerance and forgiveness, by the development of conciliatory and
forgiving communities rather than hostile and vengeful ones.
Whether for political, ideological or practical reasons, victim
movements have been largely selective (I would even say discriminat-
ing) in their focus, emphasis and action, in the victim groups they
14 Prologue

adopt as well as in the types of crimes they chose to fight against. As a

result, the vast majority of victims have been left unprotected,
unassisted and unheard. If victim movements are claiming justice for
victims, then let it be justice for all victims. Can we stress the distress
and anguish of victims of conventional crimes and still remain
oblivious or indifferent to the pain and suffering done to the victims
of crimes committed by businessmen, politicians, and government
officials? And why single out the victims of intentional violent crimes
when acts of negligence, imprudence, and recklessness claim many
more lives and hurt many more victims? If we are to emphasize and
publicize the plight of victims of traditional criminality then let us not
forget or neglect the victims of social injustice, racial discrimination,
gross inequities in wealth and power, nor the victims of abuse of
As social scientists, as criminologists, as policy-makers, as criminal
justice practitioners, and as concerned citizens we should advocate a
justice system based on restitution not retribution. We should urge
society to abandon punishment and retaliation in favour of com-
pensation, mediation and reconciliation. We have to try to break the
vicious cycle of vengeance which does nothing but eternalize the
conflict and perpetuate the dispute. Let us prevent a return to the
summary justice of Lex Talionis or the arbitrary justice of the
classical and neo-classical schools. Let our reaction to crime be
marked by sympathy, pity and compassion vis-a.-vis those unfortunate
members of our society whether they are victims or offenders,
aggressed or aggressors. Let us build our society on love not hate, on
forgiveness not vindictiveness, on commiseration not retaliation.
Only then can we hope to create for our children and grand-children
a better society and a safer environment to live in.
Part I
On Society and the Victims
of Crime
1 The Ideal Victim


It is often useful within the social sciences to rely on personal

experiences, or at least take this as our point of departure. So, given
the challenge to lecture on the topic "Society and the victim," I
started out with some reflections on my own past history. Had I ever
been a victim, and if so, when and how? And I will ask you in this
audience to engage in the same exercise. Have you ever been
victims? When was that? Where was it? What characterized the
situation? How did you react? How did your surroundings react?
Maybe I could ask you to scribble down just a few words from your
own personal histories as a victim, not for my use, but for your own.
Such personal memories might prove valuable during my presenta-
tion, and particularly during our later discussions.
My personal conclusion as a result of my reflections came actually
as a certain surprise, at least to myself. It turned out that I had great
trouble in finding any example at all of having been a victim. The
closest to being one was a summer night far back in time. It was in
Finland. The night was light as nights are in the North during
summer, and in addition it had the soft blue qualities so particular to
Finland. A colleague, we were some 20 to 30 criminologists out in the
forest, proposed a running competition down to a nearby lake and
back again.
I was the only one who accepted. Before I had reached the shore,
he was up again to the point of departure. When I came up there, the
group had gone home. At that time, I feltlike a loser. When I later
got to know that the man who proposed the competition was a

* The author acknowledges the valuab1e comments he received from Vigdis

Christie, Tove Stang Dahl, Sturla Falck, Ezzat Fattah and Anglika Schafft.

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy
© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
18 On Society and the Victims of Crime

Swedish champion in running, I redefined my situation into being a

Upon further scrutiny of my personal history I have been able to
remember a few cases of stolen bikes, one of someone breaking and
entering into my apartment, a child carrier was once stolen, a cottage
broken into. But it was not important. It is the blue night in Finland
that I do remember.
My preliminary reflections are two: Firstly, being a victim is not a
thing, an objective phenomenon. It will not be the same to all people
in situations externally described as being the "same." It has to do
with the participants definition of the situation. Some will see victory (I
dared to participate) where others see victims (I was cheated).
Secondly, the phenomenon can be investigated both at the personal-
ity level and at the social system level. Some might have personalities
that make them experience themselves as victims in most life
situations while others tend to define life according to other dimen-
sions. The tendency to see oneself as a victim might in the perspective
be called a personality trait. At the level of social systems, some
systems might be of the type where a lot of victimization is seen as
taking place, while others are seen as being without victims. In what
follows, I will concentrate on the sociology of the phenomena.


Doing so, I will raise the question: what characterizes - at the social
level- the ideal victim? With the term "ideal victim" I do not think of
the person or category most perceiving herself or himself as a victim.
Nor do I think of those in the greatest danger of being victimized or
most often victimized. These might or might not be included. By
"ideal victim" I have instead in mind a person or a category of
individuals who - when hit by crime - most readily are given the
complete and legitimate status of being a victim. The ideal victim is, in
my use of the term, a sort of public status of the same type and level
of abstraction as that for example of a "hero" or a "traitor." It is
difficult to count these ideal victims. Just as it is difficult to count
heroes. But they can be exemplified. Most of us will have some cases
in mind. Let me give you one from my culture: the little old lady on
her way home in the middle of the day after having cared for her sick
sister. If she is hit on the head by a big man who thereafter grabs her
The Ideal Victim 19

bag and uses the money for liquor or drugs - in that case, we come, in
my country, close to the ideal victim. It is so by at least five attributes:

(1) The victim is weak. Sick, old or very young people are particular-
ly well suited as ideal victims.
(2) The victim was carrying out a respectable project - caring for her
(3) She was where she could not possibly be blamed for being - in the
street during the daytime.
(4) The offender was big and bad ..
(5) The offender was unknown and in no personal relationship to

A contrasting example of a far from ideal victim would be a young

man hanging around in a bar, hit on the head by an acquaintance who
took his money. His head might be more severely hurt than that of the
old lady, his money more dear to him. Nonetheless, he could not
compete with her for getting the status as an ideal victim.

- He was strong.
- He was not carrying out any respectable project.
- He could and should have protected himself by not being there.
- He was as big as the offender.
- And he was close to the offender.

The importance of these differences is illustrated in rape cases. The

ideal case here is the young virgin on her way home from visiting sick
relatives, severely beaten or threatened before she gives in. From this
there are light-years in distance to the experienced lady on her way
home from a restaurant, not to talk about the prostitute who attempts
to activate the police in a rape case.
So far I have stated that the ideal victim is weak compared to the
unrelated offender, as well as having put a reasonable energy into
protecting herself (in rare cases himself) against becoming a victim.
These are necessary conditions. But they are not always sufficient.
This is illustrated if we move into the area of family-violence. In my
country, husbands can be convicted for raping their wives. I do not
need to emphasize that the sentenced males are few and far between,
and that their raped wives do not exactly represent the ideal type of
victims. Such is also the case with wife-beating and maltreatment of
20 On Society and the Victims of Crime

children within families. We have every reason to believe that this is a

major area of violent crime in my country, but still it seems to have
been, up to very recently, next to impossible to get the phenomena
out in the open, that is to sentence the criminals and to convey upon.
the victims their legitimate status as suffering victims.
I think the feminists have given the right answers. It is in the
interest of all parties, except that of a few isolated rapists, to protect
females against foreign intruders. It is in everyone's interest to
protect our children against deviant monsters lurking in the streets or
parks. Such monsters ought to get a sentence for life and the victims
every possible care and attention. But my home is my castle.
Children might behave provocatively, also sexually. And wives have
after all entered a contractually-based relationship, one of providing
mutual services. There is more between heaven and earth than
neighbors can understand, and - so it is said - the man might have
some relatively-good reasons for his behavior. The extended family
has shrunk, the servants have disappeared, left are isolated nuclear
families with a cultural heritage of male dominance. Rudelyexpress-
ed: beaten wives are not such ideal victims because we - males -
understand the phenomena so extraordinarily well, and because we
can get our definition of the situation to be the valid one. It is
according to males' "Weltanschaung" and interests not to see rough
handling of cohabitants as creating victims. When the man beat up his
wife in my culture, and the police are called in, they called it, until
recently, a case of "husbnIk." That means noise in the house. Noise
does not create good victims. Noise is something that needs to be
But with these examples, we enter an area where recently great
changes have taken place. Wives are not "ideal victims." Not yet. But
they are approaching that status. They are more ideal today than
yesterday. The explanation of this development is probably as simple
as it is sad: the development has taken place because we are now
affluent enough, and not because we have improved morally, not
because we are becoming more kind. We are now so affluent that
parties can divorce - leave. Wives do not have to take it anymore.
With changed material conditions, women find it less "natural" to
receive the beating or domestic raping. They are also closer to a
position where they can claim that their definition of the situation is
the valid one. They can make the political claim of being real victims.
As ideal as the old ladies. Or as the virgins walking home from caring
for the sick.
The Ideal Victim 21

This is not quite the situation. Not quite, and not yet. But
development is moving in that direction. There are no reasons to
believe that violence within the family has increased. But the status of
women has changed. Their material conditions have changed, so has
their self-conception. Beaten wives have thus come several steps
closer to being ideal victims, that is - to be seen and to see themselves
as such a species.
A condition, number six, for being an ideal victim, is thus that you
are powerful enough to make your case known and successfully claim
the status of an ideal victim. Or alternatively, that you are not
opposed by so strong counter-powers that you can not be heard.

* * *

Could we conceive of a situation where ordinary women, wives or

cohabitants, received, so to say, complete status as ideal victims if
they were physically maltreated by their partners? I am, out of pure
theory, far from certain that this ever could happen. I am even in
doubt if it ought to happen. My reasoning above was that females got
their definition of being victims of their cohabitants to stick when
they got a material base for independence. But as (if) that base
improves further, a new problem will arise. Females can protect
themselves by leaving. Why not then just leave if violence seems to
come up? Through independence they become similar to the man in
the bar. He should have known before and left. And so should she.
The more females attain an independent status, the more useful it is
for them to claim victim-status, and the more they are listened to. But
at the same time: the more they gain independence, materially, the
less credibility is given to any claim of victim-status as a result of
weakness or lack of possibilities for self-protection. I am well aware
that my reasoning here is almost like discussing the dangers of too
much rain in the Sahara. Equal rights for females are equally far
away. When I nevertheless bring up the point, I do it out of pure
theoretical concerns. The reasoning brings to the surface another
important element in being an ideal victim: she (or sometimes he)
must be strong enough to be listened to, or dare to talk. But she (he)
must at the very same time be weak enough not to become a threat to
other important interests. A minimum of strength is a precondition to
being listened to, but sufficient strength to threaten others would not
be a good base for creating the type of general and public sympathy
that is associated with the status of being a victim.
22 On Society and the Victims of Crime

Let me illustrate the importance of weakness through a description

of some ladies who never made it as authorized victims.


Just a few weeks ago, I spent an evening with a person who in

Medieval times never would have achieved the status as an ideal
victim. It was a lady in her late forties. Her face is what I remember
best. It expressed, continually, such an unusual range of variation, a
one-dimensional change, but wide and enormously fast. In the one
second she had stars in her eyes and happiness expressed in every
little wrinkle. In the next, her eyes were filled with sorrow, and her
face with despair, bordering on hatred. I came to learn that this was a
hate directed towards herself. But what if I had not come to know?
And what if I had lived in a cultural framework which led me into
alternative interpretations? The lady had a problem which might
ilav,,; complicated both her and my life if she had lived in another
century, and I had met her at that time. She had a problem with small
devils. Sometimes they crawled all over her. They represented a great
nuisance to her. And they also indicated that she was a bad person.
To me, she typified the "Arch-sinner." But she had good luck. She
lives now. And she lives with people who are more influenced by the
glittering stars in her eyes, than by her hatred. They relieve her with
what I would call an arch-healing process. They make a little
performance where they pick up all the small devils from her body,
kick them out of the house and lock the door behind.
Four centuries earlier, we would have burned her. She confesses to
having devils all over. She looks, in her bad moments, like a witch.
She claims to be one. I have very seldom met such a clear case of a
witch. And she is talkative. Maybe we even did not need to torture
her to get information on other witches in the district. She could
trigger off a big witch-hunt. We might be able to clean up the whole
country, to the protection of our souls and to the glory of God.
My point is a simple one: ladies, weak or old, have not always been
"ideal victims" mobilizing our sympathy. Today we can see the old
witches as victims of oppression. But that is four hundred years too
late. At the time of the witch-hunt, their torture was a matter of
course and their burning a part of the public entertainment. Why
were they not seen as victims, then?
The Ideal Victim 23

There are, as we know, several theories on the forces behind the

great witch-hunts of Medieval Europe. 1 For our purpose, it suffices to
point to two striking contrasts between that time and ours. First: the
role of females, particularly the older ones, have changed. In general,
they seem to have had more power at that time than today. They had
important functions, at birth, in cases of sickness, and in cases of
death. And they had secrets. People with secrets do also have power,
or potentialities for power. While our feelings toward our old ladies
of today might be characterized by guilt due to the lack of attention
we give them, our predecessors feelings seem to have been more of
respect and fear. This point must, however, not be stretched too far.
By and large witches were recruited from the lower social strata. A
great amount of power meant you were at least better protected
against being forced into the status. A small amount of power was
more suitable for witches.
The second contrasting element between that time and ours has to
do with the general belief-system. Hell was a reality in Medieval
times. The Devil was a King, small devils were his servants, witches
his sub-servants - and his concubines. The Medieval times had also
explanatory systems when it came to sickness and misfortune which
made witches useful. People could bring it upon each other, with
witches as intermediators. In that time, sickness was caused by
human motives like envy or greed, where we today think of germs
and too great a quota of cholesterol. The little old lady of today is
stripped of power and important social functions in a culture with
other beliefs. That makes her, in contrast to the ladies of the
witch-age, particularly well suited for the role of the ideal victim in
criminal cases. We are already swamped with guilt in our rela-
tionships to her. A crime against her gives us a most welcome
opportunity to turn our attention - and emotions and anger - towards
the criminal.

* * *

But maybe Medieval thinking also had some strengths exactly because
of its personification of the source of unwanted conditions. Perso-
nification makes action possible. This we find illustrated if we turn
our attention to another type of non-ideal victim, one that is
prevalent in our type of society. What I here have in mind is the
ignorant victim, the one victimized without knowing. Or rather, the
24 On Society and the Victims of Crime

many victimized without knowing, neither that they are victimized,

nor the source.
Sickness might again serve as an illustration. While I write this
paper, the news reaches me that workers will have to pay more for
their life insurance than functionaries. They have to pay higher
premiums to their own insurance company, the one owned and run
by the Labour Movement of my country. We are so sorry, say the
representatives of the company, but the simple fact is that workers
die earlier than functionaries. In the competitive market situation
workers will therefore have to pay more, or the firm will go broke.
Even though most of us in Scandinavia have become immensely more
wealthy than before, class differences remain. People die unneces-
sarily early by belonging to the wrong class. They are victims of
structural violence.
I lost the running-competition in that Finnish summer night. But
later I got the information that enabled me to see myself as a victim,
not just a loser or a failure. Furthermore, I got information that
enabled me to find the offender. Instead of wasting my energies on
improving my speed, a hopeless task in competition with a champion,
or instead of brooding over one more failure in life, I was able to
scold my competitor for unsporting behavior (and thereby initiate a
lasting friendship) and thereafter choose an arena for life expressions
more suited to my strengths than my weaknesses.
The working class child in the school system does not know that she
or he is taking part in a competition designed by and for children
from classes above. The working class child will take the defeat, as
documented again and again in the studies of education, as a personal
failure. It will be one more of the long row of signals that build up to
the stable pattern of accepting rewards not so good as those at the top
of society. Not victims, but losers become their self-definition. And
most important: there are no particular culprits in this game. No
specific person had laid down the rules that make class background
essential for the outcome of the educational process. No particular
individual is - more than others in his class - responsible for the
shorter life-expectancy among workers. Workers become victims
without offenders. Such victims are badly suited.
Witches and workers are non-ideal victims - victims in the meaning
of seeing themselves or getting others to see them as such - because
they have important, but not sufficient strengths, because other
people have contrary interests, and because they lived or live in
cultures with personalized responsibilities for sickness (witches), but
The Ideal Victim 25

with depersonalized responsibilities for living and working conditions



Ideal victims need - and create - ideal offenders. The two are
interdependent. An old lady who breaks her hip after a fall on an icy
pathway gets sympathy, but no headlines. If her fall were due to a
pursesnatcher, she would have been well suited for at least a notice in
the local newspaper. The more ideal a victim is, the more ideal
becomes the offender. The more ideal the offender, the more ideal is
the victim.
The point might be illustrated through the not-so-ideal offender. I
have three types in mind. One is the drug-pusher. In Norwegian we
call him "narkohai," that means "narco-shark." It is the big operator,
the man who imports large quantities of dangerous drugs, the man
who cynically and just for profit, causes enormous sufferings in the
population. He does not use drugs himself. He does it only for the
money. To punish him, we have increased the penal tariffs enormous-
ly. Our Parliament, the 'Storting." has just received a proposal from
our Cabinet to increase the tariff to 21 years for such dealers. In
practice, it will be a harsher punishment than that for murder. The
only problem left is the lack of such dealers. As B0dal (1982) had
proven: with some few exceptions, the situation is one where the big
sharks do not exist. Importers do of course exist. But they are nearly
always users themselves. They are victims of their own trade.
Probably they were victims before they engaged in the trade.
Offenders that merge with the victims make for bad offenders, just as
victims that merge with offenders make for bad victims. For the social
pedagogical task of building up strong negative attitudes against
drugs and drug dealers - getting acceptance for a penal tariff far in
excess of all usual standards, the image of the shark was - and is -
extremely much better suited than the offender who in reality is a
suffering victim.
Most violent offenders are in reality not so ideal either. Most are
known by the victim, many are intimately close to him or her. When
it comes to violence between men, a great amount of it takes place in
public places, while both offender and victim are intoxicated, and in
situations where it is rather unclear who initiated the violent action.
Statistically, this is the typical pattern. But as it is clear to us now, this
26 On Society and the Victims of Crime

gives a most unsuitable image of the perpetrator. The ideal offender

differs from the victim. He is, morally speaking, black against the
white victim. He is a dangerous man coming from far away. He is a
human being close to not being one. Not surprisingly, this is to a large
extent also the public image of the offender.
This brings me to my third case of an unsuitable criminal. As some
of you will know from some very early publications of mine (Christie,
1952 and 1953) I once made a study of guards in concentration camps.
But I did not study the guards of the enemy, I did not study German
SS troops in Buchenwald or Sachsenhausen. I studied Norwegian
guards, working for the Germans, but killing and torturing in
Norway. I will not report the findings, but only the reactions to the
findings. In great oversimplification, I found that the killers and
torturers were quite ordinary Norwegians. They were like us, and we
would have behaved as they did had we, with their age and
educational background, been placed into their situation. The reac-
tion to this finding was a non-reaction. No denial, but neither were
there any comments. My article was published in a journal which was
usually heavily quoted in the mass media. But not in this case.
Twenty years later I was asked to publish the total manuscript as a
book, and so I did (Christie, 1972). This time the findings were
received with some attention. My interpretation is that the first
reports in 1952 and 1953 appeared too close to the war. It was just too
much - it became unbearable - to see the worst of the enemies, the
torturers and killers, as people like ourselves. In the public mind they
were Quislings, traitors, psychopaths, mad, evil. To survive in an
occupied country, we need a de-humanized picture of the enemy, a
real and distant offender. In 1972 new generations of readers had
arrived. Their need for understanding was greater than their need for
ideal offenders. In the meantime Milgram (1964) had published, the
Vietnam war had taken place, the banality of atrocity was well
established. Maybe I had good luck to be allowed to publish my first
results already in 1952. Several years later I had a long conversation
with professor Batawia of Warsaw University. After the war, he
made a very thorough study of one of the major German war
criminals, the director of one of the concentration camps, a man
responsible for an unbelievable amount of sufferings and death
among the prisoners. Batawia's results were similar to mine. They
were never made public. I do in a way understand it, in a society as
haunted as the Polish.
The Ideal Victim 27


Let me make a short detour to the relationship between ideal victims,

real victims and the scared ones. As already hinted at: ideal victims
do not necessarily have much to do with the prevalence of real
victims. Most ideal victims are not most frequently represented as
real victims. The real victims are so to say the negation of those who
are most frequently represented. In all official counts, the man in the
bar is a much more common victim than the little old lady. Ideal
victims are, however, very much afraid of being victimized. Study
after study (in Scandinavia represented by Balvig 1979 and Olaussen
1983) show a very high connection between the qualities that qualify
for becoming an ideal victim, and having a particular fear of being the
victim of crime, particularly the crime of violence.
Many among the real victims do not fear. Probably they do not fear
because they have more correct information regarding the real risks.
They hang around in crime-exposed areas, but do at the same time
know, by personal observation, that crime after all is only a minor
phenomenon in these areas, minor compared to all other life-
activities that go on. The old ladies get their information through
mass media. They have no personal control of the information
conveyed. They get a picture of an area - an existence - where crime
is the major activitity.


Are victims wanted?

Yes. And no. But first: yes. Yes when it improves the situation of
suffering individuals. Victims who are not seen as victims ought often
to be seen as such. Wife-beating will not continuously be defined as
noise when feminists cry out. It is a great improvement that material
conditions and personal courage have allowed them to do so. Wives
or cohabitants as an officially accepted and important category of
victims is a necessary first step. The second step, however, would be
to bring females even closer to equals. And that step would under-
mine their position as ideal victims. The ideal victim is in a subordin-
ated, weak position. If females opted for a status as ideal victims,
they would have to accept a lasting subordination. Not so total that
they were not listened to, but sufficient to enlist sympathy for the
28 On Society and the Victims of Crime

weak. With equality, they get reduced claims to the status of being a
good classical victim.
Again the little old ladies can illustrate my point. They can be
protected in two principally different ways. The one is more police,
more severe punishments, still more public sympathy. But this is a
solution with considerable costs, even for the old women. The costs
are derived from the excessive attention given to their potential status
as victims. This attention does also produce anxiety. This fear of
crime is a life-handicapping feature of old people's existence. The
more attention we give them as victims, the more they fear.
The other alternative would be to make old ladies once more
eligible for witch-status. That means - adapted to modern times - not
to give them such a dependent status as in our societies, not to let
them live a life so stripped of important social functions. The old and
often highly derogatory jokes about mothers-in-law do not exist any
more in my culture. They are not needed. Mothers-in-law are not of
any social importance any longer. Old people are placed outside of
most important tasks in society. They are mostly well fed, comfort-
able, warm and often - in contrast to old-beliefs - visited by their
relatives. But they are receivers, consumers, clients - not producers.
No one is dependent on them. With more power, and a more active
social life three things would have happened. They would probably
more often become real victims of crime, they would receive less
attention when they were victimized, and they would have less fear of
becoming victims.

* * *

The ideal criminal can be seen in the same perspective. In certain

stages of a social process it might be of the utmost importance to get
certain acts defined as crime, and certain actors as criminals. Wife
beaters are typical examples, as are also persons responsible for the
breaking of laws against handling poisonous industrial products or
laws on the protection of workers. But again, there are two roads to
heaven. When the evil character of the acts has been clearly
established, when wife-beating and sloppy disposal of poison and
maltreatment of workers are well established as crimes, then comes
the question of further measures.
And here we get in trouble with the concept of the ideal offender.
The ideal offender is a distant being. The more foreign, the better.
The less humane, also the better. Again a person, or rather a
The Ideal Victim 29
non-person, who creates anxiety. And also that calls for actions that
might have counter-effects. By being that extremely bad, other acts,
not quite that bad, can escape attention as well as evaluation. By
having an oversimplified picture of the ideal offender, business for
the rest of us can go on as usual. My morality is not improved by
information about bad acts carried out by monsters.
As scientists, our major obligation is clear; we have to tell the
truth. But if so, we can very seldom hope to be useful - and highly
rewarded - in helping society to establish pictures of ideal offenders.
There are too few monsters around. Most offenders are non-ideal.
They are in most of their relationships and in most of their attributes
like other people. This message would block attempts to externalize
the problem. Consequently, criminologists are not listened to. The
lesson I have learned, is that people have to find out for themselves.
This means they must be brought into situations where they cannot
escape the conclusion. Such situations are where they come close to
the offender, where they get to know him personally. Fragmented
societies with isolated individuals are ideal for creating ideal victims
and ideal offenders. Knowledge makes for realistic and multi-
dimensional evaluation - and sanctions directed against those deserv-
ing sanctions.
One important method to let people find out for themselves is to do
our utmost to let victims and offenders get a realistic chance to get to
know each other. I have in an article on "Conflicts as property"
(Christie, 1977) emphasized the need for giving the victim a more
important role to play in the criminal process. In my book "Limits to
pain" (Christie, 1981) I try to be slightly more concrete, particularly
in outlining the need for a civilization of the legal process. Acts are
not. They become. The definitions of acts and actors are results of
particular forms of social organizations. To me it seems an important
ideal to help to create social systems where people are so close to
each other that concepts as crime and criminals are seen by every-
body as being of very limited usefulness. Blame and guilt are essential
in social life. But I doubt if offenders and victims are.


1. Trevor-Roper (1956) and Lea (1888). For Norwegian conditions: Alver

30 On Society and the Victims of Crime


Alver, Bente (1971), Heksetro og trolldom (Oslo).

Balvig, Flemming (1982) "Ungdomskriminalitet - med srerlig henblick pa
retssystemets utvelgelsesmekanismer", Arsberetning 1981 Kriminalistisk
Institut, K0benhavns Universitet, Stencilserie, no. 18, pp. 33-49.
B0dal, Kare (1982), 350 narkoselgere. (Universitetsforlaget).
Christie, Nils (1952), "Fangevoktere i konsentrasjonsleire", Nordisk Tids-
skrift for kriminalvidenskab vol. 41, pp. 439-58.
-(1953), ibid., vol. 42, pp. 44-60.
-(1972), As a book (Oslo).
--(1977), "Conflicts as Property", British Journal of Criminology, vol. 17,
pp. 1-15.
--(1981), Limits to Pain (Oslo/Oxford).
Dahl, Tove Stang (1980), "Kvinner som ofre", Nordisk tidsskrift for krimi-
nalvidenskab, vol. 70, pp. 56-77.
Lea, Henry Charles (1888), A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages
Olaussen, Leif Petter (1983), "Om angst for void og alvorlig sjikane." Lov og
Rett, vol. 23, pp. 115-34 (ph).
Trevor-Roper (1956), Witches and Witchcraft (Great Britain).
2 Society's Attitude to the

On one level, it is evident that the subject of this short chapter is a

little absurd. It is almost impossible to furnish a scientifically defensi-
ble conception of society without retreating to a description of
people's imagination of that conception. "Society" has no visible,
corporate presence. Neither is there a vantage point from which one
may view the simultaneous doings of several million Canadians or
Britons and give them a collective identity. All those doings are
simply a vast scatter of busy exchanges, solitary happenings, meet-
ings, partings, collaborations, conflicts and alliances without obvious
design or order. One cannot grasp them as a totality. There is
probably no pre structured totality to be grasped. The very idea of a
structured society is an imposition, an analytic artifact deeply embed-
ded in metaphysics. As Dewey argued.

Society is of course but the relations of individuals to one another

in this form or that. And all relations are interactions, not fixed
molds ... I often wonder what meaning is given to the term
'society' by those who oppose it to the intimacies of personal
intercourse, such as those of friendship .... We should forget
'society' and think of law, industry, religion, medicine, politics,
art, education, philosophy - and think of them in the plural. For
points of contact are not the same for any two persons and hence
the questions which the interests and occupations pose are never
twice the same. 1

Society as an artifact or imagination is a pragmatic construction

which does particular service in particular settings. It will bear the
mark of the circumstances in which it is discussed, invoked, pointed

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy
© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
32 On Society and the Victims of Crime

at and analysed. It will acquire a special organized character in every

one of the situations in which it is made to appear. At a distance, of
course, society may also be described as the aggregate of all those
lesser situations. Yet even in that guise it cannot escape being but a
larger and more abstract construction, and instance of the problem of
the class of classes. Moreover, it will remain a representation of
society, not society itself, becoming ever more highly typified as it
recedes from the small and the local. Its shape will remain a
contrivance and a conjecture. Scale is not always a promise of greater
adequacy: it will merely further a different purpose, allowing know-
ledge to change without any necessary increase in certainty.
It is in this sense that there is considerable ambiguity about
society's attitude to the victims. On the one hand, it may be claimed
that society can have no attitude because it does not exist as an
ascertainable entity with a separate will and stance of its own. On the
other, society's attitude becomes a feature of typifications mobilized
under certain conditions.
To be sure, some moves can be made towards charting the postures
of those who compose a society. There have been attempts to chart
the responses of populations to crime;2 the correlates of fears of
victimization;3 beliefs about rates of crime;4 attitudes towards
victimizationS and personal safety. 6 There is an accumulation of
information about how interviewed people state that they see the
world. In America, for instance, they assume that crime abounds but
somewhere other than in their immediate neighborhood, that crime is
rather violent, and that it merits more strenuous suppression. People
feel vulnerable when local rates of crime are high and after they have
been victimized themselves. Women and the elderly believe them-
selves to be most at risk.
The business of interviewing tends to engender a very special
personality for crime. It produces a peculiar analytic incision, a kind
of observer effect, which transforms any of the materials which it
encounters or helps to fabricate. Much is gained but there is also an
opportunity cost. Polls and attitude surveys display a strain towards
reducing all the complexity and detail of people's interpretative work
to a somewhat unintegrated collection of discrete, simple and
monochromatic attitudes. The attitudes themselves are not always
easily recognized as the motives and gestures which inform practical
conduct in everyday life. As Skogan remarked, "beliefs about crime
seem in particular to be unrelated to experience or subsequent
behavior. ,,7
Society's Attitude to the Victim 33

In part, this form of incision flows from the social organization and
sponsorship of public attitude research. Established chiefly to answer
questions put immediately or mediately by government
organizations,8 that research has been expected to furnish rapid,
unambiguous and quantified data. It has been bureaucratized, gov-
erned by an emphasis on administrative practicality, and dominated
by technological issues. The efficiency of data-processing has become
paramount. Its attendant research has come to form a distinct and
recognized part of the division of intellectual labor , the province of a
separate array of polling and survey institutes which were never
intended to manage delicate epistemological or sociological prob-
lems. Gallup, National Opinion Polls, Roper and Crossley have
formed one wing. Special units at a number of universities and
agencies have formed another. Their thrust has been towards the
presentation of useful, digestible materials which are phrased in
common-sense language for common-sense purposes. In turn, defini-
tions of public attitudes and public opinion have sometimes mirrored
those technical and organizational imperatives:

Public opinion in this discussion may simply be taken to mean

those opinions held by private persons which governments find it
prudent to heed. 9
Public opinion consists of people's reactions to definitely worded
statements and questions under interview conditions. lO
Public opinion is not the name of a something, but a classification
of a number of somethings, which on statistical arrangement in a
frequency distribution present modes or frequencies that com-
mand attention and interest. 11
Public opinion upon any matter was conceived as the hypothetical
result of an imaginary plebiscite. 12

So defined, public opinion and its constituent attitudes become the

product of a specific investigatory process. They are not a sensitive
record of a fluid, multifaceted and often indeterminate world. They
are an artifact of polls commanded for political, administrative and
commerical reasons. Interestingly, that definition cannot but be
helpful at the phenomenal level. Survey workers prepare and apply
questionnaires; politicians, adminstrators and journalists may re-
spond to the replies which questionnaires elicit; and together, they
34 On Society and the Victims of Crime

give birth to a particular phenomenon which is as much a social fact

as any other. It little matters whether alternative strategies might not
have created a different vision of society and its attitudes. Neither
does it matter whether it is actually possible to supply valid descrip-
tions of so heterogeneous and abstruse an entity as society. In many
political and social contexts, the organizationally-generated imagery
of public attitudes is real enough in its consequences. It can become a
fact that has something of an objective and constraining existence. It
can affect conduct. Although public attitudes can assume many
shapes, surveys do have a most important effect on political and
social conduct. In this sense, the procedures employed by survey
research organizations must be viewed as the working grammar of
one very significant kind of public opinion. Ironically, what may
initially appear to be sociologically naive is actually a fairly literal and
exhaustive definition of one manifestation of the phenomenon of
society's attitudes. That manifestation is sui generis. It may be
described as the results of polls which are noticed by administrators
and others.
Any consideration of that definition can foster a conflict between
competing versions of adequacy. Thus Plowman protested:

... public opinion is a complex process that cannot properly be

measured by an arbitrary cross-section of opinions; ... even on the
pollsters' own definition - the measures of opinion on controver-
sial issues offered by the commercial polls in this country cannot
readily be validated and are - as practical guides to public opinion
- of doubtful value. The practice of public opinion polling
implicitly treats 'public opinion' as the opinion of all members of a
defined universe ... as measured by means of standard questions
presented to an appropriate sample. It is a sign of the influence of
the polls that current discussion of public opinion tends to take this
definition for granted. But few people challenge the implied
definition of public opinion. 13

The apparent contradiction between a taken-for-granted definition

and the "doubtful validity" of the polls can be made to disappear. It
disappears with the abandonment of the quest for an authentic
expression of what people "really believe." What passes for public
attitudes in political and institutional life is something other than that
expression. Politicians and administrators are not manifestly con-
strained by sociologically meritorious analyses of attitudes but they
Society's Attitude to the Victim 35

may be affected by "standard questions presented to an appropriate

sample." In this sense, Durant's somewhat assertive claim may be
justified: "public opinion can be considered to mean what the ...
pollers say it means.,,14 It is justified precisely because "few people
challenge the implied definition." The produce of surveying attitudes
to the victim may be a substantial collective representation in its own
It is not the only collective representation on view. Journalists,
politicians and novelists are sometimes bolder than phenomenalist
sociologists in their depiction of the social order. Crime news,15
stories,16 speeches and courtroom arguments 17 form a looking glass
that is held up before society, presenting what seem to be coherent
reflections of the world. That looking glass not only distorts its
object, it also engenders them, exaggerating, shaping, creating and
neglecting what passes in front of it. Its imagery is not always
consistent and harmonious, and it contains many visions of order.
But certain themes do appear to be pronounced: there is a drift
towards robbing deviation of meaning or sensible purpose;lS a great
divide is traced between deviance and conformity; 19 deviants are
represented as a small group of marauders who exist outside the
boundaries of conventional space; they are organized and sometimes
led;20 and it is argued that a turning towards deviance should be
understood not as a conversion but as corruption. 21 There are
abundant contrary glimpses of the social order, and the master model
is not entirely stable. Yet the themes are there in many speeches and
popular newspapers and they do give a special meaning to victimiza-
tion itself. It is a meaning that has been celebrated in a number of
guises, being quite venerable, and it is part of a tradition that is much
older than newspapers and novels.
There are interesting affinities between the maps of order offered
by the mass media and those lodged in that tradition. In a number of
societies, and in those marked by a strong emphasis on the group in
particular,22 the community is portrayed as a moral territory which is
to be sharply distinguished from the depravities of all that lies outside
its borders. Crime and immorality are described as invasions from
without, attacks on the fundamentally ordered world of the interior.
Indeed, immorality is tantamount to ambiguity and disorganization.
And that portrait must be correct by descriptive fiat. Fitting members
of the social order are those who possess the appropriate virtues.
Others are outsiders. The right to occupy that moral territory being
achieved by decorousness and forfeited by unruliness, the divide
36 On Society and the Victims of Crime

between the inner and the outer world is perfectly valid. It has been
celebrated in a number of ways, one minor example being the
distinction traced by English and Canadian Criminal Injuries Com-
pensation Boards between the morally deserving and undeserving
victims of crime. The undeserving lost some of the rights of
citizenship that are attached to those who inhabit the inner and moral
The thesis that the true society is victimized by outsiders may be
discerned in the moral schemes of many societies. It may be detected
in the political charts of late seventeenth century England. There was
a dominant metaphor for society: England was an organism, a body
politic, made up of properly aligned and proportioned parts with
different functions and degrees of importance. Each part had a task
to perform and harmony was secured by the working co-ordination of
the whole. Crime and unrest became distempers and fevers, the
results of the harm inflicted by the pests and parasites who had no
place in society. Criminals were foreigners who victimized those who
belonged within. Consider Ogg's depiction of what he has called the
English Ancien Regime:

It is possible to think of seventeenth-century England as an

episode in a civilization so nearly stationary and self-contained
that it can almost be studied in vacuo; a civilization having this
dominating characteristic, that the freeholder on the land and the
freeman in the town were, each in his sphere, the accredited
elements in society, in comparison with which other men
appeared, not as rival classes, but as adjunct, or excrescences, or
even social dangers. Like the citizens in Aristotle's city state, only
the 'free' were endowed with complete virtue, the others being
capable of no more than a secondary or reflected form, adapted to
their subordinate function. 23

The most extreme form of the divide is to be encountered in

totalitarian societies which banish criminals and deviants to a
metaphysical exile outside the true community. Russian criminolog-
ists are prone to assert that crime is not a real part of Soviet society,
that survivals from a bourgeois past or alien incursions "explain the
historically non-immanent character of crime and help to reveal the
fact that socialism does not give birth to crime, that the regularities
immanent in socialism do not give birth to crime. ,,24 Criminals are
Society's Attitude to the Victim 37

dismissed as strangers. In Nazi Germany, too, Jews and Gypsies were

held to be less than human.
On a number of occasions, those who are marginal or beyond the
pale have been endowed with non-human character: Fleta claimed
that outlaws had wolves' heads; witches have been depicted as ruled
by devils, capable of taking animal form as were-creatures;25 and the
mad have sometimes been linked with possession.
It is the object of many States to withdraw authenticity from those
who offend. In revolutionary societies, especially, energetic ideolo-
gical work has been performed to establish firm distinction between
insiders and outsiders, victims and criminals, the new person and the
old. Deviants and their victims give special clarity to the contours and
limits of the ideal order in the making. Indeed, they have been forced
to play parts in an elaborate dramatization of morality: show trials,
denunciations and inspirational texts serving to fuel a new demonolo-
gy. As Walzer argued, "before Puritans, Jacobins, or Bolsheviks
attempt the creation of a new order, they must create new men.
Repression and collective discipline are the typical methods of this
creativity: the disordered world is interpreted as a world at war;
enemies are discovered and attached?6
Conceptions of order, moral substance, social danger and victi-
mization are perhaps central to any organized idea of society. The
totalitarian version may exaggerate its features but it is an exaggera-
tion rather than a completely distinct type. Any idea receives its
character from the structure and boundaries that constitute it: its
vitality flows from the contrasts that are made between that which is
idea and that which is not. Thus Douglas stated, "in our everyday
lives, morality and immorality, respectability and disreputability, the
other-worldly and the this-worldly, the sacred and the secular - each
term necessarily implies the existence of its opposite for its own
meaning and, above all, for much of the force it exerts on our
lives. ,,27 Most importantly, any idea may be compared with its
negation, which is the absence of sense. The very orderliness and
coherence of society itself stand in opposition to the disorder around
it. Society is an attempt to make sense in an environment which has
no inherent meaning. As an onslaught from without, an onslaught
that challenges the organization of the centre, crime may come to be
identified as a disturbance of meaning. One of its prime properties
may be its power to undo the symbolic order, and many deviants tend
to be regarded as walking sources of moral disarray. Berger con-
tends, for example:
38 On Society and the Victims of Crime

The socially established nomos may ... be understood perhaps in

its most important aspect, as a shield against terror. The ultimate
danger of ... separation is the danger of meaninglessness. This
danger is the nightmare par excellence ... Serious deviance pro-
vokes not only moral guilt but the terror of madness .... The
so-called 'homosexual panic' may serve as an excellent illustration
of the terror unleashed by the denial of the programme [of social

The structure of the social world is built precariously on the

maintenance of divisions, separations and categories of meaning.
Those who muddle and confuse classifications imperil the very
possibility of a society. It was in this vein that Scott asserted that "the
property of deviance is conferred on things that are perceived as
being anomalous when they are viewed from the perspective of a
symbolic universe. ,,29 Crime and deviance victimize society as a
moral enterprise and as a system of significations: their effects may be
very diffuse and radical, dismantling that which sense has put up.
Much victimization should be understood as structurally ambiguous,
being inside and outside moral meaning, arising from society and
denying it. 3o Society'S attitude to the victim revolves around a
response to affronts to experience.
A personal exposure to crime can distil the consequences of those
affronts. Crime is sometimes discussed in the language of pollution
and contamination, revealing a feeling of defilement, a subjection to
things which are tabu, a vision of the collapsing of categories which
should stay apart. Discussion occasionally borrows from myths. Thus
it is interesting that in England it is widely rumoured that burglars
defecate in the homes which they have entered although the British
Crime Survey suggests that this is actually a most rare event. It is not
the veracity of the rumour that is telling but the part which it plays in
a fabric of assumptions about crime. Defecation is, after all, the
supreme gesture of contamination.
More immediately, major crimes can envelop their victims in a
disturbing senselessness. They generate anomia. The trauma re-
ported by clinicians certainly resonates the terror that stems from a
disintegration of meaning. Bard, for instance, claimed, "immediately
after the crime, during the impact phase of the crisis reaction, the
victim falls apart inside. His or her sense of personal intactness and
integrity has been shattered. The self responds to violation by
becoming disorganized. Victims often feel as if they are in shock. ,,31
Society's Attitude to the Victim 39

The self and its boundaries are socially constructed. Crime can
disrupt them and damage a sense of the orderliness of things.
People are not empty vessels into which typifications are poured.
They are reflexive, able to stand back and examine their ideas about
society. But they cannot go too far. Examination is founded on those
selfsame typifications, representing the ideas of society folding back
on themselves. It is impossible to emancipate oneself from the social
world: to do so would not give enlightenment but a version of
madness and unintelligibility. Within that very limited scope offered
by the play between ideas, some negotiation can take place. People
do seem to qualify newspaper accounts about madness 32 and mediate
stereotypes when they have dealings with homosexuals. 33
Yet it remains that the content of many representations is beyond
the practical reach of most people. It refers to phenomena not
commonly experienced or to a metaphysics that shapes experiences
but cannot be experienced directly itself. For many purposes, its
imagery defies challenge, modification or replacement. It may come
to possess its own authenticity, again becoming real enough in its
consequences and acting as an effective framework of causes and
connections. If society's attitudes are to be found, it may be that they
exist chiefly in the daily press, television shows, novels and the more
elevated discourse of officials. And, indeed, people's conceptions of
crime and victimization do seem to echo the ideas conveyed by the
mass media. 34
There is a third perspective which can illuminate the character of
society's attitude to the victims. It emerges when it is recalled that
any typification of society can never be the object of goalless
speculation. Society takes no form unless it is contemplated to some
purpose. And when it is so contemplated, it becomes a situated
achievement which will change from place to place, group to group,
time to time, and problem to problem. There may well be objectify-
ing and stabilizing structures which lend it some generality: society is
not a mere will-O'-the-wisp that misleads by its fugitive appearances.
Some universality and permanence of character are provided by
common systems of language, currency, methods of computation and
social institutions. There is a working consensus about many social
forms, a consensus powerful enough to take a stranger from scene to
scene without too much misunderstanding. Yet those systems and
forms are not employed in identical fashion by everyone, and there is
no consistent agreement about their implications, their possible
relations and their relative importance. To some, America is the land
40 On Society and the Victims of Crime

of the free. To others, it is Amerika. And what is interesting is that,

at a distance, dissensus often resembles consensus. As I have argued
elsewhere, the bitter conflicts between Stalinist and Trotskyite,
Amish and Mennonite, paedobaptist and Plymouth Brother, seem to
be wars about the finest nuances of meaning. 35
One intelligent procedure for talking about society and its attitude
to the victim would then embed society in the settings in which it is
animated. It would cease to be a metaphysical creature of sociology
but an adjunct of everyday life instead. It would be as variegated as
the circumstances of its production, being both their subject and their
I propose to explore one local mediation of society and its attitude
to the victim: the special organization that society achieves as it
enters the bureaucratic world. I shall draw on work which I discuss in
more detail in Chapter 14. The Justice for Victims of Crime Initiative
has shepherded victims into a forum of federal, provincial and private
organizations. They are taking shape in that forum. Simultaneously,
society itself is acquiring a special refracted identity in discussion
about victims and policy.
The Justice for Victims of Crime Initiative has gathered a number
of separate histories together, transforming them into a rough master
argument about a Canadian social problem. Each history passed
through a unique development, and each has given special meaning
to victimization and its social organization. By extension, some facets
of victimization have been stressed and others ignored, lending
peculiar significance to the process as it enters the environment of
Ottawa. Victims have been discussed with particular ends in view.
They are the emergent products of projects and institutions which
have discovered them and offered them form. They are multivocal,
having been defined by the organizations that adopted them, receiv-
ing a multiplicity of meanings. Indeed, what one group would
describe as the victims of crime, another would categorize quite
differently. It is only belatedly, for example, that abused children
have begun to be treated as crime victims rather than as subjects for
therapeutic intervention by caseworkers. Similarly, women's orga-
nizations were not unanimous that the most interesting and promin-
ent features of battered and raped women were their experience of
crime or their translation into victims. And when there is agreement
about who the victim is, there may be no consensus about what
constitutes his or her dominant character. Indeed, victims and their
parent organizations have supported one another symbolically: each
Society's Attitude to the Victim 41

group has been infused with the concerns and history of the other;
each has changed the experience and stocks of knowledge of the
other; and each has begun to blur with the other. The appearance of
Rape Crisis Centres and Transition Houses was important to the
Canadian women's movement: it gave shape and public definition to
the movement, and it directed some of the movement's course. The
victimized woman has been inescapably caught up in the local and
general politics of feminist politics, particular women's campaigns
and the competence and interests of activists. Her significance has
never been neutral but partisan, and it could not be easily blended
with the politics of other victims and other bodies.
Elsewhere in this book I have narrated how victims are being
escorted through a procession of committees, and I do not propose to
repeat my argument. It should be recollected, however, that what
had been born in the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada,
acquired a second parent in the Department of Justice, and has since
been subjected to ceremonial inspection by a host of federal,
provincial and private agencies. Originally, the Initiative was an
uncertain amalgam of disparate aspirations about the victims, aspira-
tions that welled up out of the personal and institutional experience
of officials, policemen, provincial figures and feminists. Presented to
the world, it was left deliberately incomplete to encourage the
extension of that proprietorship which is so indispensable to the
survival of a new venture. It has ceased to be the exclusive property
of a first generation of involved institutions, having been passed to a
second generation in an effort to secure protection and sponsorship.
That second generation has become implicated principally for
reasons of State and etiquette. It is not necessarily bound up with the
fate of the politics of victims. Neither did it participate in their
history. Some of its member organizations have had very little
interest in victims. Others have had particular concerns. The Depart-
ment of National Defence, for instance, has been preoccupied chiefly
with the problem of wife battering on military bases.
The more recent history of the Initiative may then be interpreted in
part as the uneven and occasionally fitful evolution of a loose network
of coalitions, committees and co-ordinating bodies that have been
united by the common problem of crime victims. Some institutional
representatives have withdrawn from those deliberations, not always
announcing their reasons for having done so. Others seem to have
found it difficult to achieve union or co-operation. Others still have
been transformed by their participation, enlarging or changing their
42 On Society and the Victims of Crime

once parochial ideas. In some instances, victims have become a little

detached from the organizations that first nurtured them. Thus,
although National Health and Welfare has been involved with
battered children and services to assaulted women, it is not a
Department that has been expressly charged with the administration
of the criminal law. It has not worked inside a framework and a
division of labour prepared by crime and its control, and the very
notion of a crime victim has been alien to its concerns. For a long
while, a different vocabulary was applied by some of its officials to
the problems of abused clients. It was a language that turned on
casework and the problems of the life-cycle, a medical simile being
invoked. The Justice for Victims of Crime Initiative may have
prompted a limited change in the classifications bestowed on the
Department's clients and it may lead to a modest adaptation of its
tasks and purposes.
To be sure, the politics of victims can have been only a most minor
problem to many departments, dwarfed by inflation, unemployment
and allied economic ills. Very little money has been spent on victims.
Yet a few involved officials have had to remodel some of their speech
and understanding to contend with the novel connections and
problems that have been thrown up. Their ideals about the State,
society, risk, harm and social problems have been given a new and
tenuous unity by the social structure that has begun to grow around
the Initiative.
In this fashion, and rather quietly, typifications of society and its
victims have been refracted by a developing network of institutions in
Ottawa. Each of those institutions has claimed a roughly defined
territory, mandate and constituency. Each has concentrated upon
different Canadian publics. Each has a different job to do in the
context of victimization, and each has defined the facts and meaning
of victimization differently. Collectively, those institutions are en-
gaged in negotiating the boundaries of important publics and the
victims that are strategic to them. Viewed from a tangent, all that
work and discussion may be rephrased as the active production and
reproduction of focused images of Canadian social order. In the
moving and unstable world of officials, certain perspectives have
been mobilized, and it is those perspectives which represent all that
counts administratively about the character of Canadian society and
its attitude to the victims. What stands as a significant map of Canada
has been drawn by the parade of committees that have attended the
making and application of a victims policy.
Society's Attitude to the Victim 43

Let me illustrate. One of the strategic committees now deliberating

on victims has apparently lost its representative from the Department
of Indian and Northern Affairs. It would seem that it has been
deemed politically foolish to associate Indians with the undignified
and seamy world of crime and its victims. For practical administrative
purposes, it appears that the society of victims which is about to
receive remedial intervention effectively excludes the Indian. And
there have been other shifts in the size and composition of the
population of victims. The ontological status of the victimized woman
is most ambiguous, for example. Some have held that the raped and
battered woman should resist the title of crime victim, that title being
ignoble and irrelevant to the politics of patriarchy. So, too, there has
been no immediate organizational representation of the adolescent
male, the homosexual or the victim of traffic offences. The society
that has been vitalized thus lacks important groups and interesting
constituencies. It has been conjured up by a specific configuration of
institutions, taking its composition and structure from the knowledge
and interests tha( they can bring to bear on social problems. What is
obvious is that very few of those organizations were established in a
world figured by a politics of victims. They were founded to
accomplish distinct sets of purposes which touched only obliquely on
victims. In a sense, they encapsulate perspectives that stem from
problems and solutions that existed before victimization became a
social issue. Thus the principal mandate of the Ministry of the
Solicitor General centres on the affairs of the police and
penitentiaries, and some of its staff questioned the propriety of
extending its reach to include victims. The Department of Justice
dealt with victims as petitioners for criminal injuries compensation,
but they were otherwise occluded. Status of Women Canada was
created to monitor the condition of women, not to inspect the
problems of crime victims. All these institutions predate the idea of
justice for victims, and it has been their original preoccupations that
framed the character of the representations which they have made. In
some measure, the Ministry of the Solicitor General has taken victims
to be a problem in police work. Status of Women Canada has defined
them as a matter affecting women.
Each of the major Ottawa bureaucracies has its own wake of client
and dependant organizations. In the case of the Ministry of the
Solicitor General, those organizations are part of an enacted and
subsidized environment of private sector bodies, lobbies and research
staff. They have been ordered by traditional concerns about penology
44 On Society and the Victims of Crime

and law enforcement, ferrying special 'intelligence about their own

particular segments of society. Thus it came about that few of the
Ministry's entourage became implicated in a politics of victims
themselves. They actively structured an iconography and system of
information which excluded the victim of crime, championing instead
the interests of prisoners, police officers and the staffs of
penitentiaries. There would seem to be a structural inertia which
inhibits the flowering of new visions. At first, when Irvin Waller
appealed to the John Howard Society of Ontario to turn to the
victims of crime, he was met with the retort that the Society was
caring for its own victims, the inmates of prisons and penitentiaries. It
took time before the definition of a victim was to change.
Organized perspectives on victims and society have begun to move
in sympathy with the unfolding of the Initiative. The Ministry of the
Solicitor General, for instance, may have come to recognise a new
constituent in its world of inmates, police and prison officers. The
John Howard Society of British Columbia has started to redraft the
character of its clients, advancing beyond inmates. The Department
of Justice and the Ministry of the Solicitor General have established
working arrangements which pivot on the resolution of the Initia-
tive's problems. There is a new coalition of federal and provincial
officials in the Task Force on Victims of Crime. In these ways, the
social organization of justice has received a mild change of form,
purpose and activity. Victims have entered its discourse, enabling
further projects and programs to be conducted in their name. Most
important, there may have begun the first stirrings of a significant
political dialectic that opens with a question about the world, devises
instruments to examine it, and spawns a set of disclosures and
problems that elicit further questions and new organization. 36 The
Canadian victims survey and the train of projects in movement about
the Initiative may be expected to feed new information and issues
back into the bureaucratic world, injecting some instability.
Cooley once argued:

Society ... in its immediate aspect, is a relation among personal

ideas. In order to have society it is evidently necessary that persons
should get together somewhere; and they get together only as
personal ideas in the mind. Where else? What other possible locus
can be assigned for the real contact of person, or in what other
form can they come in contact except as impressions of ideas
formed in this common locus?37
Society's Attitude to the Victim 45

It is tempting to approach the constellation of ideas and people

surrounding the Initiative as a single, shifting geometry of rela-
tionships. Knowledge and social organization would then be seen to
refract one another, acting as models for one another and exemplify-
ing one another. 38 In turn, it might be possible to recognize resembl-
ances between institutional maps of society, the logic-in-use of
officials and their daily activities. If society is a relation among ideas,
a "personal ideal-type" based upon a running synthesis of individual
experience, it must be mediated in part by the play of local forms. It
is those forms that are most vividly before officials, manifestly
consequential and demanding attention. For many administrative
and policy purposes, it is those forms which are most pressing,
requiring a palpable response. They may have more urgency than the
somewhat abstract characteristics of a remote social order. It is the
sometimes forceful calls of one's colleagues, private sector persons,
the Minister and the institutional environment that must be satisfied,
not a distantly impassive, voiceless and shadowy entity called Cana-
dian society. To be sure, all action is pointed ultimately at Canadian
society but it is difficult to do anything unless it is directed at some
near part or expression, and that near part is almost certain to take
the guise of a colleague, a private sector person or a Minister.
Canadian society may be vaguely accessible to dim contemplation,
but it is the world closely about one that urges clear action and
understanding. By extension, charts of Canada tend to be colored by
the pragmatic exigencies of administrative activity. Their topography
will reflect what people have to do. As Berger and Luckmann

The social reality of everyday life is ... apprehended in a con-

tinuum of typifications which are progressively anonymous as they
are removed from the 'here-and-now' of the face-to-face situation.
At one pole of the continuum are those others with whom I
frequently and intensively interact in face-to-face situations - my
'inner circle', as it were. At the other pole are highly anonymous
abstractions, which by their very nature can never be available in
face-to-face interaction. 39

It must be appreciated that the social world of the policy-maker is

not an immediate twin of the geographical world: the inner circle is
not organized solely by physical distance. Officials spend much of
their time talking on the telephone, they are busy correspondents and
46 On Society and the Victims of Crime

they travel frequently. They are brought together and separated by a

changing sequence of tasks and problems. In this sense, a person
working in Ottawa may have more intimate dealings with a person
based in British Columbia than with someone in Quebec or New-
foundland. Phenomenologically, and in the context of a specific
problem, British Columbia may be nearer and more densely textured
than Quebec. Further, proximity and texture will be working express-
ions of particular and general intentions. British Columbia will not be
known tout court. It is impossible to know the province in that
manner. It will take the appearance of a collection of officials, private
sector people and projects that revolve around past and present
problems. The personality of British Columbia will be that bestowed
by the contingencies of a victim's initiative. But history is there, and
there will be associations and personalities from the past, just as
prospective action will plot character in the future. Indeed, the
present British Columbia of the Justice for Victims of Crime Initia-
tive will be reflected by past acquaintance and future anticipations.
More, British Columbia will take form differently in the various
skeins of relations and problems that officials enter. It is not an
unequivocal object but a kaleidoscope of perspectives, grasped in
dissimilar style by officials of the Consultation Centre, the Planning
and Liaison Division, the Research Division and the Communication
Division of the Programs Branch of the Ministry of the Solicitor
General. The eventual bureaucratic presence of British Columbia
will be resolved by patterns of talk and negotiation between those
As officials come together in departmental, interdepartmental and
federal-provincial groupings, so they prepare a changing simulacrum
of society. I have suggested that the society mapped by the Initiative
appears to posses rather few Indians, adolescents and homosexuals
but many women. And those women are able to command more
services and are better connected than the Indian and the homosex-
ual. Theirs is a politically and administratively constructed world,
incorporating the special concerns of its authors. It is a world
endowed with just those attitudes and flows of causality that officials
conceive to be significant and plausible. Above all, since policy work
is devised to persuade and reassure critical audiences, the society
mobilized by the Initiative is a rhetorical construction which contains
allusions to groups and links that are likely to sway argument. Thus,
the master political framework established by Government, dominat-
ing subordinate policy work, makes pointed reference to women,
Society's Attitude to the Victim 47

children and the elderly. Any society engendered by policy work

must be heavily and conspicuously populated by women, children
and the elderly if it is to succeed. The federal victims initiative has
given corresponding emphasis to the needs of those groups. Their
significance and relations draw on general political priorities. They
are an active interpretation of what is considered politically com-
mendable. They did not arise first in any context set by crime and
victimization. In this sense, society's attitude to the victim is an
encoded expression of wider political sentiment and activity, an
expression that has been subsequently focused and shaped by the
local concerns of particular departments as they deliberate together.
The connections between those departments, their comparative
strength and commitment, have provided the grammar for the
articulation of focus and form. A relatively junior Ministry, the
Department of the Solicitor General has made a beginning and
sustained much of the action, but it is other bodies which will
determine the political fate of victims in Canada.


1. J. Dewey, quoted in C. Wright Mills; Sociology and Pragmatism (New

York: Paine-Whitman, 1964) pp. 436, 430.
2. See F. Dubow et al., Reactions to Crime, Superintendent of Documents
Washington, 1979.
3. J. Defronzo, "In Search of the Behavioral and Attitudinal Consequences
of Victimization," Sociological Symposium (Winter 1979) no. 25.
4. C. Thomas and C. Nelson, Public Attitudes Toward Criminal Justice
Agencies, Policies and Levels of Victimization, National Criminal Justice
Reference Service (Rockville, 1975).
5. T. Tyler, Drawing Inferences from Experiences, Ph.D. Dissertation
(University of California at Los Angeles, 1978).
6. See J. van Dijk; Extent of Public Information and the Nature of Public
Attitudes Towards Crime The Hague: Netherlands Ministry of Justice
Research and Documentation Centre, 1978).
7. W. Skogan, "The Fear of Crime and its Behavioral Implication," see
Chapter 8.
8. See H. Childs, Public Opinion (New Jersey: Van Nostrand, 1965).
9. V. Key, Public Opinion and American Democracy (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1961) p. 14.
10. L. Warner, "The Reliability of Public Opinion Surveys," Public Opinion
Quarterly (July 1939) vol. 3, p. 377.
11. H. Beyler, Identification and Analysis of Attribute-Cluster-Blocs (Uni-
versity of Chicago Press, 1931) p. 183.
48 On Society and the Victims of Crime

12. R. Binkley, "The Concept of Public Opinion in the Social Sciences,"

Social Forces (1929) vol. 6, p. 389.
13. G. Plowman, "Public Opinion and the Polls," British Journal of Sociolo-
gy (Dec. 1962) vol. XIII, no. 4, p. 333.
14. H. Durant, "Public Opinion, Polls and Foreign Policy," British Journal
of Sociology (June 1955) vol. VI, no. 2, p. 151.
15. See S. Chibnall, Law-and-Order News (London: Tavistock Publications,
1977), M. Kerr (ed.), Violence - The Community and the Administrator
(Wellington: New Zealand Institute of Public Administration, 1977).
16. See D. Davis, Homicide in American Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, 1968); J. Palmer, 'Thrillers', in I. Taylor and L. Taylor (eds),
Politics and Deviance (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973).
17. See W. Bennett and M. Feldman, Reconstructing Reality in the Cour-
troom (London: Tavistock Publications, 1981).
18. See S. Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics (Oxford: Martin Robert-
son, 1980).
19. See J. Young, Mass Media, Drugs, and Deviance', in P. Rock and M.
McIntosh (eds), Deviance and Social Control (London: Tavistock, 1974).
20. See J. Ditton, Controlology (London: Macmilan, 1978).
21. See J. Young, The Drugtakers (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1971).
22. See M. Douglas, Purity and Danger (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,
23. D. Ogg, England in the Reigns of James II and William III (London:
Oxford University Press, 1955) pp. 56-7.
24. I. Karpets, Director of the Moscow Institute of Criminology, quoted in
W. Connor, Deviance in Soviet Society (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1972) p. 168.
25. See P. Mayer, "Witches," in M. Marwisk (ed.); Witchcraft and Sorcery
(Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970).
26. M. Walzer, The Revolution of the Saints (London: Weidenfeld &
Nicolson, 1966) p. 315.
27. J. Douglas, "Deviance and Respectability," in J. Douglas (ed.), De-
viance and Respectability (New York: Basic Books, 1970) p. 4.
28. P. Berger The Social Reality of Religion (Harmondsworth: Penguin
Books, 1967) pp. 31-2, 33, 34.
29. R. Scott "A proposed Framework for Analyzing Deviance," in R. Scott
and J. Douglas (eds), Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance (New York:
Basic Books, 1972) p. 22.
30. See J. Blish, The Day After Judgement (New York: Avon, 1982).
31. M. Bard, quoted in "Victimology: the Study of Trauma," Police
Magazine (Mar. 1979) p. 28.
32. See J. Nunnally, "What the Media Present," in T. Scheff (ed.), Mental
Illness and Social Processes (New York: Harper & Row, 1967).
33. See C. Williams and M. Weinberg, Homosexuals and the Military (New
York: Harper & Row, 1971).
34. See W. Skogan, "The Fear of Crime and its Behavioral Implications,"
op. cit.
35. P. Rock, "The Sociology of Deviancy and Conceptions of Moral Order,"
British Journal of Criminology (Apr. 1974) vol. 14, no. 2.
Society's Attitude to the Victim 49
36. See O. MacDonagh, A Pattern of Government Growth (London: Mac-
Gibbon & Kee, 1961).
37. C. Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order (Illinois: Free Press,
1965) p. 119.
38. See E. Durkeim and M. Mauss, Primitive Classification (reprinted by
University of Chicago Press, 1963).
39. P. Berger and T. Luckmann The Social Construction of Reality (London:
Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1967). pp. 47-8.
Part II
On Surveying Victims
3 Official and Survey Crime


Law enforcement and criminal justice agencies collect information on

point-in-time events called crimes. The information is useful to each
agency not only in managing and carrying out its work but for
statistical reporting about crimes and their processing in a criminal
justice system. Although each agency collects considerable informa-
tion about crime events and how it processes them, it is selective in its
reporting of that information.
The major system for statistical reporting by law enforcement
agencies in the USA and Canada is Uniform Crime Reporting
(UCR). Their primary statistical indicators are about the kinds of
offenses known to law enforcement agencies, whether they are
cleared by arrest, and some of the characteristics of arrested persons.
Although considerable information is collected about the source of
the information, the arresting officers, any suspects, and the victims
of such events, none of that information is systematically reported for
offenses in UCR.
When we turn to systems of public prosecution, we find that their
primary statistical indicators are about the legal events: charges of
crimes, persons charged, and the processing of them, beginning with
an indictment or the filing of charges and concluding with their
disposition. Although prosecutors ordinarily have considerable in-
formation on citizens as witnesses or as victims of such events, they
do not systematically report it. Similarly courts are concerned with
the disposition of legal events and their adjudication. They create
statistics on docketed cases and the persons charged therein and of
their disposition by release or type of sanction. Again we note that


E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
54 On Surveying Victims

although they may have considerable information on witnesses and

victims, they do not develop statistical indicators to report it.
We can conclude then that although official information systems in
law enforcement and criminal justice have considerable information
on victims of crime and on other persons who witness or behave in
those events, few develop and report statistical indicators on victims.
None routinely reports measures of victimization by crime other than
that of "offenses known to the police" (UCR, 1982: Table 5), which
can be interpreted as a crude measure of individual, household, and
other organizational victimizations by index crimes. One of the
matters we shall explore in this chapter is the desirability and
possibility of doing so with official information systems.
The agencies of law enforcement and criminal justice are loosely
coupled in a volume reducing system where the inputs of one are
reduced by processing as output to another. Although systems for
merging or sharing information on cases processed within this system
are under development, no common-law country regularly produces
a series of system-level indicators. Each agency, moreover, generally
pHj".::eds to collect at least some of the same information de novo
although there is considerable information that is unique to any given
agency, especially that relating to its personnel and their processing
of cases. The actual exchange of information among criminal justice
agencies is limited so that it is difficult to generate statistical
information of steady-state, much less feedback or victimization
event, models of the criminal justice system (Blumstein and Koch,
1980: 99-108). As a consequence, the statistical indicators output to
any agency in the criminal justice system can be evaluated only to a
limited degree by the other agencies in that system.
Police agencies receive the bulk of their inputs by reactive mobi-
lization to the citizen output system although the bulk of certain types
of crimes are by proactive enforcement. Both police and citizen
discretion reduce the volume of events that come to their attention.
The input to a police agency, which is a throughput from the citizen
system, is thus less than the citizen system's crime output.
The police, in turn, in processing their proactive and reactive
input, reduce the throughput to prosecution, by exercising discretion
on arrest and by being unable to solve all of the crimes that come to
their attention by arrest. They can, however, pass on substantially
more legal charges than events that come to their attention and the
number of persons charged can be more or less than the number of
Official & Survey Statistics 55

events because police agencies create both information (charges on

arrest) and people (arrested persons) as outputs.
A very complex system of crime indicators emerges from this
selective input-output volume reducing system such that each cannot
be fully accountable to the other. Each level of this loosely coupled
processing system also can create its own inputs de novo. The police
do so by proactive law enforcement. The prosecutor may do so by
issuing warrants as may the court. The prosecutor and courts may
also create cases by investigative grand juries. Courts may use their
own law enforcement personnel to arrest. These are given as
examples to illustrate that each can create its own inputs without
depending upon the outputs of a prior processing level. Ordinarily,
however, few cases are initiated by prosecutors and judges. Most
arise with the citizen and law enforcement systems.
The organization of the criminal justice system precludes accounta-
bility by review except for the cases that are throughputs in the
system and for which there are records. Accountability at each level
requires some independent way of monitoring the system, especially
for cases where there are no records. Where a record exists, there
must be some way of assessing its accuracy. A discretionary system of
social accounts or social indicators then requires some independent
means of determining the validity and accuracy of its statistical
indicators. The initial input levels of the crime processing system is
especially vulnerable to manipulation of its indicators because either
records are not created or they are not collected and aggregated so as
to be accessible. The citizen system does not systematically record,
store, or collect information on its victimization experiences although
some may well have a record for those events, e.g. a record of stolen
property, of insurance collected for a burglary or theft loss, of a tax
deduction for a crime loss, or of a hospitalization for treatment of an
assault, to mention but a few examples of record systems other than
law enforcement to which the citizen system outputs its crime
Records of crime events are not necessarily voluntarily given by
those associated with crime. Their perpetrators, usually, 1 and many
victims, commonly, fail to report experiences with crime to the police
(BJS, 1982:16). Witnesses may be reluctant to mobilize the police,
they may give the police false information to avoid being identified by
the offenders in the event, and they may refuse to cooperate with the
prosecutor (Cannavale, 1976). Records of criminal events developed
56 On Surveying Victims

independent of law enforcement systems likewise have limitations.

The requirement of a death certificate listing a cause of death for
burial means that the crimes of homicide and negligent manslaughter
are recorded as causes of death in vital statistics records. But missing
persons who may be presumed murdered, e.g. murdered and dis-
posed of by an organized crime syndicate, are not listed in vital
statistics records; they often are carried independently as a missing
person suspected to have been victims of "foul-play". Although there
are some independently organized intelligence systems about some
crimes, their victims, and their perpetrators, such as that for homi-
cides in vital statistics, most commonly information is not collected
for crimes or it is not accessible in a form that permits us to answer
the kinds of questions we have about the statistical indicators that are
officially developed, collected, and processed as information outputs.
To evaluate or supplement the information from official records, it
becomes necessary, therefore, to develop either independent modes
of collecting the same kind of information or to restructure the
collection procedure of existing organized intelligence systems.
The National Crime Survey (NCS) was developed as a collection
system to estimate how much crime there is in the citizen information
system independent of the information in law enforcement systems.
What we now have are two nationally organized information systems
based on two different modes of data collection that collect informa-
tion from a citizen system. The NCS does so by means of survey
interviews with the victims of crime. Police agencies do so by
interviews with complainants, victims, and witnesses to the events.
Where the same event is known to both the police and the survey
interviewers, the police interview occurs much closer to the event in
time. This chapter attempts to assess both the quantity and the
quality of information gained by these two independent modes of
data collection.



Any information system of statistical indicators must have means to

detect, process, and record information and deliver it in the form of
statistical indicators if it is to both audit and be audited as an indicator
system. Each step of this intelligence process from detection to
delivery of information affects how it can be compared with other
Official & Survey Statistics 57

modes of intelligence designed to produce the same information. One

system, for example, may be designed to detect more events but be
limited in the kinds of information it can collect on them. Another
may detect fewer events but have a capacity to collect a greater range
of information about them. This description may well characterize
the crime victim survey and police crime reporting systems as they are
organized currently. The crime surveys in Britain, Canada, the
Netherlands, and the USA, for example, each collects information on
far more events of crime than do their respective organized law
enforcement systems.
The information collected from crime surveys, moreover, may be
aggregated more accurately and efficiently than is the information
pooled by separate law enforcement agencies. Yet, most police crime
or case reports contain a greater range of information on crime events
than is collected in crime survey victim reports and the capacity of law
enforcement agencies to collect information on almost all of the
aspects of a crime event are greater both potentially and in practice
when compared with the survey interview or self-report protocols.
The police, for example, can collect information from a greater range
of actors - suspects, victims, witnesses, experts, and themselves -
while the crime survey is limited to the actors of a household.
We can compare so-called official law enforcemene and survey
crime reporting systems in terms of their intelligence organization or
in terms of their current capacities to deliver information. We shall
begin by making these two general kinds of comparisons to shed
some light on the kinds of statistical descriptions and estimates that
can be and are made for these collection systems. We shall discuss
only selected aspects of the detection, processing, and production of
statistical indicators in this section since a detailed comparison would
carry us too far afield from the major objectives of our comparison.
A major advantage currently held by police agency collection
systems is that they collect information from any and all kinds of
victims who bring a crime to their attention and uniquely identify those
victims. Police offense reports include all forms of organizational and
collective as well as individual victims. Since no single sampling frame
exists or is compiled routinely for any nation, it is difficult to conduct
sample surveys for all potential victims by victim surveying. Although
a possibility for deriving a sampling frame of organizations exists
were one to treat a general population sample as a source of
information about organizations of which respondents are a member,
the logistical and technical problems of determining how often the
58 On Surveying Victims

same organization is reported are such as to cast doubt upon its

The NCS victimization survey program originally included a com-
mercial survey to collect information on victims of non-residential
burglary and robbery. The commercial survey was, operationally, a
survey of businesses and selected non-governmental organizations
included in a sampling frame disproportionally weighted towards
businesses (NCJISS, 1976: Appendix IV). Although police agencies
collect information on a broad range of crimes against organizations,
the problems of operationalizing such crimes as fraud, forgery,
larceny, vandalism, and assaults on employees in the commercial
survey led to limiting it to the offenses of burglary and robbery only.
The National Academy of Sciences' panel to evaluate crime sur-
veying in the VSA concluded that the Commercial Survey yielded
victimization estimates on non-residential burglary and robbery
roughly comparable to those derived from police department statis-
tics. The panel also concluded that the other kinds of crimes against
businesses and other organizations should be measured in the survey.
Given little net gain from the way the survey then was conducted and
doubts about both the feasibility of producing a more complete
sampling frame for organizations and the cost-effectiveness of such a
survey in producing a substantial increment in information for only
those crimes, the NAS Panel recommended in 1976 that data
collection be suspended except in support of explanatory and ex-
perimental objectives for redesigning that survey (Penick and Owens,
1976: 60-1). The recommendation was followed and no commercial
survey, therefore, was taken after 1976 (NCJISS, 1976).
Police reporting systems have a clear advantage, therefore, be-
cause they collect information from a variety of types of respondents
who have knowledge of an event that is potentially classifiable as a
crime occurrence. Statistics on offenses known to the police include,
therefore, information on individual, household, and other organiza-
tional victims. VCR, unfortunately, does not systematically separate
individual, household, and organizational victims in its reporting of
offenses known to the police. Residential burglary is separated from
non-residential burglary in the reporting of burglary but only some of
the kinds of larceny-theft separate individual from organizational
victims and motor vehicle theft lumps the two together (VCR, 1983).
There is good reason to conclude, moreover, that police statistics
substantially underestimate the kinds and amount of crime against
each of these populations exposed to victimization of crime (Reiss,
1967: 77-102).
Official & Survey Statistics 59

The second way the two systems differ fundamentally is in the way
they detect events. The crime victim survey assumes that members of
a population experience some happenings as crimes, that they store
information about them, and that they can recall them as discrete
events. The law enforcement information system is based on the
presumption that the police on their own cannot detect many crime
events and that they are selective in their proactive detection of
crimes. At the organizational level a police department assumes it
cannot detect or react to all occurrences of crimes. The volume of
crime events that occur lie beyond the organization's resources and
its capacity for proactive deployment as events occur. A police
agency, moreover, takes it for granted that it cannot and will not
know about many crime occurrences because citizens do not call
them about many crime matters in private places and they are not
always organized to respond to those brought to their attention to
determine whether or not a crime has occurred. A citizen may call the
police, for example, but the police may be unable to locate the citizen
or to collect information on the reported crime. There are a number
of reasons for this inattention by the police: the citizen victim or
complainant may have given incorrect location information because
of unfamiliar surroundings; the dispatcher may have given the
officers incomplete information; the victim may have changed loca-
tion after reporting; the event could have been reported by someone
other than the victim who either refuses to talk to the police when
they arrive or who can give only incomplete information to the police
when they gather information on the event. Police detection systems
consequently assume that many events cannot be detected by them
proactively and that they will not be mobilized to deal with many
others reactively. They tend to assume that the most salient events
with serious harms to victims will be brought to their attention. They
do not share the presumption of the the victim survey that they can
know all events which have victims.
The third way that the survey differs from official information
systems lies in how they record and categorize detected events. The
victim survey is based on the presumption that victims can recall all
experiences connected with those events, within a tolerable range of
error. We note, in passing, that this presumption is not altogether
sound. To cite but one example, not all victims can describe what
happened when they were victimized because their victim status
precluded their observing and storing information, e.g. they were too
intoxicated, they were rendered comatose by the offender, or they
never saw their assailant. In these cases, police obtain information
60 On Surveying Victims

about the victimization events from others who saw the event or
discovered the victim. Often in these cases the victim's knowledge
comes from the detectives who interview them subsequent to the
occurrence or from the accounts of others who witnessed some part
or all of the event. The victim survey records that information as the
victim's recall of the event.
Police information systems assume that whether or not a record is
to be made of an event brought to the attention of a police officer as a
crime matter is specified by its rules for making such matters a matter
of record but that all "notifiable" or "reportable" offenses are to be
made matters of record. Although the decision to record an event is
specified by rules of reporting and structured by report forms,
whether to classify a matter in a reportable offense category is a
judgment of officers who make the report or who later classify
information the officer provides on the event. Similarly, it is under-
stood that for a variety of reasons the officer may unofficially choose
to exclude bona fide matters by not reporting them as matters of
record or by classifying them as lesser offenses that are not "noti-
fiable." Once a matter becomes a matter of record, however, the
information is retrievable from the record. Where the victim is the
source of information for the police report and the survey report, the
experience must be recalled and reported to both collection systems.
The time lag between occurrence of an event and the collection of
information about it is shorter for the police than for the survey
report, but it is not known how this differential lag affects the
quantity or quality of information.
The systems differ, fourthly, in how they are organized to store and
retrieve information that is made a matter of record. The victim
survey is designed to store all information relevant to any reported
victimizations. The information is stored in such a way that it can be
aggregated for a population of victims, and for their victimizations. In
national surveys, the survey is usually designed for aggregate report-
ing at the national level and for a limited number of sub-national
territories whereas police departments can report all information for
small areas such as police precincts or census tracts, if their size
warrants it.
Correlatively, police reporting systems are organized for a number
of different but related objectives. The police case report is in the first
instance a record for further investigation or a decision as to its status
and classification as a reportable offense. Where an arrest is made, it
Official & Survey Statistics 61

includes a record of the arrest and of the offense or law violations to

be charged at booking and initial court appearance. In some jurisdic-
tions the record of arrest may constitute the information for the
prosecution. The prosecutor may proceed legally to charge with the
arrest, modify it, or file new information based upon the arrest record
or upon a separate investigation. Where no arrest is made, the case
report stands as information on crimes that can in the future be
cleared by an arrest. Police agencies will vary in whether or not they
actually clear a record by an arrest. They may simply count the
number of events reported by an arrested person as crimes cleared by
an arrest. The latter practice violates the rules for clearing crimes
known to the police by a subsequent arrest.
The police case report also serves as a basis for aggregating
information that can be used to administer the department, e.g. to
locate events by their place of occurrence so as to deploy police
manpower more efficiently. For this reason and others, information is
gathered on the territorial location of crime events, the residential
address of the victim, and the usual address of the suspects or
offenders so that one can locate the information in territorial space as
well. The case report is also used to aggregate information for
different organizational units within a police department and for the
department as a whole. But national Uniform Crime Reporting,
unlike the national victim survey, does not collect and aggregate case
information for all police departments in the nation. Rather, police
agencies aggregate information for particular offenses or arrests.
These aggregate reports are aggregated in turn by state agencies
which report the aggregate state information to the FBI. That agency
then aggregates state and/or local agency information for national
Uniform Crime Reporting. 3 The base of UCR reporting then is an
aggregate reporting system where the units of reporting are police or
State agencies rather than case reports of offenses or arrests. The
recapture of information from UCR is limited by this aggregate basis
of reporting even though the case information base of police depart-
ments is rich in case detail about events, their victims, and their
violators, little of that richness can be gained from UCR.
By contrast, victim surveys as currently organized can dis aggregate
to the case level. This difference in the capacity to dis aggregate
aggregated information is a critical limitation on any actual compari-
son of police with victim survey reported statistics on crime at the
national level since cases cannot be uniquely identified in both
62 On Surveying Victims

systems. Despite this serious current limitation, police information

systems are potentially more versatile as crime information systems
than are victim surveys. It is to that feature we next turn.
It can be said, perhaps, that police uniformation systems are the
most versatile in linking information on crime events and their
victims anq violators but that independent surveys of victims and of
offenders now provide more information respectively on victimiza-
tions and their victims or on offenders and their history of offending
than do police reports. There are no comparable independent modes
of data collection for crime events. Some crime events are detectable
by independent surveillance systems, e.g. technological monitors.
What police reporting systems do, however, is to collect considerable
detailed information that permits one to link information about the
unique identity of victims and violators in victimization incidents and
to link such information on victims and violators across incidents.
Victim/violator surveys are more limited in doing so even though they
remain for some purposes a more efficient means of collecting and
collating that information. The British Crime Survey is the first
national survey to collect information on both victimization and law
violation from its respondents (Hough & Mayhew, 1983) and future
reports should shed additional light on the conjunction of victimiza-
tion and offending in the same person. But reports from offenders
often necessarily lack detailed information about their victims.
When comparison is made of current victim or offender surveys
with official police reporting systems, the latter have some advan-
tages. The police report collects information about all victims,
suspects, or violators, witnesses, and informants to an event and can
bring that information together for victims and violators in common
events in ways that the survey cannot. This results partly because
police reporting systems uniquely identify all victims and, when
possible, violators as well. Surveys ordinarily do not uniquely identify
victims and violators in the same event.
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Complaint Report may
illustrate the kind of information that is assembled on all and on
subsets of cases. Information is obtained for all case reports on the
residential and business address of each complainant, and the sex,
race, and age of all victims, witnesses, informants, suspects, patients,
suspect-victims, subjects, and subject-victims. There also are a
narrative description of the event, specific items on property dam-
aged or taken, any vehicles involved, the identity of law enforcement
officers, and weapons used - to mention some of the items about the
Official & Survey Statistics 63

crime event. Most police departments have separate reporting forms

inventorying property taken from any suspects, of recovered proper-
ty, an arrest report with detailed information on the arrested person,
a weapons report, and police processing of the arrested. The
Torrance, California, Police Department is an example of a depart-
ment that also collects information on booking, initial appearance,
bail and jail, and the physical condition of arrested persons (Form 96,
Rev. Oct/78). Additionally, certain crimes include reports of evi-
dence taken by technicians including photographs, fingerprints, and
chemical analyses, and reports of detective investigation.
The reasons for this variety and diversity in police reports is clear.
To accomplish their major mandate to clear and solve crimes by
arresting persons requires the development of an information system.
That system in turn rests in diversifying the means of data collection.
The very advantages of a police information system are also a
source of its limitations, i.e. the information is greatest and most rich
where the case warrants an investment of limited police resources.
The quantity and quality of information, unfortunately, varies from
case to case. Yet, there is a fair amount of information on com-
plainants in every police report and their reports of victimization by
For almost all police crime reports there is then a minimum of
information that characterizes the offense and its occurrence, their
victims and their violators, and when an arrest is made, an arrest
report. Although much of that information may be sought in any
crime survey of victims orland of offenders, only in police reporting
systems are all parties more or less uniquely identified and informa-
tion received from a variety of sources.
Although there are no uniform standards for recording information
in police department case reports, there nevertheless is a surprising
uniformity among them in collection and recording procedures and in
information codes. So common is the core of information collected
that most police agencies would have little need to alter their
information system were they to agree upon standardized reporting.
Where this line of comparison is leading perhaps now can be made
apparent. Police departments began a system of uniform crime
reporting by agreeing to uniform classification of offenses and
reporting aggregated information for Part I Crimes and Index
offenses and any arrests made in connection with them. Over time,
additional information was requested in standard form, including a
more detailed homicide report. Understandable as it was to adopt a
64 On Surveying Victims

system of aggregate reporting, given the technology of the 1920s and

1930s which saw the origin and development of Uniform Crime
Reporting in the United States, modern technology makes it both
inefficient and unnecessary to do aggregate rather than case report-
ing. One could argue that it never was efficient to do so, since the
older birth and death registration systems of our Vital Statistics
shared the same characteristics and they were case based for national
level aggregation. Indeed, in the case of death registration an
elaborate classification by cause of death was necessary. The system
of vital statistics reporting, moreover, like that of UCR, is voluntary.
The number of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces currently
reported annually on a case basis is roughly 70% of the volume of
UCR reportable crimes. 4 With the advent of magnetic tapes and
mini- as well as macro-computers, every police agency can have
case-reporting taped so that it can be transmitted to UCR for
aggregation if the information is coded in standard form. 5 Even when
tape formats are not uniform among police agencies, if they follow
standards for recording and reporting, they can be merged by
software for aggregate reporting. Although precise data are lacking,
since all major police departments now tape some case information,
perhaps as many as seven of every ten Part I offenses known to the
police are now on tape and processed by EDP systems. Although
there are many small departments without minicomputers, each
could be supplied one in a uniform crime reporting system at a
modest cost.
Standardization of crime reporting for computer tapes could
reduce considerably the software costs now borne by individual
police departments. Standardization, moreover, can eliminate the
necessity for police departments to classify each offense and to do so
according to the UCR hierarchy rule (FBI, 1980:33). For in an
aggregated data base, the classification can be done uniformly by a
computer algorithm, provided the basic information necessary to
classification is coded for each offense. Currently the NCS uses an
algorithm to classify each offense, the algorithm taking essentially
binary variables on offense characteristics to code offenses (Bureau
of the Census, 1976). There is, indeed, considerable advantage to
having the information about each offense in a standard form so that
the offense can be classified in different ways. One then is not bound
to code offenses according to hierarchical rules of classification as
does UCR currently. UCR, like NCS, could code either according to
hierarchical rules or by combinations of offenses. One is not bound,
Official & Survey Statistics 65

for example, to code an offense involving a robbery and an assault

simply as a robbery under the hierarchy rule. One can also code the
offense as a robbery with an assault. Case based reporting, when
combined with standardized pre coded information that permits mul-
tiple classification for events and other variables of interest, is
possible then for UCR as well as NCS data bases.
A case based computer base, moreover, has greater flexibility
when analysing or presenting information. Annual reports could
graphically display crime information on a territorial base for the US,
states, and even more, local units of government.
Were one to develop a uniform national case based crime reporting
system, more sophisticated estimates of crime and victimization using
UCR and NCS in tandem become possible. The estimation methods
for doing so have been developed and most of the basic variables
already are being collected by police departments. One senses that a
major arguement against this proposed change will be that it costs
more to prepare case based tapes of crimes, their victims and their
violators than does the current system of crime reporting. Given the
savings in accessioning information from a case based system, there
may be little if any increased cost. Delays in reporting aggregate
information should be reduced if local systems are current in their
tape production and reporting departments need not classify
In principle then, a properly developed system of Uniform Crime
Reporting, when coupled with a National Crime Survey of Victims,
will increase our intelligence and enlightenment about crime.
We turn now from this possible system to our existing systems to
ask what can and do we learn from a comparison of official and victim
survey data on crime.


We examine firstly the problems of estimating crime based on a

comparison of estimates from an information system that counts
offenses known to law enforcement agencies with those from a
population survey of households and their members reporting victi-
mization for the same kinds of crime. Our re-examination considers
initially the problems that beset comparison of estimates from these
two information systems. This is followed by an examination of the
forms of comparison used in the British and US national surveys.
66 On Surveying Victims

And, we conclude with a consideration of what the differences in

estimates from the two sources are and how they can be accounted

Forms of Comparing Estimates from Official and Survey Sources

A principal reason for undertaking crime surveys of victims is to

contribute to an estimate of how much crime there is in society. To
answer that question, a somewhat different question is asked: how
much crime is there that is not reported to law enforcement agencies
or compiled in their statistical systems. We have already indicated
that it is no simple matter to adjust survey and official statistics of
crime so as to render them comparable. Now attention is directed to
the form in which such comparisons are made, given these two modes
of collecting crime statistics and adjustments made to them.
Assume that our purpose is to estimate the crime rate rather than
to determine how much unrecorded criminality there is when one has
calculated the crime rate using official criminal statistics from police
departments. Inasmuch as there are only socially organized means of
knowing how much crime there is in society (Biderman and Reiss,
1967), the crime rate can only be estimated from some organized
means of knowing, e.g. surveys of victims or offenders or a count of
official records of offenses known to the police. We can successively
approximate the rate of crime then by examination of how much
crime is added to any estimate by the addition of any other organized
mode of data collection. Let us begin by assuming that any mode of
data collection of the same phenomenon, e.g. crime, potentially has
an overlap of events counted with any other, i.e. they may be
expected to report at least some of the same cases. Each, however,
contributes additional information to the other's estimate of the
crime rate to the extent of their non-overlap.
The concept of unrecorded crime is a somewhat different notion
from this one of sampling the population of events by different
methods of sampling and data collection. In our example above, one
can begin by assuming that offenses known to law enforcement
agencies (officially recorded crime) is one estimate of crime commit-
ted in society. Then one seeks to estimate the amount of crime by
another method, e.g. a victim survey. From their overlap one can
determine how much crime is added to officially recorded crime by
using a different mode of data collection. Although one may then call
Official & Survey Statistics 67
what is added, unrecorded crime to denote that it was not known to
the police, it must be regarded as deriving from a separate (and
ideally independent) estimate of that population of events. It, too,
can usually be found to have less than complete overlap with a third
mode of estimation. The major requirement for this mode of
estimation is that events in all modes of data collection must be
uniquely identified. Note that the NCS is an official government
statistic just as is OCR, so our estimation procedure pools informa-
tion from two official indicators based on different modes of data
collection, each of which, with minor exceptions, uses the interview
to collect the information.
This way of estimating crime rates clearly differs from that of
assuming the amount of crime is equal to the largest estimate, for one
attempts to estimate how much crime is there from the overlap of
events in two independent modes of data collection from the same
population of events. Information for the estimates is different in the
two cases. The notion of tapping the dark figure of crime has assumed
simply that the best estimate is the larger one. The pooled method of
estimation assumes that dark figure estimate ordinarily is an under-
estimate and that the less the overlap, the greater the underestima-
tion. One may sense the peculiar historical form of the question, how
much unrecorded crime is there, were one to ask: how much crime is
added to survey estimates of crime by collecting information from
official police statistics? There is a substantial literature on this
proposed method of estimating crime deriving from capture-recap-
ture statistical models (A. D. Carothers, 1973; R. M. Cormack, 1972;
S. E. Feinberg, 1972; G. A. F. Seber, 1973; D. L. Otis etal., 1978; K.
H. Pollock, 1982) and more recently multiple record systems for
estimating population size (M. N. EI-Khorazaty et al., 1977).
We continue our discussion of estimating crime rates by observing
that the form of the question of learning about how much crime is
there, assuming that in theory we know only by socially organized
means that define what is an aggregate rate, can cloak important
issues about each measure. We cannot, for example, estimate how
much crime is there by simply estimating how much unrecorded
crime is there for a single measure since each, in all likelihood, counts
crimes that the other does not. For any set of two or more ways of
measuring crime, a simple calculation of how large an increment of
crime is added to officially known crime by victim surveys of crime
then is insufficient, even assuming each is an error-free measure. For
the question of how much crime is there is not the simple difference
68 On Surveying Victims

between any two counts. That difference, as previously noted, will

always underestimate the amount of crime one can estimate from the
two sets unless one set is simply a subset of the other, i.e. they are
two counts of exactly the same cases.
That clearly is not the case for official and survey statistics as
reverse-record check studies show. The police records include cases
unreported in the victim survey and vice versa. Reverse-record
checks, unfortunately, have limitations for estimating rates, given
their design. Observe, however, that while so-called reverse-record
check studies were used as a means to validate survey measures of
crime, the design of such studies fits the model of how to estimate
crime from two sources better than does the current design of
comparing their separate estimates - a form of indirect estimation.
The way to estimate how much crime is there then is to pool the
information from both modes of data collection into a single data set.
To do so requires, as already noted, that we uniquely identify cases so
that we can determine which incidents are measured by both and
which by only one of them.
There are in the pooled information of official and survey statistics
then three different subsets of cases (as there is for a reverse-record
check validation study):

(1) A subset of cases that are identified by both the official and
survey reporting systems. The survey attempts to identify this
subset within the survey data by asking whether the crime was
reported to the police and treating those where the respondent
said someone reported it as the overlapping subset. This is at best
a crude estimate of what is officially recorded crime both because
police have enormous discretion to determine whether a reported
offense will be a matter of official record and because of errors in
reporting and recording in both systems. Again, there are three
subsets of cases for what respondents say to the survey inter-
(a) cases where both agree they were reported and there is an
official record;
(b) cases where the police have an official record and the
respondent fails to report it as reported to the police;
(c) cases where the respondent says there should be an official
record and there is none. Note that in this latter case there
are at least two distinct subsets: one subset includes cases
where the police were mobilized but for discretionary or
Official & Survey Statistics 69

other reasons no record was made (or made and removed

prior to an official count); another includes those cases now
reported but where the respondent erroneously reports it as
reported to the police for a variety of reasons including
persons falsely told them they reported it, they confuse its
reporting with the reporting of another incident, and they
deliberately deceive in so reporting.
(2) A subset of cases that are identified by the survey reporting
system but not included in the police system. Typically this
estimate is derived as a difference between the official and survey
statistical estimates or as the "not reported" to the police subset.
That typical estimate is an inaccurate measure of the unreported,
as previously noted.
(3) A subset of cases known to the police but not included in those
reported in the survey. Although reverse-record check surveys
provide estimates of this subset, the current surveys cannot do so
because information is not collected to uniquely identify cases to
pool them as a set of uniquely identified cases. This subset can be
quite sizeable for some offenses as reverse-record checks show,
e.g. for simple and aggravated assaults or for assaults-to-rape.

Any estimate of how much crime is there from these sources must
derive that estimate from these three subsets. There are statistical
techniques for doing so based on the capture-recapture models for
biological ecology and the dual and multiple record systems model of
epidemiology, as noted above. Suffice it to say then that the amount
of crime there is using the pooled information is greater than that
estimated from the survey because of the information provided by the
non-overlapping of cases from both the survey and the official record
systems. Suffice it also to note that the amount is greater than the
amount of non-overlap because the statistical model is based on the
two being estimates of a universe where there is a "true" rate.
What we can conclude from our review of comparisons of official
crime with survey crime statistics in the US and in Britain is that our
current procedures for collecting information do not permit us to
make a pooled estimate of the amount of crime. Rather, what we
have are crude and fairly misleading ways for making such estimates.
A review of the British, US, and Canadian surveys permit a few
conclusions about the current state of estimation.
Firstly, it may be worth noting that when estimating how much
crime is there by pooling information from surveys and official record
70 On Surveying Victims

systems we cannot estimate how much crime there is because neither

source gives us an estimate of incidents of the same kind of crime that
are not recorded by either system of data collection. Our estimates,
then, of how much crime is there or even of how much crime is there
that is not in official record systems of crime is relative to compari-
sons among organized systems for gathering intelligence on the same
kinds of crime. The question of how much crime is there always is, of
course, relative to what we mean by crime and of how we oper-
ationalize and count crimes. Setting that problem aside in these
discussions, our estimates of how much is there will always be relative
to the comparisons we operationally make or can make.
An interesting example of how another means of data collection is
used to estimate how much crime is there exists for the crime of
homicide. It can be estimated from both death registration and police
record systems. Of special interest in this connection are a subset of
homicides - those by police officers. Special studies disclose that
police and death registration statistics have substantially different
estimates of homicides by police officers (Fyfe, 1978; Sherman and
Langworthy, 1979).
Secondly, we can conclude from reverse-record checks made in
Canadian and USA victim surveys that there is considerable variation
in the extent to which the surveys measure crimes known to the
police. Assaults, for example, are among the crimes that may be
substantially underestimated by the victim survey.

Measures of Crime Rates

Major social indicators of crime are expressed as rates. We have, for

example, aggregate, crime specific, and standardized rates of offenses
known to the police (a "notifiable offense" rate), of victimization by
crime, and of incidents reported by victims. Rates are based on
estimated (and/or periodic counts) of the numerator and the denomi-
nator or base for the rate, both of which are subject to errors in
measurement. Typically, our rate indicators of crime are based on
measurements derived from different institutional auspices and mod-
es of data collection.
The data for the numerator of crime rates may be collected by
different law enforcement agencies who react to complaints or citizen
mobilizations as well as to their proactive enforcement of the law. At
residences, for example, a police agency may respond to a burglar
Official & Survey Statistics 71

alarm signal received at its communications center from a residence,

be mobilized to an address by a private security firm with residential
alarms, respond to a phone call from a relative, neighbor, or other
person who suspects or discovers a break-in at an address, respond to
a call from the occupants of a residence either that a burglary of their
residence is in progress, or, what is more likely, that the occupants
returned to discover the break-in and now wish to report it. Regard-
less of the source, all of these can be officially recorded as a burglary
but in only one instance did the victim complainant report it the
The recovery of information from victims will not be the same in
each of these instances of burglary. And, indeed, were one to have
made it an aggravated assault or wounding in which the victim
became comatose, the victim would be unable to recount some of the
information about the incident; some information about the incident
would have been learned from the police or other sources. This is
often the case when the victim is intoxicated or rendered comatose.
In any case, the data for the numerator of victimization crime rates
are victims' reports of offenses from crime victim surveys and for
offenses known to the police rates they are based most usually on a
combination of police and citizen information. It may be worth
noting here that when a victim is the source of information in both
police and victim survey reports, the report to the survey interviewer
is already socially constructed by prior reporting to the police.
Indeed, in a substantial proportion of cases the victim first reports the
victimization to another member of the household, a friend, relative,
or neighbor (Bieck, 1979: 65-7), then to the police (or not), and then
to the survey interviewer (or not), so that the account of victimization
is socially constructed and reconstructed by recalling and recounting
it on at least several occasions. One must make problematic then how
frequently persons recount an event prior to reporting it to victim
survey interviewers.
We shall turn shortly to consider how differences in sources of
information for the numerator affect rates and comparisons among
them. But before doing so, let us consider the denominator.
The denominator or base for the rate is some exposed population,
i.e. a population that potentially may experience and report the
events enumerated in the numerator. The choice of the population
exposed, its units of count, and its count are as critical for the content
and accuracy of the rate as are those of the numerator. The events for
the denominator most usually are derived independent of those for
72 On Surveying Victims

the numerator - typically a population census or intercensual esti-

mates based on episodic population surveys and counts. 6
Official and survey counts of crimes against persons of the exposed
population usually are calculated for a base of the resident popula-
tion, excluding temporary residents (or transients), that are poten-
tially exposed to victimization by crime. Crew members of merchant
vessels, Armed Forces personnel living in military barracks, and
institutionalized persons, such as correctional facility inmates, do not
fall within the scope of the NCS. Similarly, United States citizens
residing abroad and foreign visitors to this country are not eligible as
NCS victims. With these exceptions, all individuals age 12 and over
living in units designated for the sample are eligible to be interviewed
in the NCS (BJS, 1982: Appendix III, 91). These same groups are
roughly excluded from the base population, which is the USA
resident civilian noninstitutional population, used to calculate indi-
vidual crime rates in the NCS. The extent to which illegal immigrants
are included in the base population is problematic as is their inclusion
as sources of offenses or crime incidents in the numerator. There may
be age or other criteria of eligibility for inclusion as well.
Uniform Crime Reporting in the USA, includes all members of the
population in calculating its rate, whereas the NCS includes only
those 12 years of age and over. Obviously this difference in the size of
the base population will affect the magnitude of the rate. For the same
number of crime incidents in the numerator of UCR and NCS, the
NCS rate will be greater because its exposed popUlation is smaller.
The magnitude of a rate always is a function of the size of its base
population and its accuracy is a function in part of the accuracy of
that count.
UCR counts of all major crimes against household property also
are calculated for a base of the resident population but the NCS
counts these crimes for a base population of households. The
magnitude of their respective crime rates is a function of the average
size of households; household rates are always greater than popula-
tion rates since there are fewer households than persons. The
magnitude of the burglary rate, given the same amount of burglary in
the numerator, will always be greater for NCS than UCR. Here then
the magnitude of the rates is a function not only of the size of the
UCR and NCS bases but of a choice of what unit is exposed and of
how that choice determines the limits of a base population's size.
Clearly differences in the accuracy of counts of persons as compared
with households also can affect the accuracy of rates.
Official & Survey Statistics 73

What likewise must be apparent, then, is that direct comparison of

VCR and NCS rates can be made only for comparable populations,
i.e. their units must be the same, e.g. persons, households, organiza-
tions and their size must be identical. Although households include
all of the persons in a population, the size of the household
population can change independently of the size of the person
population. This is so because family and household formation are
responsive to the composition of a population, to changes in institu-
tional practices for household formation, and to the supply of
The accuracy of a population or household count depends upon the
accuracy of its count by various means and the accuracy of any
estimates based on counts. Our annual crime rates are based on
annual estimates of the size of a population and periodic censuses.
The longer the interval since the last census count, the less accurate
the estimate has proven to be. But households and persons pose
different problems in estimating errors and hence for VCR and NCS
rates. Between 1970 and 1980 in the VSA, both the total size of the
person population, based on estimates of its annual rate of growth,
and of its households, i.e. their annual rate of formation, were
underestimated. But the effect of that underestimation was different
for VCR and NCS rates.
Where VCR and NCS rates were based on person population
estimates, the effect of underestimating the growth of the VSA
population between 1970 and 1980 was to overestimate the magnitude
of the person crime rate. But given the fact that NCS rates were for
persons 12 years of age and over while it was for all persons in VCR,
the effect of changes in birth rate additions to the population was
different for the two bases. The NCS base of 12 years of age and over
grows by the addition of 12 year olds whose births occurred prior to
1970 and thus are in the 1970 census count while those for VCR are
affected by the annual birth rate. Both bases can be adjusted for
mortality and legal immigration but both are subject to errors in
estimating illegal immigration and legal emigration (or of persons
living abroad). Given the secular decline in the birth rate during this
period, NCS overestimated victimization rates relatively more than
did VCR.
The effect of underestimating the growth of households on the
crime rate was greater, however, than that of underestimating the
growth of persons in the population since the household population
grew at a much greater rate than did the person population during the
74 On Surveying Victims

decade. Because VCR calculated burglary, motor vehicle theft and

household larceny rates for the population of residents whereas NCS
did so for a population of households, NCS overestimated the
household crime rates to a greater degree than did VCR.
Below we shall see that the magnitude of these errors in the size of
person and household populations was to substantially alter not only
the annual estimates but the growth in that rate as well because the
effect of underestimation was compounded each year by the method
of estimation. Each year estimates depended upon the estimate for
the prior year. Hence the effect of underestimation is greatest in
1979, the year immediately prior to the 1980 census.
Where official and survey statistics are based on different counting
rules for the numerator and/or the denominator, direct comparison is
difficult. We may conclude this discussion of the importance of
standardizing the base for direct comparison of official and survey
indicators of crime by noting that unless the counts in the numerator
are adjusted for this comon exposed population, the rates cannot be
directly compared. If NCS counts person offenses against only
persons 12 years of age and over and VCR counts them for persons of
all ages, then the VCR rate should be somewhat greater.
VCR is based on offenses known to the police, while NCS includes
victim accounts of victimizations reported and not reported to the
police. Assuming no error, the count of offenses known to the police
in VCR should be the same as that of offenses said to be reported to
the police by NCS respondents. Yet, both the BJS (1983) and the
BSSR report of NCS (Biderman et al., 1983:20-9) conclude that the
crime survey estimates of crimes reported to the police exceed the
VCR measure of crimes known to the police. The differences are
substantial for all of the types of crime measured except for theft of a
motor vehicle. The gap between survey and police estimates of
offenses reported or known to the police is attributed by BJS to
differences in police practices of recording events brought to their
attention (1983:12), whereas BSSR attempts to explain the discre-
pancy both in terms of NCS overestimation and NCS undercounting
(Biderman et al., 1982:22-8).
There are a number of reasons why the police may undercount
crimes, though solid evidence is lacking on their relative magnitude,
especially in national surveys. One of the most important is that of
police discretion to treat the matter as a reportable offense. Observa-
tional studies of police behavior in major American cities provide
evidence that a sizeable proportion of all reportable offenses, homi-
Official & Survey Statistics 75

cide excepted, is not made a matter of record (Black and Reiss,

1967:14-80). A primary reason for failure to do so is police com-
pliance with citizen wishes not to arrest offenders in person crimes
where such arrests could have been made (Black and Reiss, 1967;
Black, 1971). In general, these observational studies conclude that
the more serious the offense, especially in terms of its consequences,
the more likely the officer is to file a crime report on the matter. A
substantial proportion of all reactive mobilizations of the police for
reportable crimes then do not become incidents in VCR because of a
combination of officer discretions and citizen wishes in the matter.
This discrepancy between VCR and NCS estimates thus is in part an
artifact of our survey procedure where we elicit information on
whether the police were notified, treating that as an incident for
which there should be an offense report. Quite commonly there will
be none.
The police, moreover, will unfound some of the matters brought to
their attention as "crimes," regarding them as improbable events or
as not classifiable as criminal matters. This should not be a sizeable
group, though VCR places this at several percent of matters initially
treated as reportable crimes. There is similarly the possibility that the
police downgrade the classification of some offenses treated as Index
Crimes in the NCS. There is furthermore the special case of
attempted crimes. Not only are such matters more likely to be
unfounded on investigation but they may be classified in other
nonreportable offenses.
Finally, where multiple crimes occur in the same event, the NCS
will treat them as separate crimes.
The form and modes of comparison of criminal statistics based on
offenses known to the police with those from victim surveys depend,
of course, on what kinds of direct comparison are possible and what
kinds of adjustments are made. For purposes of the exposition that
follows, we shall assume appropriate adjustments have been made
(for the most part) and shall focus, instead, upon the results of
If one is not concerned with differences in the amount or rate of
crime reported by VCR and NCS but rather primarily with differ-
ences in changes in their adjusted aggregate rates, the two series
appear to tap a common universe. BSSR, for example, investigated
the seeming divergence of VCR and NCS trend lines for the years
1973-79 to determine if it was an artifact of their respective defini-
tions and procedures or a genuine difference in their respective
76 On Surveying Victims

samples of crimes (Biderman et al., 1983). The emphasis in their

analysis, therefore, was on changes in aggregate rates - similarities or
differences in the slopes of their trend lines, for example, rather than
in their origins - when they were adjusted for major differences in
concepts and measures of the two series.
Their major conclusion is that when the NCS and UCR time series
are rendered comparable for those components they have with a
common universe of crime incidents, when the same units are used
for counting crime incidents, and when the rates are calculated for
the same base populations, the two series change direction in the
same way both over the seven-year period and from year to year
(Biderman et al., 1982:3). These procedures for adjusting the two
rates to make them reasonably comparable also had the effect of
reducing the size of rate changes and of the amount of crime.


Far too much of the literature on UCR and NCS has focused on the
differences between the two series rather than seeing them as two
ways of estimating the crime rate. The richness and diversity of
information on crime events, their victims, and their offenders, in
police information systems, moreover, permit kinds of analyses that
are usually difficult to obtain from surveys of victims and offenders.
Police statistics thus have a considerable role to play if they are
developed in ways that make them complement victim surveys.
Victim surveys similarly should be designed so that one can do
additional estimates using police based information systems. The
focus of attention in victim surveys, however, should fall less on their
utility for estimating crime rates per se than upon the kinds of
analyses that can be done with an expanded analytical victim survey.


1. There are no reliable statistics on offenders mobilizing the police for their
own violations comparable to those of victims mobilizing the police for
their own victimizations. What is known from police mobilization studies
is that offenders rarely mobilize the police except for homicide. A
minority of offenders, however, knowing that someone has mobilized the
police, remain at the crime scene until the police arrive. Offenders, like
Official & Survey Statistics 77

victims, however, appear to provide information for self-report studies on

their crime experiences known to the police. For a summary of self-
reports being validated by police records, see Hindelang, Hirschi and
Weis, 1981:103-9.
2. Our use of the term law enforcement agencies applies broadly to all agents
who enforce the law. Our major attention, however, is upon police
agencies that comprise the Uniform Crime Reporting system in the
United States. These are primarily public police agencies in cities, towns,
and counties but they include university and college police as well, some
of which are private agencies with public police powers.
3. Whilst formerly all police agency reports were sent directly to the UCR
section of the FBI for compilation and reporting for the nation, in recent
years most of the states have assumed responsibility for aggregating
information for the state. States now are the basic reporting unit to UCR.
Where states are not as yet organized to aggregate police agency
information for the state, law enforcement agency reports are sent directly
to the FBI UCR section for aggregation with state reports.
4. The figure is a crude approximation. None of the national voluntary
systems of reporting has complete registration and reporting. Uniform
Crime Reporting (1982:3) national totals in 1981 were based, for example,
on 98.5% of the population in SMSA's, 95% in other cities, and 95% of
the rural area with a combined national coverage of 97% (Uniform Crime
Reports, 1982:3). Currently the birth and death registration certificate
information is taken from computer tapes of the National Center for
Health Statistics (NCHS) Vital Statistics Cooperative Program (VSCP)
for 45 of the 50 states and coded directly from copies of the original birth
and death certificates for the remainder (NCHS, Monthly Vital Statistics
Report, vol. 32, no. 4, Supplement, Aug. 22, 1983:38). In 1980, the NCHS
Marriage Registration Area (MRA) program provided case level informa-
tion for 77% of all marriages registered in the United States (Monthly
Vital Statistics Report, vol. 32, no. 5:11). Divorce statistics in 1980 were
secured from a variety of sources including the Divorce Registration Area
(DRA) program which included 30 states covering 49% of the national
total (Monthly Vital Statistics Report, vol. 32, no. 3, Supplement, June 27,
1983:11). Estimation techniques or actual coding of registration certi-
ficates are used to count or estimate the statistics of places outside the
UCR and NCHS registration areas. UCR uses a crude area matching
estimation technique whereas NCHS uses both coding of registrations and
sample data in its reports. It reports statistics separately for its registration
areas and makes an effort to add continually to the registration area
program. The aim is to have marriage and divorce registration areas
include all states in the long run.
5. The Vital Statistics Cooperative Program operates in 45 states that
provide all or part of the data on computer tape to NCHS. This
enormously facilitates the preparation of monthly statistics.
6. The monthly estimates of the Current Population Survey and vital
statistics on births and deaths ordinarily are used to make annual
estimates of the population and its components in the USA.
78 On Surveying Victims

Biderman, Albert D., and Reiss, Jr Albert J. (1967), "On Exploring the
'Dark Figure' of Crime," The Annals, vol. 374, pp. 1-15.
Biderman, Albert D., James P. Lynch, and James L. Peterson (1982), "Why
NCS Diverges from UCR Index Trends" (Washington, DC: Bureau of
Social Science Research, Inc., July).
Bieck, William H. (1979), Response Time Analysis, vol. III (Kansas City
Board of Police Commissioners).
Black, Donald J. (1971) "The Social Organization of Arrest," Stanford Law
Review, vol. 23, pp. 1087-11l.
Black, Donald J., and Reiss, Jr, Albert J. (1967), "Patterns of Bahavior in
Police and Citizen Transactions" in Albert J. Reiss, Jr, Crime and Law
Enforcement in Major Metropolitan Areas, vol. II, section I, President's
Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice
(Washington, DC: USGPO).
Blumstein, Alfred, and Koch Gary C. (1980), "A Prolegomenon for a
Macro-Model for Criminal Justice Planning: JUSSIM III" in Stephen E.
Fienberg and Albert J. Reiss Jr, Indicators of Crime and Criminal Justice:
Quantitative Studies, US Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Statis-
tics Publication no. NCJ-62349 (Washington, DC: US Government Print-
ing Office, June).
Bureau of Justice Statistics (1982), Criminal Victimization in the United
States, 1980, US Department of Justice (Washington, DC: USGPO).
--(1983), "Criminal Victimization in the US: 1980-81 Changes Based on
New Estimates," Bureau of Justice Statistics Technical Report, NCJ-87577
Cannavale, Jr, Frank J. (1976), Witness Cooperation (Lexington, Mass.:
Lexington Books).
Carothers, A. D. (1973), "The Effects of Unequal Catch ability on Jolly-
Seber Estimates," Biometrics, vol. 29, pp. 79-100.
Cormack, R. M. (1972), "The Logic of Capture-Recapture Estimates,"
Biometrics, vol. 28, pp. 337-43.
El-Khorazaty, M. Nabil, Imrey Peter, Koch Gary, and Bradley Wells H.,
(1977), "Estimating the Total Number of Events with Data from Multiple-
Record Systems: a Review of Methodological Strategies," International
Statistical Review, vol. 45, pp. 129-57.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), (1980), Uniform Crime Reporting
Handbook, US Department of Justice (Washington DC: USGPO).
Fienberg, S. E. (1972), "The Multiple Recapture Census for Closed Popula-
tions and Incomplete 2 (k) Contingency Tables," Biometrika, vol. 59, pp.
Fyfe, James (1978), Shots Fired: an Examination of New York City Firearms
Discharges (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms).
Hindelang, Michael J., Hirschi Travis, and Weis Joseph G., (1981), Measur-
ing Delinquency (Beverly Hills, Calif: Sage Publications).
Hough, Mike, and Pat Mayhew (1983), The British Crime Survey, Home
Office Research Study no. 76. (London: HMSO, Jan.).
Official & Survey Statistics 79

National Criminal Justice Information and Statistical Service (NCJISS),

(1976), Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1976, Report no.
SD-NCS-N-9, NCJ-49543, US Department of Justice, Law Enforcement
Assistance Administration (Washington, DC: US Government Printing
Otis, D. L., Burnham K. P., White G. c., and Anderson D. R., (1978),
"Statistical Inference for Capture Data from Closed Population," Wildlife
Monograph, vol. 62.
Penick, Bettye K. Eidson, and Maurice E. B. Owens III (1976), Surveying
Crime, Panel for the Evaluation of Crime Surveys. (Washington, DC:
National Academy of Sciences).
Pollock, Kenneth H. (1982), "A Capture-Recapture Design Robust to
Unequal Probability Capture," Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 46,
Reiss, Jr, Albert J. (1967), Crime and Law Enforcement in Major Metropoli-
tan Areas: Field Surveys 111, vol. I, President's Commission on Law
Enforcement and the Administration of Justice (Washington, DC: US
Government Printing Office).
Reiss, Jr, Albert J., and Bordua David J., (1967), "Environment and
Organization: a Perspective on the Police" in David J. Bordua (ed.), The
Police: Six Sociological Essays (New York: John Wiley).
Seber, G. A. F. (1973), The Estimation of Animal Abundance and Related
Parameters (London: Griffin).
Sherman, Lawrence and Langworthy Robert, (1979), "Measuring Homicide
by Police Officers," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 70, pp.
Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), (1983), Crime in the United States, 1981. US
Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation (Washington, DC:
US Government Printing Office).
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Survey Documentation, US Department of Commerce. (Washington, DC:
4 Methodological Issues in
the Study of
Victimization *


Victimization surveys collect data on criminal incidents through

interviews with their participants. This use of self-reports of past
events raises important measurement issues. Participants in a victi-
mization survey are more akin to observers than to respondents in
traditional opinion surveys. We assume that people mayor may not
have been involved in events which have inter-subjective meaning,
about which independent observers could agree. The task of inter-
viewers is to elicit accurate reports of those occurrences. Because the
survey gathers data on events external to the individual, and those
events presumably have a reality apart from their description to an
interviewer, the standard of accuracy in victimization research is the
match between the reality of an incident and its description. This
* Some of this material appeared previously in Issues in the Measurement of
Victimization. Preparation of that report was supported by Grant No.
78-SS-AX-0045, awarded to the Center for Urban Affairs, Northwestern
University by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice
under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, as
amended. The revision of those materials was supported by Grant No.
81-IJ-CX-0069 by the National Institute of Justice, US Department of
Justice, and by the Max-Planck Society. Marlene B. Simon and Paul J.
Lavrakas, along with several anonymous reviewers, contributed helpful
comments on an earlier version. Points of view or opinions stated in this
document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the
official position or policies of the US Department of Justice, or the
Max-Planck Society.
E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy
© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
Methodological Issues 81

match will be problematic under the best of circumstances. The

problem is exacerbated by the nature of crime, conceptual ambiguity
surrounding the definition of criminal incidents, and a host of human
processes affecting the accurate recall and description of things which
occurred in the past. As a result, data on victimization may seem
extraordinarily fragile, overly dependent upon subtle variations in
the manner in which it is gathered. In 1966 the Bureau of Social
Science Research conducted the first investigation of victimization
survey techniques. Its report concluded:

Our survey method is heavily dependent upon the ability and

motivation of the respondent to remember events and report them
in the interview situation. In our pretest and survey experience, we
have found that the quality of the reports of victimization that are
elicited by our interviews depends to a considerable degree upon
how the task of remembering and reporting is structured by the
interview schedule and, presumably, by the way in which the
interviewer uses it. (Biderman et al., 1967: 52)

As with the data on crime gathered by police, reports of victimiza-

tion reflect both the distribution of events and our procedures for
eliciting those reports.
Most of what we know about measurement problems in victimiza-
tion surveys comes from three kinds of research. The first methodolo-
gical research technique is analytic; it involves carefully examining
the results of a victimization survey to infer the impact of various
methodological features of the study on the data. The second
technique is experimental; it involves varying specific survey methods
across parallel samples and then comparing the resulting estimates of
victimization rate or other aspects of the data. The third method is
criterion validation; it depends on the existence of some alternative
record of a crime which we can assume is accurate and we can
compare to the results of an interview with the victim. Each of these
techniques has made an important contribution to our understanding
of the nature of error in measures of victimization.


Beginning with the work of the Crime Commission, there has been a
great deal of research on specific techniques and strategies for
82 On Surveying Victims

improving the quality of victimization data. In addition, we can call

on a substantial body of methodological research in related fields
which confront problems similar to those plaguing victimization
studies. These include investigations of the quality of data gathered in
surveys of unemployment, household expenditures, and health.
These studies suggest that retrospective reports of experiences with
crime are clouded by four kinds of error. Each reflects fundamental
human processes, and affects social measurements of all kinds.
Errors in the measurement of victimization may be due to (1)
ignorance of events, (2) forgetting (or not telling), (3) inaccurate or
incomplete recall (or lying), and (4) differential interview productiv-
ity. (In addition, there are a host of procedural problems and
decisions about survey techniques, which seriously affect the data;
they will be considered in the next section). Respondents sometimes
do not know of things about which we quiz them. They also might
have forgotten about them, a fallibility which in practice we cannot
distinguish from their deliberately not telling us about them. Respon-
dents may also either inadvertently or malevolently tell us something
that is incorrect. Finally, some people are better respondents than
others: they more readily grasp the nature of the task presented
them; they work harder at it; and they tire of the demands of a survey
less rapidly. All of those factors conspire to shape the volume and
character of reports of victimization, sometimes independently and
sometimes in conjunction with the true distribution of criminal

Knowledge of Incidents

The problem of respondents not knowing things which a measure-

ment techique assumes they have knowledge of can have significant
implications for the design of victimization studies. The commercial
surveys conducted for LEAA were limited in scope to burglary and
robbery, deliberately avoiding the difficulties involved in gathering
incidence figures for shoplifting and employee theft. It was assumed
that a large proportion of those offenses went undetected by their
victims. Individuals also may not recognize that an incident is a
crime; this has limited the utility of surveys for studying offenses such
as fraud. People also seem to exclude broad ranges of their experi-
ence as lying outside of the purview of the criminal law. Respondents
in the national survey conducted for the Crime Commission were
encouraged to volunteer reports of victimization for crimes not
Methodological Issues 83

explicitly covered in the interview. However, Ennis (1967) notes that

few respondents mentioned ordinance violations, housing discrimina-
tion, illegal treatment by government agencies, or other such
The bulk of research concerning the problem of lack of knowledge
on the part of respondents has focused on proxy interview proce-
dures. In early surveys it was assumed that crimes were salient events
that would be widely discussed, at least among members of a victim's
household. Therefore it was assumed that it would be possible to
conduct a victimization survey by interviewing just one adult in a
household, asking him or her about the experiences of each house-
hold member. This procedure would seem to generate victimization
data for a large number of individuals at low cost. Subsequent
analysis of data gathered in this fashion indicates the method is
inadequate. In Biderman's Washington, DC, study the correlation
between household size and the number of incidents reported was
even negative, rather than positive, in sign. The same pattern of
underrecall for persons other than the respondent has been found in
surveys overseas. In a survey in Stuttgart, Stephan (1976) questioned
residents of 741 households. In some he interviewed all members of
the family directly, while in others he interviewed only heads of
households and asked them to report on victimization of other
members of their family. Direct personal interviews proved to be
almost 50% more productive of victimization reports.
The apparent unreliability of household informants as sources of
data about the experiences of others led LEAA to fund an experi-
ment in San Jose and Dayton. In half of the households interviewed
(the sample was 11 000 households in each city) a "chance respon-
dent" was interviewed, and in the other half every resident 16 years
of age and older was quizzed. Differences between the estimates of
victimization rates produced by the two methods were substantial;
the ratio was 1.7 to 1 for rape, 2.1 to 1 for strong armed robbery, and
2.2 to 1 for attempted robbery, in favor of the self-response technique
(Kalish, 1974:37). As a result of this experiment LEAA decided to
adopt complete-enumeration procedures for city and national sur-
veys, despite the substantially greater cost this entails.

Forgetting and Not Telling of Incidents

There is a tendency for victim-respondents to fail to report informa-

tion about incidents which have occured and about which they should
84 On Surveying Victims

have been knowledgeable. We can observe examples of non-recall in

methodological studies employing each of the three research techni-
ques described at the outset. For instance, the way in which an
interview is structured affects the frequency with which instances of
criminal victimization are recalled. Experiments reveal that when
respondents have to work harder at their assigned recall task, or
when the task is organized so that they easily can learn how to reduce
their workload, they will respond by restricting the amount of
information they contribute to the survey. Second, record checks
indicate that victim recall can be highly selective. Respondents seem
to edit incidents which may be embarrassing or may be considered
"none of the government's business," even when they previously
were reported to the police. Finally, victimization rates analyzed
monthly or quarterly over the length of the survey's recall period
typically indicate that few incidents occur in the most distant months,
although other evidence suggests that crime was just as frequent
then. In each case the observed variations in victimization rates are
artifacts of the method employed to gather the data rather than
reflection of the distribution of the true rate of crime. There are three
general sources of non-response which correspond to the examples
given above: respondent load and fatigue, purposeful suppression of
valid responses, and forgetting.

Load and Fatigue

The effects of workload factors were first noted in the Bureau of

Social Science Research's pretest of victimization survey methods.
They experimented with two procedures for conducting interviews.
In the first, respondents were given flash cards describing criminal
incidents. If they indicated that they had been involved in such an
event, a detailed incident report form was completed for it at that
time. The other procedure involved asking respondents to give "yes
or no" answers to a complete checklist of offense descriptions before
filling out incident report forms for each positive response. The first
procedure clearly linked a positive response with a lengthy respon-
dent task, while the latter did not allow the respondent to become
test wise until it was too late. Not surprisingly, the second mode
elicited 2Vz times as many reports of incidents as the first (Biderman
etal., 1967).
Methodological Issues 85

The current screening procedure used in the National Crime

Survey reflects this experience. By deferring the introduction of
incident forms until the completion of the incident checklist, it may
encourage more complete recall. However, there may still be a
tendency for respondents to suppress reports of victimization in order
to speed the interview, a disposition that presumably would be
greater in surveys with 12- rather than 6-month reference periods.
Surveys that employ a household informant entail a considerably
heavier respondent burden. Biderman (1973) speculates that once
respondents have manifested their co-operativeness by recalling a
victimization, there is less pressure in the interview situation to
remember others, because the interviewer has been "satisfied."
Personal interviews are social interactions. Interviewers ask for
people's time, and they can offer little in return. Respondents may
reciprocate by offering a little to the interviewer and then stopping.
This may explain the surprisingly slight incidence of multiple victi-
mization documented above. Given the average number of victimiza-
tions in the population, statistically we should find fewer nonvictims
and more multiple victims than currently are uncovered in surveys
(Sparks et al., 1977). Fatigue, impatience with the repetitiveness of
the incident screen, and other factors may account in part for the
observed distribution. This is likely to be more common among
poorly motivated respondents, those who find interviews taxing or
incomprehensible, and those who find few social rewards in chatting
with someone from the US Census Bureau. Biderman (1973) specu-
lates that such persons may be more likely to be victimized by crime
as well.

Lying and Not Telling

The evidence that respondents may be lying, or deliberately suppres-

sing reports of events of which they have full knowledge, is inferen-
tial. It comes primarily from record checks based on reports of
incidents sampled from police files. In the San Jose methodological
study described above, evidence emerged that known victims were
neglecting to describe particular events. The relationship between the
victim and the offender as recorded by the police seemed to play an
important role in the recall of those events in subsequent interviews.
Incidents in which the victim and the offender were related to one
86 On Surveying Victims

another were reported in the survey only 22.2% of the time. The
recall rate rose sharply when the relationship between the parties was
more tenuous. For events involving strangers the recall rate was 76%.
Two-thirds of the personal victimizations that were not recalled
involved at least an acquaintance between the parties, while three-
quarters of all "stranger" crimes were recalled. Eleven of the fifteen
known rapes which went unmentioned involved non-strangers.
Almost an identical pattern was uncovered in a record-check study
of the validity of survey reports of assault conducted by Statistics
Canada. They found that 71 % of stranger assaults were recalled, but
only 56% of "known party" assaults and 29% of related-party were
recalled (Catlin and Murray, 1979: table R). Those figures are
extraordinarily similar to findings from the San Jose record check.
There are competing explanations for this phenomenon. Victims may
not remember disputes which arise within kinship or friendship
circles as readily as they remember events involving strangers. Or,
such disputes may not register as the kind of incidents that the
interviewer is looking for - they may not be construed as crimes.
People may think that to be a "crime" violence must involve
strangers. However, these alternatives seem unlikely, for these
incidents all were "founded" by the San Jose police.
It may be that persons who have been victimized by someone they
know frequently may not think it is any of the interviewer's business.
Or, the survey may raise again the memory of a painful situation, one
which victims may not wish to recall. Although these all were
incidents which came to the attention of the police, the victim may
not have been the party who called them; many crimes are reported
to police by friends, relatives, and bystanders, and the offended party
may not wish to spread the story even further. Finally, in related-
party cases the question of who is to blame and who is the real victim
is not always clear, and the role of the person being interviewed
might not always withstand close scrutiny. It is possible that an
interview with any of the participants in these affairs could have
recorded what appeared to be a victimization.
Victims who are themselves culpable may also be motivated to
suppress information about criminal incidents. Research on crime
indicates that "victim precipitation" is a common phenomenon in
violent crime and in incidents where the victim knows the offender.
In those incidents it is the eventual victim, rather than apparent
offender, who first initiated the event. Other crimes may be encour-
Methodological Issues 87

aged or facilitated, if not caused, by citizen behavior. Biderman's

(1967) survey in Washington, DC, dealt in passing with this problem.
There, 25% of all victims agreed that they were negligent or had done
something foolish which contributed to their plight. Victims who feel
culpable may be less likely to report their experiences later in an


Most research on nonrecall has focused on what is assumed to be true

forgetting. The problem has been described variously as "time-
dependent error" and "memory decay", for it appears that the
difficulty is one of remembering incidents from the more distant past.
At one time it was assumed that crimes were very memorable events;
it was planned to use retrospective surveys of the general population
to reconstruct an historical time series for victimization rates, using
interviews with a life-long reference period. Pretest quickly demons-
trated the futility of that enterprise. Rather than being readily
memorable, Biderman et al. (1967:31) found:

In practice, most respondents seemed to find it difficult to remem-

ber incidents of victimization other than recent cases .... People
reported hours, days, and even weeks later that incidents they had
not remembered at the time they were interviewed had come to
mind subsequently.

In the Washington, DC, survey, respondents were asked to recall the

"worst crime that has ever happened to you." They recalled a total of
260 incidents in response, only 108 of which occured more than 2
years previously, and only 60 of which happened 6 or more years in
the past (Biderman et al., 1967:41). Biderman et al. (1967:40) noted:

Respondents have to do a great deal of thinking and slow

reflection before they can remember even fairly serious crimes of
which they were victims some time ago - even when these older
incidents are far more consequential than recent ones.

The National Crime Survey now inquires only about what has
happened "in the last 6 months."
88 On Surveying Victims

The fact that victims forget about their experiences with the
passage of time also has serious implications for the accuracy of
estimates of victimization rate based on surveys. This is illustrated in
Figure 4.1 which shows how different estimates of victimization
would be if they were calculated on the basis of crime which were
described by happening 1 month ago, 2 months ago, etc. If we used
crimes described as occurring only 1 month ago, we would find that
the national rate of victimization from personal theft was 189 per

Victimization rate per 1000 targets


250 _ Total personal crime
- - Household larceny
140 "-
130 "-

110 6
Months ago in recall period

SOURCE Data from Woitman, Bushery and Carstenson, 1975: table 2.

FIGURE 4.1 Rates of victimization reported for months in recall period

Methodological Issues 89

1000, and for all personal crime 261 per 1000. However, with
increasing lengths of recall those estimates would have dropped
sharply. Based on incidents recalled for the sixth month before the
interview, the corresponding rates would drop to 119 per 1000 for
personal theft and 162 for all personal crimes.
As we shall see below, not all of this gradient can be attributed to
the forgetting of past incidents. It is also shaped by forward telescop-
ing. However, decreases in rates for personal crime and burglary of
nearly 100 incidents per 1000 over a 6-month recall period clearly
signal trouble. As we saw with regard to the 1971 Quarterly
Household Survey, the problem is even more extreme in 12- as
opposed to 6-month recall periods, and this doubtless affects the
yearly victimization estimates produced in the city surveys conducted
between 1972 and 1975.
Similar declines in recall with the passage of time can be observed
in data from record-check studies. In record checks, samples of cases
of different "ages" are drawn from police files. Interviews with
victims are employed to determine if those from the more distant past
are less likely to be recalled. Record checks are more definitive
studies of the forgetting problem because other factors which affect
the distribution of data such as that in Figure 4.1 are not present.
Table 4.1 summarizes the findings of the San Jose record check. It
indicates the proportion of incidents that was remembered by victims
in light of the number of months of recall they required. As Table 4.1
indicates, recall was relatively high for cases from 1 to 3 months in the
past, but it hovered around only 50% for those from 4 to 9 months in
the past, and then dropped below one-third for those from nearly 1
year in the past. As the author of the San Jose report noted, based on

TABLE 4.1. Record-check recall, by

months of recall demanded

Months between %
interview and incident recalled (N)

1-3 69 (101)
4--6 50 (100)
7-9 46 (103)
10-12 30 (90)

SOURCE: Turner, 1972a:8.

90 On Surveying Victims

this criterion" ... there is very little to choose from after the first three
months." (Turner, 1972a:8).
Declining rates of recall with the passage of time also were noted in
earlier US Census Bureau record checks in Washington, DC, and
Baltimore, although patterns in the Washington study were less
clear-cut (Dodge, 1970). In Baltimore, levels of recall were much
higher than in San Jose, averaging 81%, but evidenced a steady
decline with passing months (Yost and Dodge, 1970). On the other
hand, Sparks et al. (1977) found high rates of recall (averaging 92%)
and only a slight decline in that rate over a lO-month period.

Inaccurate or Incomplete Recall of Incidents

The failure of respondents to share information about events which

apparently did involve them is not the only type of error encountered
in data gathered in interviews on crime victims. Information which is
volunteered may be incorrect or at least different from that gathered
on the same incident from other, presumably more reliable, sources.
Victims make mistakes: they may inaccurately recall the amount lost
in a crime or the exact date of the incident. In their London study,
Sparks et al. (1977) compared the month in which victims placed
incidents with police information on the same offenses. They found
that only 55% recalled the month of the offense with accuracy.
Victims may also deliberately misconstrue their role in a crime, the
value of a stolen object, or the identity of an offender. This may be
common in crimes that involve close victim-offender relationships,
victim complicity, or victim precipitation. The police often suspect
the motives of complainants, and so might survey interviewers.
Record-check comparisons of archival and interview data indicate
that at least two types of recall error present a serious methodological
problem: temporal telescoping and misreporting. There can be a
great deal of disagreement, some of which appears to be time
dependent, about the characteristics of offenses and offenders be-
tween these two data sources.


The issue of temporal telescoping has received a great deal of

attention, because it has profound implications for survey design and
Methodological Issues 91

cost. In an early study, Gray (1955) conducted a record check of

reports of sick leave by British civil servants. He found that few
forgot completely that they had taken leave, but that there was a
substantial tendency for them to err in recalling when they took it.
Neter and Waksberg (1964) investigated telescoping problems in
self-reports of household repairs. They found that recall error was
predominantly in the forward direction, moving events closer to the
date of the interview. They also discovered that major expenditures -
which presumably would be more memorable - were more likely than
minor expenses to be telescoped forward. Because minor expendi-
tures also were more likely to be forgotten, the error structure of the
US Census Bureau's self-report data on household repairs was very
Although telescoping is found in many retrospective surveys, it is
not altogether clear why it takes place. It may partly be due to the
demand characteristics of a victimization survey. In this case, the
"demand" to produce an incident occurs because most respondents
have not been victims of most of the crimes covered in the interview.
The long incident screen questionnaire produces a succession of "no"
responses, and respondents may feel the interviewers are "dis-
appointed" by their lack of productivity. In this situation, the
temptation to give the interviewer some false but apparently satis-
fying information may be overpowering, especially when a familiar
but slightly out-of-bounds incident comes to mind (Biderman, 1970).
There is also some evidence that frequent and recurring events are
telescoped more often, for there is a greater likelihood that the
respondent will become confused about their dates (Sudman and
Bradburn, 1974). The "interview demand" hypothesis does not
explain, however, continued forward telescoping even within the
reference point for a survey, a phenomenon noted by Neter and
Waksberg (1964) and in all the victimization record checks.
For purposes of making accurate estimates of victimization rates
for a calendar period, any disposition by respondents to draw into the
reference period events which took place before (or after) is more
threatening than errors in time placement within the period. The
more threatening phenomenon is known as "external telescoping."
Various survey techniques have been developed to deal with this
problem. One solution has been to "bound" surveys conducted for
estimation purposes by an earlier interview. The bounding interview,
which takes place at the beginning of the reference period, gathers
reports of prior incidents and serves as a benchmark for the ensuing
92 On Surveying Victims

timespan. Interviews conducted at the conclusion of the reference

period presumably are then protected from forward telescoping. In
addition, incident reports gathered in the initial interview can be used
to screen later interviews to eliminate duplications. Another aid to
recall is to shorten the length of the reference period and to locate its
terminal point as close in time as possible to the date of the interview.
This increases recall accuracy (the demand for details about tempor-
ally distant events is eliminated) and limits the scope for backward
telescoping. The trade-off, of course, is cost. Finally, external
telescoping can be reduced by "bounding" the beginning of the
reference period with a salient date. During interview pretests for the
National Crime Survey it became apparent that people had difficulty
locating events in time because of the absence of salient reference
points. They appeared to remember incidents which occurred in
January more frequently than many other months because they
"came just after the first of the year" (Yost and Dodge, 1970).
Interviews which refer to reference periods with natural boundaries
marking their beginning and end seem to be more satisfactory.
The effects of external telescoping on victimization rate estimates
can be considerable. In the 1970 Washington, DC, record check, for
example, some individuals were selected for interviewing because
police files indicated that they had been victimized 7 months before.
They were asked only about their experiences during the "past 6
months." About 15% of those out-of-bounds incidents were pushed
forward into the reference period. Over 20% of a sample of 13
month-old cases were incorrectly placed within a 12-month reference
period by another group of victims (Dodge, 1970). In July 1971, the
issue was investigated experimentally. A victimization instrument
was administered to 18000 participants in the US Census Bureau's
Quarterly Household Survey, 12000 of whom had been interviewed
about crime in January of the same year. The survey asked about
their experiences "in the past 6 months." In every crime category, the
6000 respondents whose interviews were unbounded reported more
incidents than those who had been questioned before. The ratio of
unbounded to bounded reports ranged from 1.2 to 1 for burglary to
1.9 to 1 for robbery. This was roughly the same magnitude of error
due to telescoping in Neter and Waksberg's (1964) comparison of
bounded and unbounded reports of household repairs: Their un-
bounded interviews yielded 40% more reports of expenditures.
The design of the National Crime Survey facilitates comparisons
between bounded and unbounded interviews on a continuous basis.
Methodological Issues 93

There are differences between estimates of the national victimization

rate for ~everal crimes based on interviews conducted for repeat,
bounded samples and new, unbounded samples for a reference
period. New, unbounded households entering the survey report more
instances of victimization than those which were already part of the
sample used for estimation purposes; in the aggregate, the difference
in rates was about 33%, a very substantial discrepancy attributable to
this single methodological difference. In this regard it is also impor-
tant to note that the city victimization samples interviewed by the US
Census Bureau were unbounded. The interviews conducted in 26
cities between 1972 and 1975 employed 12-month unbounded refer-
ence periods. In eight of the cities, the reference period also did not
refer to a calendar year (January through December), which prob-
ably further reduces the quality of the data. We do not know enough
about the consequences of this to predict its impact on other
measures. If more serious incidents were telecoped into the reference
period (Reiss, 1978) while less serious ones were more rapidly
forgotten (Neter and Waksberg, 1964), the relative mix of crimes as
well as rates of victimization would be affected. On the other hand,
external telescoping should have proportionally less of an impact on
reports gathered for a 12-month period than it does on the unbound-
ed components of the National Crime Survey with its 6-month
reference period. Respondent fatigue and forgetting should be
greater over the longer span, however.
In addition to reconceptualizing bounding procedures, research on
the telescoping process should focus on internal telescoping effects
and on the correlates of telescoping itself. We know little about why
events are telescoped or about their differential misplacement in
time. In her record check in Portland, Schneider (1977) examined the
kinds of events which were most severely moved about in time. Her
survey employed a 12-month reference period. On the average,
matched incidents were pulled forward within the period by 2.2
months. Forty-nine per cent of all incidents were placed in the wrong
month by their victims. She found a weak tendency for more trivial
incidents to be telescoped forward more often, and for events which
occured more distantly in the past to be pulled forward more
frequently. Also, crimes in which the victim reported resisting the
offender were often misplaced in time. However, the tendency to
move events forward in time was not related to the age, race, sex, or
educational level of respondents. Telescoping within a reference
period presents analytic difficulties, for it impedes our understanding
94 On Surveying Victims

of the timing and sequencing of criminal incidents. Even within the

6-month reference period currently employed in the National Crime
Survey, survey incidents apparently are being pulled forward in
dramatic fashion. Twenty-eight per cent of all incidents now are
being placed in the first month of any recall period, four times as
many as in any last month (Reiss, 1978). This destroys the utility of
the data for examining issues such as the sequencing of multiple
victimizations or the impact of recent experiences with crime on
victim's willingness to resist another attack or to report ensuing
incidents to the police. Without accurate data on the temporal
placement of incidents we cannot link them in causal fashion to other
events, such as quitting a job, moving to another address, installing a
crime-prevention device, or getting a divorce. To document the
causes and consequences of crime at the micro-level we need accurate
data on the relative time placement of many events in people's lives,
including victimization.

Other Sources of Measurement Error

Research on inaccurate recall has focused almost exclusively on the

time placement of individual incidents. However, there is reason to
suspect that victims are likely to recall inaccurately other aspects of
events. Record checks which match significant characteristics of
incidents between police files and victim interviews would shed a
great deal of light on the general reliability of the data collected in the
surveys. The only record check of the characteristics of incidents that
has been made by the US Census Bureau focused on differences in
estimates of dollar losses between victims and the Washington, DC,
police. That comparison revealed that citizens made substantially
higher estimates of value of their stolen and damaged property than
did the police. Three-fourths of the loss estimates gathered in
interviews were higher than those recorded by the police, often by 50
to 100%. On the other hand, there was no indication that these
differences were time dependent or that the dollar amount of a loss
affected the accuracy of its recall (Turner, 1970). In the Portland
record check, Schneider (1977) compared police and interview data
on a variety of incident attributes. She found that survey estimates of
loss and seriousness consistently were higher than police figures.
Victims were much more likely than the police to mention that
weapons were involved in a case. Police reports and victims also
disagreed much of the time on the race of the offender and, as noted
Methodological Issues 95

above, on victim-offender relationships. Victims also reported sub-

stantially longer response time by the police than official records
indicated. On the other hand, there was a good match for such factors
as the age and sex of suspects and the number of offenders involved
in the incidents. Interestingly, these mismatches were not consistent-
ly related to the passage of time. Some incidents were from twelve
months in the past, yet none of the errors in those comparisons
(scored as measures of the difference between victim and police
reports) was time dependent. Also, the passage of time was not
related to the tendency of the victims to give "don't know" responses
to questions about their experiences. Only knowledge of the date of
the incident seemed to fade with time. It would seem that the
criterion of accuracy employed in survey pretest record checks was
the most stringent of choices.

Differential Productivity of Respondents

Research on survey methodology indicates that respondents differ in

their willingness or ability to adopt a productive role during an
interview (Sudman and Bradburn, 1974). In general, more highly
educated respondents are more co-operative, more at ease in inter-
view situations, and more able to recall the details of events. Those
factors may affect the accuracy with which victimizations are recalled
during interviews.
As I noted above, it is assumed that most forms of criminal
victimization are more frequent among lower status persons. Howev-
er, surveys conducted for the Crime Commission found victimization
to be positively related to measures of social class. The strongest
social class correlate of victimization was education. College-
educated respondents recalled victimizations at a higher rate than did
others. This surprising pattern may be due to differing definitions of
"victimization" and attendant variations in the probability that events
will be recalled in an interview. Or, that significant negative associa-
tions between social position and victimization may be masked in
survey findings by greater interview productivity among more highly
educated and testwise respondents. Higher levels of education (but
not income) measure entry into a "test and measurement culture" in
which surveys, questionnaires, and opinion polls are recognize able
features of life. In addition, more educated respondents may enjoy
greater verbal fluency of the kind necessary for conducting a
96 On Surveying Victims

bureaucratic encounter, and they may generally be more inclined to

trust the stated intentions of inquiring government agents. Interviews
with such respondents should be less perfunctory, involve greater
task comprehension, and elicit more effort in completing the task
than those with less comprehending or less able respondents.
There is little evidence supporting either of these explanations for a
positive education-assault victimization relationship. In England,
Sparks et al. (1977) found that among upper class respondents
victimizations which were recalled were more likely to be trivial ones,
or attempted rather than successful crimes. Similar findings have
been reported for Germany (Stephan, 1967) and the United States
(Biderman et al., 1967). In the National Crime Survey those propor-
tions fluctuate considerably among those with lower levels of educa-
tional attainment, but are by far the highest for those with college
training. In data collected during the first 6 months of 1977, 63 % of
all college-educated assault victims fell in the "attempted assault
without a weapon" category; for everyone else that figure was 49%
(author's computation). The only other evidence that differences in
the ability of victims to complete the interview task are affected by
education was reported by Reiss (1978). He found that less educated
respondents were more likely to recall incidents that fell into the
"series" category, which is composed of crimes for which discrete
details could not be remembered. On the other hand, Schneider
(1977) found in her record check that education was not related to
any tendency of self-identified victims to give "don't know" responses
or to systematic differences between police reports and interview
data on incidents. Based on this evidence, it seems that productivity
effects are more likely to be of the "recalled or not" variety and thus
at work only in the screen section of the survey instrument. It remains
unclear why nonrecall error should be distinct from errors in the
detailed incident descriptions gathered in the incident report section
of the instrument.


Telephone Versus Personal Interviews

While the National Crime Survey is described as a personal-interview

study, a substantial proportion of interviews are conducted via the
telephone. In NCS, contact with a sample household is initially
Methodological Issues 97

established by a personal visit by an interviewer. During this visit an

interviewer lists each household member; at that time he or she also
interviews all available respondents. However, the interviewer exer-
cises discretion .about whether to complete the remaining interroga-
tions by other personal visits or by telephone, and is to choose the
easiest and most cost effective method (US Census Bureau, 1979).
We do not have a reliable reading of the consequences of this
procedure. Some comparisons of the results of interviews conducted
personally and by telephone indicate that there are few differences
between them. Comparisons of parallel surveys that have been
conducted using the two methods sometimes indicate a similar
equivalency, but sometimes favor one of the interviewing modes. No
truly definitive experiment has been conducted detaining the con-
sequences of mode of interview for data on victimization. Research
on related topics also provides no clear lesson for victimization
surveys. There are reasons to suspect that telephone interviews may
be less productive than those conducted in person, and there are
counterarguments which support both conclusions.
It is widely argued that surveys of the general population achieve
higher completion rates when interviews are conducted in person.
Because the US Census Bureau pursues a mixed-mode data collec-
tion strategy to pursue individual noncompletions, it is impossible to
talk about the relative effectiveness of each in the crime surveys. In
its Health Interview experiments, the Survey Research Center of the
University of Michigan found a 10% difference between both com-
pletion rates and refusal rates which favored the in-person strategy
(Cannell et al., 1979). On the other hand, the Center achieved
virtually identical results in another study of the two techniques
(Groves, 1979). Those who favor personal interviews also argue that
"data are better" when collected in that way because of the greater
rapport that can develop between interviewer and respondent. Also,
in intimate settings, interviewers can supply more verbal and nonver-
bal cues to shape respondent behavior, and both parties may be more
satisfied with the emotional rewards of face-to-face contact. Com-
parisons by mode of interview indicate that respondents and inter-
viewers are less satisfied with telephone interviews (Groves, 1979;
Cannell et al., 1979). Respondents tend to supply less detail in
response to open-ended questions given over the telephone (Groves,
1979). They also are more likely to evidence response-set bias, using
the same verbal category in answer to a string of questions more
frequently when interviews are conducted by telephone (Groves,
98 On Surveying Victims

1979). It also seems that respondents in telephone surveys are less

certain of the sponsorship of those studies or of the use to which the
data will be put. Rodgers (1976) and Groves (1979) both found they
were less likely than those being interviewed in person to supply
sensitive personal information such as family income. In the Groves
study, telephone respondents also were more likely to report that
they felt "uneasy" discussing selected topics.
Vigorous arguments can be made in support of telephone surveys
as well. Some have argued that telephone interviews may be more
productive because they are anonymous. On the telephone it may be
possible to be more candid and matter-of-fact about embarrassing
issues, and it may be easier for respondents to admit less desirable
behavior. In a record check of the two modes of interviewing,
Rodgers (1976) found that telephone reports of whether or not
respondents were registered to vote were more accurate. On the
other hand, Groves (1979) found no difference between the two
approaches in terms of the social desirability of responses to various
measures. Telephone interviews may often be more discrete, for
other members of a household usually cannot hear the questions
asked. Because the work is conducted at a central site, telephone
interviewing can be better supervised than can field visits. As a result,
interviews may be more standardized. Rogers (1976) found that
interviewer styles were more uniform and interviewer effects on data
were less pronounced over the telephone, and that across two waves
of interviews responses by members of her telephone panel were
more consistent. Interviewers are undeniably safer in telephone
surveys, often a significant concern. Groves (1979) also found that
completion rates for urban areas were higher for telephone than
in-person surveys.
Evidence on the relative validity of data gathered in each is
important, for the mixed-mode data collection strategy employed in
the crime surveys is distributed in a decidedly non-random fashion.
During the first few years of the National Crime Survey about 25% of
all interviews were conducted over the telephone (National Research
Council, 1976), and persons who were interviewed by telephone were
more likely than others to be young, male, and black. All other
evidence suggests that these are among the most likely groups to be
victimized. If telephone interviews are not as productive of reports of
victimization as those conducted in person, the resulting rate esti-
mates will be severely affected.
Methodological Issues 99

There have been four major studies of the problem in the context
of measuring victimization. While they came to somewhat different
conclusions, the best of them supports the use of the telephone. In
the first study, the results of interviews with households in which
maximum effort was made to employ only personal visits were
compared with those in which telephones were used whenever
feasible. No major difference between victimization reports from the
two samples were apparent (Turner, 1977; Woltman and Bushery,
1977b). In another analysis, Tuchfarber and Klecka (1976) contrasted
the results of parallel victimization surveys. They uncovered more
victimizations over the telephone than the US Census Bureau
measured in person. However, Reiss (1978) analysed several years of
national data organized in panel fashion and - controlling for a host
of other factors - found that telephones were 50% less productive
than personal interviews.
The results of this research can only be labeled inconclusive.
Rodgers (1976), Groves (1979), Klecka and Tuchfarber (1974), and
others agree that there were few differences in relationships between
variables gathered in differing fashion. The problem seems to be one
of threats to the precision of estimates of the number of victimiza-
tions and other objects of interest for the population as a whole. In
1966 Biderman et al. (1967) attempted to use the telephone to gather
victimization data, but quickly abandoned the technique as inadequ-
ate. Since most recent and systematic evidence on the issue is
ambiguous, additional research should be conducted if only because
of the very large contingent of telephone respondents in the current
crime panel. In the US Census Bureau project, many persons in each
"experimental" condition actually were interviewed by another
mode. In the Klecka and Tuchfarber (1978) study two different
organizations had conducted the parallel surveys and different sam-
pling frames were employed for each, leaving room for a host of
differences between the surveys in addition to the way in which the
interviews were conducted. Reiss' data are correlational and suffer
from a lack of random assignment of mode of interview. Clearly an
experiment is called for in which samples of individuals would be
randomly assigned to groups and interviewed in different ways, in
conjunction with a record check to provide an independent reading of
what their responses "should be."
This design was employed by Statistics Canada in a major metho-
dological study of the validity of survey reports of victimization
100 On Surveying Victims

(Catlin and Murray, 1979). They sampled 1525 crime victims from
the files of the Edmonton, Alberta, police department. Victims were
randomly assigned into two groups, one to be interviewed only by
telephone and the other only in person. An additional random
sample of adults was drawn from the city directory and mingled with
the two victim samples in order to disguise the true purpose of the
survey from the interviewers. This insured that some respondents
would have no victimizations to report. Parallel surveys were then
conducted to assess the completion rates, cost, and accuracy of recall
associated with each survey method. Statistics Canada found that
telephone interviews were significantly less expensive to conduct -
including an allocation of administrative expenses and other over-
head costs, telephone interviews cost 70% less than in-person
interviews. Telephone interviews also were as successful as in-person
efforts at reaching respondents; the completion rates of the two
parallel surveys were quite similar. Finally, there was virtually no
difference between the two surveys in the proportion of known
victimizations which were successfully registered in the interviews.
The in-person interviews recovered 64% of the criterion incidents,
and the telephone interviews 63%. As a result of this experiment,
Statistics Canada employed telephone interviews in its large-scale
1979 study of criminal victimization in Vancouver, British Columbia,
and in it's 1982 surveys of five major cities.

Interviewer Effects

In addition to panel artifacts and biases related to mode of interview-

ing, differences among survey interviewers in the way they carry out
their task also shape resulting data. Interviewer effects are but one of
several sources of "correlated response variance" (Bailar, 1976).
These effects manifest themselves as variance on indicators which is
shared among respondents who were quizzed by the same interview-
er. The effects of interviewers can be quite substantial, especially
when survey personnel have had comparatively little training and are
only minimally supervised. Interviewer effects reached epidemic
proportions in the 1960 Census of Population, a technical rationale
for accepting a cost-cutting move to self-enumeration by use of a mail
survey in the 1970 Census. In the city victimization surveys conducted
by the US Census Bureau, interviewer effects were comparable in
magnitude to sampling error. For example, for Baltimore it is
Methodological Issues 101

necessary to multiply estimates of sampling variance by 1.60 to

calculate confidence intervals which take account of both sampling
and interviewer variance. The estimated rate for all victimizations
there was 110 per 1000, with a sampling-error range (with 95%
confidence) around that estimate from 40 to 180 per 1000. Taking
into account the effects of correlated response variance extended that
range to from 20 to 200 per 1000. Those differences become even
more extreme when we examine particular crimes (Bailar et al.,
The sources of interviewer effects are numerous. Interviewers
differ in how they interpret individual survey items and in their
understanding of the purpose of the enterprise. Some probe for
detailed comments more vigorously than do others, and some
interviewers readily accept "don't know" and other nonresponses.
Interviewers also differ in how they interpret and record responses to
questions and how they explain individual items to respondents who
do not understand them. Often they do not link the verbal and
nonverbal cues they give respondents to any productive effort on the
respondent's part, thus rewarding unacceptable task behavior (Can-
nell et al., 1979).
Examination of the types of incidents for which interviewer effects
are most substantial suggests that they involve the particularly
sensitive topics probed by the victimization surveys. The most
systematic analysis of those effects indicates that they are greatest for
crimes in the "assaultive violence without theft" category - that is, for
rapes, intrafamilial disputes, and public brawling (Bailey et al., 1978).
Dodge and Lentzner (1978) noted that reports of series incidents
often are first recorded when a new interviewer takes responsibility
for a household. Presumably some interviewers are better than others
at eliciting reports of "conditions" rather than events, while others
more quickly tire of attemping to untangle vague or complex
Precise estimates of the magnitude of interviewer artifacts in the
data are based on "interpenetrated sample" research. In each of the
eight cities studies by the US Census Bureau in 1975, interviewers
were assigned batches of 80 sample households. A portion of these
were randomly assigned from a pool of households distributed
between pairs of interviewers. Then, comparisons were made in the
data collected from these households, examining contrasts among
interviewers. The analytic question was, How much of the observed
variance in reports of victimization could be attributed to interview-
102 On Surveying Victims

ers rather than to sampling variance and the true distribution of crime
(Bailey et al., 1978)?
There was considerable disparity in reports of victimization among
interviewers, between interviewers assigned to the same supervisor,
and across cities. Interviewer effects were most extreme in Newark,
where it is necessary to multiply estimates of sampling variance by 2.4
to take this additional source of error into account. Interviewer
effects were most extreme for assaults and petty theft. Hearteningly,
they were not linked to the attributes of the respondents themselves
(Bailey et al., 1978). As a result, such effects will have fewer
consequences for tabulations of relationships in the data. Also, the
impact of interviewer variance on a set of data goes down as the
number of interviewers in a study increases and the average number
of respondents each one deals with decreases. Thus interviewer
effects are much less significant in National Crime Survey (Bailar et
al., 1977). Conversely, centralized telephone surveys typically em-
ploy fewer interviewers, and the impact of differences among them
will thus be more substantial.


Because they refer in principle to objectively observable events,

methodological criticisms of victimization surveys impose a strict
standard upon the data, that of criterion validity. Validity is a
question of the relationship between two distinct measures of the
same variable; if different nonsurvey measurement procedures iden-
tify (in this case) the same events or victims we are more confident
that the data are not artifactual, generated by the measurement
process itself. However, few of the measures commonly employed in
survey research have any known validity. Survey data which are good
by standard of the profession usually display, at most, internal
consistency, and are related in expected ways to benchmark attri-
butes or attitudes of the respondents. The validity of self-reports even
of simple behaviors is often quite low: claims about having voted
often are inflated by 10 or 20% (Traugott and Katosh, 1979; Clausen,
1968; Weiss, 1968). In one study 47% of the sample misrecalled
whether or not they gave money to a Community Chest drive
(Cahalan, 1968). Any socially approved behavior will be claimed by
more persons than actually practice it. Biderman and Reiss (1967)
summarized a study which reported that 30% of a sample of persons
Methodological Issues 103

known to have visited a doctor within 2 weeks prior to the interview

failed to report the event, and that 7% of a sample of recently
hospitalized persons exhibited similar lapses in memory. Forward
and backward telescoping affect the report of vacation and sick leave
and self-reports of household expenditures.
The most useful position on all of this is that data always contain
errors. Data are indicators of the relative distribution of some
conceptual variable across a population. The numbers themselves
only partially reflect that distribution (their true score component).
They also are partially artifacts of the measurement method (their
method component), and they are clouded by random noise from a
variety of sources. In dealing with data the questions always are: Is
the error component of the data truly random with respect to the
relationships I am investigating? Am I being led astray by misinter-
pretations encouraged by method effects? The more we know about a
set of data, the more confident we can be when we answer these
One of the largest problem areas in the measurement of victimiza-
tion is assault. While the complexity of victimization survey data
demands that we interpret all of them with care, the methodological
shortcomings of the enterprise seem most to affect reports of
interpersonal violence. We have seen in record checks that many
assaults are not picked up in personal interviews, even when they
have already been reported to the police. In the Baltimore method
test, only 36% of all assaults were recovered in the interviews, and
less than one-half of those were placed in the correct month by their
victims (Yost and Dodge, 1970). In San Jose, 48% of the victims of
assault recalled the event, but that percentage dropped to 22%
among those who were victimized by acqaintances or members of
their own family (Turner, 1972a). It was apparent in the pretests that
the interview process was not eliciting thorough accounts of interper-
sonal violence and that the problem was acute in the case of
non-stranger assault. We also have seen the unexpected relation
between education and reports of assault victimization, a relationship
which leads us to suspect that more educated respondents are most
likely to remember such offenses, to define them as crimes, or to
cooperate in their reconstruction in interviews. Series victimizations,
which ordinarily are excluded when data from the National Crime
Survey are analysed for official reports, almost all involve assaultive
violence. This leads to the severe undercounting of assaults and
greatly reduces the apparent frequency of multiple violent victimiza-
104 On Surveying Victims

tion. Because series offenses are more likely to be reported by less

educated respondents, they further cloud the relation between
education and victimization violence. Interviewer effects also hit
hardest at events in this category, overwhelmingly in the direction of
undercounting them (Bailar et at., 1977; Graham, 1974). Finally,
panel attrition also probably disproportionately reflects assault victi-
mization. Especially when the incidents involve neighbors or related
parties, violent assault should propel victims to seek refuge in other
domiciles. These assault-linked shortfalls in the data seem to be
reflected in a number of puzzling aspects of victimization research.
They undoubtedly account for the high proportion of assaults attri-
buted to strangers in the national panel and in the city studies. Across
the 26 cities where surveys have been conducted, an average of 70%
of all interpersonal violence was attributed to strangers; in the 1973
national data the figure was 60% (author's computation). There are
several other method artifacts which shape data on aspects of assault
victimization. Method artifacts probably account for the fact that in
the National Crime Survey data victim-offender relationships do not
appear to affect the rate at which victimizations are reported to the
police. This is a surprising - and puzzling - finding. Given the low
proportion of violence within close interpersonal networks which
surfaces in the survey data, that which does is probably of such a
character that it is also readily reported to the police. Second, the
relative dearth of non-stranger offenses in the data undoubtedly
increases the proportion of assaults and rapes which was reported to
have involved victims and offenders of different races. To the extent
to which people are likely to know or live near persons of the same
race, the underestimation of violence among acquaintances will skew
the data in favor of interracial crime. Given the potentially unsettling
social consequences of high levels of interracial crime in America,
artificially high reports of that rate are unwelcome. Error in the
measurement of interpersonal violence which is related to the
differential productivity of respondents may account for the observa-
tion that blacks recall far fewer reports of minor assault than do
whites. The most trivial form of violence in the crime survey is
"attempted assault without a weapon," which includes incidents
which resulted in no injury and in which no weapon was brandished.
That a crime even occurred is inferential, and most of these events
may better be described as threatening encounters. There is no
particular reason to expect blacks to experience fewer of these
episodes than whites; in fact, given what we know about class- and
Methodological Issues 105

culture-linked youthful exuberance it is more plausible to expect the

opposite. Yet in the 1973 data, fully ~7% of all the assaultive violence
recalled by whites fell in this category, while only 31 % of the assaults
reported by blacks were trivial. Almost 60% of all black assault
victimizations were categorized as aggravated assault (involving
serious injury or the use of a weapon) while only 37% of all attacks
on whites were aggravated. This is highly unlikely. Much more
plausible is the hypothesis that blacks reported fewer of their less
threatening encounters, while whites dredged up everything in
memory. Further investigations of the correlates of respondent
productivity are required before we can make any confident state-
ments based upon much of the data on assault.
The hypothesis that the experiences of blacks are substantially
undercounted in the victim data account for one of the most
anomalous patterns appearing in the city data when the data are used
in aggregate form. At the city level, using the 26 surveyed communi-
ties as the units of analysis, we find that one of the best predictors of
rates of violence is "% white." The higher the proportion of the
population which is white, the higher the rate of interpersonal
violence. Because data on race are highly correlated at the city level
with other social indicators, including those measuring the extent of
poverty, educational failure, and the quality of life, we also find that
high rates of interpersonal violence are positively associated with
good housing, low population density, high income, and high levels
of formal education. This is quite unlikely. It seems rather that white
communities were represented by samples of white respondents, and
that they produced more exhaustive reports of events and a more
thorough recounting of essentially trivial events.
There are also problems inherent in the three techniques which
have been used in the past to conduct methodological resource on
victimization. An ideal research design to tackle the problem of
better measuring assault has not yet been fielded.
A simple examination of data gathered in a victimization survey
often is revealing of substantial methodological problems. For exam-
ple, comparison of victimization rate estimates by month or quarter
across the length of the recall period of a survey always reveals that
reports of offenses are more frequent in months closer in time to the
date of the interview. In January 1971 a segment of the sample for the
US Census Bureau's Quarterly Household Survey was asked about
crime experiences for 1970. Of the personal crimes that were recalled
by victims 80% took place (as they were remembered) during the last
106 On Surveying Victims

6 months of the period (Turner, 1972b). The same "bunching" of

events in more recent months has been observed in Germany
(Schwind et al., 1977). This does not reflect the true distribution of
However, a great failing of inferential analysis of existing data is
that we can only guess what might be error and we can only infer
what the causes of error are. We recognize the excessive clustering of
crime because we generally understand the seasonal pattern of
offenses, and we presume that it occurs because victims forget more
easily incidents which happened further in the past (actually, that is
only partially responsible for the observed clustering). Many people
have been puzzled by the positive relationship between education
and assault rates revealed by the National Crime Survey. The data
seem wrong; on the other hand, we collected the data because we
thought that the base of our knowledge of victimization was inadequ-
ate. We often do not know enough about crime to recognize to what
extent an observed distribution is affected by methodological factors.
The second widely used technique for exploring methodological
quirks in victimization data is the parallel sample experiment.
Alternative forms of a questionnaire can be administered, or diffe-
rent procedures can be utilized across groups, to explore the consequ-
ences for the data that are collected. Strictly speaking, this is an
experiment only when assignment of membership in those groups is
random. Perhaps the best example of an experiment supporting the
development of the National Crime Survey was that conducted in
1971 in Dayton and in San Jose. The issue being explored was the
relative advantage of gathering victimization data through interviews
with every member of a sample household as opposed to interviewing
a household informant. In each city half of a household sample was
completely interviewed, while in the remainder only an informant
was questioned. Not unexpectedly, the former procedure produced
more reports of victimization (Kalish, 1974).
The experimental nature of these investigations lends a great deal
of credibility to their findings, due to the power of random assign-
ment. There are weaknesses in this experimental approach, however.
The criterion by which the "better" method or procedure is to be
chosen as a result of these studies is unclear, and in the end the
decision always depends on an argument based upon other informa-
tion. It has usually been assumed that "more is better," that the
procedure which produces the largest number of victimizations is
more accurate. Tuchfarber and Klecka (1976) argued that their
Methodological Issues 107

telephone survey procedure was better than parallel personal inter-

views because they uncovered more reports of victimization. Howev-
er, this is not an unambiguous criterion. In addition to the absence of
the criterion, these studies are limited by the large number of
interviews which are required to test conclusively the effects of
methods or procedures. The relative infrequency of crime means that
either very large samples or very large method effects must be
involved if a cross-sample difference is to be significant. In a proxy
interview study conducted as part of the San Francisco City Victi-
mization Survey, only 570 persons 12 or 13 years of age lived in the
9778 households in the sample (Cowan, 1976). There were differ-
ences in rates of personal victimization reported directly by youthful
respondents rather than by their parents. However, the interviewing
experiment was far from definitive due to the large sampling errors
A third procedure for identifying methodological weaknesses in
report of victimization is the record check. The US Census Bureau
conducted three record checks while developing the procedures
employed in the National Crime Survey (Yost and Dodge, 1970;
Dodge, 1970; Turner, 1972a). In each study, samples of incidents
were drawn from police files, and interviewers were dispatched to
quiz victims named therein. The data gathered in these interviews
were compared to the official records. Two questions were examined:
"Did the victim recall the incident for the interviewer?" and, "Did
the victim accurately identify the month in which it occurred?"
Record checks thus documented the recovery power of the survey
and the validity of the dating of incidents. They were used to test
successive improvements in the survey's instruments and the length
of the recall period that respondents could be expected to report
upon accurately. (These record checks are reviewed in detail in
Sparks et al., 1977, and Hindelang, 1976). The record-check
approach to the validation of reports of victimization is potentially a
powerful tool for methodological research. However, the credibility
of the findings depends in large measure on three assumptions: that
the record employed in the comparison contains the correct view of
the event, that the findings of record-check studies can be extended
to cases in which no record was generated, and that problems in
fielding such studies do not influence their findings. The first difficulty
with record-check validation is the assumption that a police file is a
useful criterion for judging the veracity of victims' reports of their
experiences. It has been assumed that the detail employed in the US
108 On Surveying Victims

Census Bureau's validation studies - the month in which the incident

occurred - was correctly reflected in police records. While this seems
to be reasonable, the assumption that the police and victim necessari-
ly would classify an incident into the same analytic category, or would
interpret the event in similar fashion when making their respective
reports, probably is not. There can be pressure on both the police and
the victim to recast events. The record check in San Jose suggests that
attempted rapes and assaults were particularly prone to differential
classification (Turner, 1972a). Further, Schneider's (1977) record
comparison found a great deal of disagreement between the record of
the Portland police and victim descriptions of key elements of event.
For example, on the question of whether or not the victim and
offender were known to one another prior to the incident, the two
reports agreed only 56% of the time. From the victim's point of view
it also seemed that the Portland police were prone to classify assaults
in less serious, Part 2 categories. In neither case is it clear that the
police were correct in recording the crime. It should be noted that
data from police records and police decisions regarding an incident
may reflect information gathered from a variety of sources other than
the victim, including their own observations and reports of witnesses.
This is another reason why details about events drawn from the two
sources may not always be in agreement.
A second difficulty with the record-check approach to validation of
incident reports is that it is limited to incidents which somehow came
to the attention of a recordkeeper. The victimization surveys them-
selves suggest that only 50% of all serious crimes are reported to the
police. Reported crimes are systematically different from unreported
incidents, principally in terms of their seriousness (Skogan, 1976a).
In general, record checks have been conducted only on crimes which
are more serious and which are reported, investigated and recorded
by the police. Those crimes certainly should be most vividly remem-
bered by victims. Biderman (1971) has noted that we should expect:

... poor recall of victimization for the type of unreported incident

where the victim sees nothing whatever he can do about it (except
cry over spilt milk). No pattern of actions follow upon the event
that reinforce its psychological impact and provide additional
concrete anchors in experience for recalling it.

Woltman and Cadek (1977) report that the "memory decay" curve
apparent in data from the National Crime Survey is not as steep for
Methodological Issues 109

reported as for unreported incidents, or for those which are more as

opposed to less serious. All of this suggests that record checks
conducted to date probably overestimate the aggregate accuracy of
the report of victimization gathered in the surveys. There also do not
seem to have been any record-check validations of victimization
reports which have utilized reports other than those on file with the
police. Thus we have no reading of the accuracy with which unre-
ported crime is recalled in the National Crime Survey, despite the
fact that the gathering of such data is one of the major goals of the
project. Reiss (1977b) has suggested interviewing people who talked
with the victims about their experiences and comparing those recol-
lections with descriptions by victims who did not call the police, in an
attempt to validate the recall of unreported crimes. Samples could
also be drawn of households to which the police were dispatched, but
where they did not write up an incident report. Record-check studies
have the advantage of some alternate knowledge of the "true score"
under investigation, which lends them great analytic power. There
has not been enough critical or innovative research with regard to
that criterion, however.
The final problem with record checks is the apparently universal
tendency for victims to be hard to reach for interviewing. In every
study of this type a substantial proportion of victims sampled from
police files cannot be found or refuse to be interviewed. As a result,
we are uncertain of the generalizability of the findings of these studies
to the larger and apparently more transient victim population. None
of the record checks conducted by the US Census Bureau has
matched its usual standard for interview completions. In the city of
San Jose a victimization survey of the general population enjoyed a
97 percent completion rate. As part of that project, a sample of
victims was selected from police files, and their addresses were
imbedded in the general sample. In that special victim group
interviews were completed for only 63.5%. The bulk of the non-
interviews (76%) was with people who simply could not be located;
an additional 11 % of victims moved from the city, and 13% refused
to be interviewed or were never available (Turner, 1972a). This
completion rate was the lowest of all the record checks conducted by
the US Census Bureau, although the figures were only slightly higher
(about 68 %) in studies conducted earlier in Baltimore and Washing-
ton, DC. In London, Sparks et al. (1977) had even worse luck; they
could find only 43% of their known victim sample, and 8% refused to
cooperate. These low completion rates are not surprising. It is
prosecutor's lore that the first response of many victims of crime is to
110 On Surveying Victims

arrange an unlisted telephone number or to move to a new address.

In the National Crime Survey people who recently have moved
report higher rates of victimization than those who have not, and a
substantial proportion of those reporting multiple or series victimiza-
tions moved to another address prior to the next wave of interviews
(Reiss, 1978; Lehnen and Reiss, 1978). In addition, many victims
(and witnesses) give false addresses to the police in order to avoid
further involvement in a case or retaliation by their antagonist. It is
unclear how generalizable findings based on those who remain
accessible are to all crime victims.


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5 Victims of Violent Crime,
Findings from the British
Crime Survey


The British Crime Survey (BCS) was conducted in 1982. It is the first
major survey of its kind in Britain, covering a sample of 11 000 people
aged 16 or over in England and Wales (5000 in Scotland). In essence
it is a survey of victimization similar to those conducted, for example,
in the United States (e.g. United States Department of Justice,
1982), Canada and the Netherlands (e.g. Van Dijk and Steinmetz,
1980). Whilst its sample size is much smaller than the US National
Crime Survey (NCS) it has collected a more extensive range of
additional information about people's experience of and attitudes
towards crime and the criminal justice system and about their
everyday activity. A report of the main finding was published in 1983
(Hough and Mayhew, 1983). A technical report on the survey design
is also available (Wood, 1983).
This paper presents findings for England and Wales on violent
victimization. The paper defines victims of violent crime to be those
who report at interview incidents subsequently classified as: robbery;
wounding, common assault; threat of assault; and sexual attacks.
(Sexual attacks include indecent assault. Common assault comprises
attacks resulting in minimal or no injury (i.e. a black eye), and

* I would like to thank Alex Himelfarb (Canadian Solicitor General's

Department) and Jan van Dijk and Carl Steinmetz (Dutch Ministry of
Justice) for providing Canadian and Dutch figures in the final section of this


E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
118 On Surveying Victims

includes attempted assaults. Robbery includes attempts.) Victims of

violent crime are treated as a single category in many of the tables in
this paper. This obscures differences which certainly must exist
between different types of violent offenses. However, it is defensible
to group offenses together under this heading, as discussion about
crime frequently employs the undifferentiated concept of "violent
crime"; whatever the case, the BCS uncovered so few robberies and
sexual offenses that detailed and separate analysis of these categories
is not possible.
The first section of the paper briefly examines some of the
methodological issues specific to surveying violent victimization. The
middle section presents findings on victimization rates, and on the
correlates of victimization, the factors which predispose particular
groups to become victims of violent crime. The final section looks
briefly at the (rather gloomy) prospect for international comparisons.


The general problems associated with surveying crime are now well
documented (Penick and Owens, 1976; Skogan, 1978; Sparks, 1981).
Only a brief summary is needed here. Crime surveys on the scale of
the BCS (but not the United States' NCS) are subject to considerable
sampling error, which limits the confidence with which inferences can
be drawn from the data. Various forms of non-sampling error are also
extensive. There are those common to all surveys - systematic data
errors introduced by interviewers; mistakes in classification and other
errors in coding and processing of data; incomplete sampling frames
and biases arising from non-response.
There are also forms of non-sampling error specific to surveys
designed to identify events in which respondents have been involved
(as opposed to their attitudes or beliefs). Respondents have limited
ability to recall relevant events and report them accurately to
interviewers. A substantial body of research into the methodology of
crime surveys has now been built up. For example, so-called "re-
verse-record checks" select known victims from police records and
see if they report at interview incidents which they reported to the
police. These studies show that victims often fail to report relevant
incidents at interview. They may forget incidents, especially those
with few serious consequences or needing little action, or those
happening several months before the interview. Again respondents
Findings from British Crime Survey 119

may not be prepared to tell an interviewer about relevant incidents

through embarrassment, shame or even boredom with the interview.
Respondents may also recall incidents incompletely or inaccurately,
saying, for example, that events happening before the recall period
occurred within it and vice versa - the problem of "telescoping".
Errors may also arise because respondents are simply unaware or
partly aware of relevant events in surveys such as the BCS, where
there is an element of 'proxy' reporting for household crimes;
respondents find it difficlllt or impossible, therefore, to provide
information about household offenses in which they were not the
primary victim.
Those who conduct crime surveys obviously feel- have got to feel,
cynics might say - that the ratio of "signal" to "noise" is quite
acceptable for their purposes. This may be so, but one must enter
serious qualifications in the case of violent crime. The drawbacks of
the survey technique are amplified for victims of violent crime to such
an extent that findings of violent victimization should almost be
treated as qualitatively different to those about, e.g., burglary or car
As seen above, some people fail to report relevant events at
interview, whether these are crimes of violence or crimes against
property. In the case of violent offenses, those who are "unproduc-
tive" are not randomly distributed amongst the population, but are
concentrated amongst specific groups. Thus the BCS found a clear
relationship between the length of respondents' education and the
number of violent offenses which they reported at interview: as Table
5.1 shows, those with most education were most likely to report
incidents of violent victimization. Findings are presented for three
separate age groups, and for males and females separately. This is
because young men (who prima facie are most likely to be victims of
violent crime) tend to have longer educations than others. Similar
findings have not emerged in the BCS for burglary, car theft and
other household crimes. Table 5.2 shows how rates of violent
victimization were related to employment status amongst males. The
absence of any difference between those in manual and those in
non-manual occupations contradicts popular beliefs about class and
violence, and victimization rates for students are markedly high.
"Education" effects of this sort were first noted by Biderman et al.
(1967), were reported by Sparks et al. (1977) in their London survey
and also emerged in the United States' NCS (reported in Sparks,
1981). Assuming that this is a response bias - excluding in other
120 On Surveying Victims

TABLE 5.1 Percentages of respondents classified as victims

of violent offenses, by age and number of years in education
(British crime survey)

Age Age Age

16-30 31-60 61+

left school
before 16 9 3 1
left school
aged 16-18 12 5 2
left school
later/still 14 5 4
in education

weighted data.
unweighted n = 10 782

TABLE 5.2 Percentages of male respondents who were

victims of violent offences, by age and employment status
(British crime survey)

Age Age Age

16-30 31-60 61+

occupations 14 6 4
occupations 15 4 4
unemployed 18 6 (0)
others 24 7 2

weighted data
unweighted n = 4952
bracketed figure: cell size less than 50
Findings from British Crime Survey 121

words, the hypothesis that the educated live more violent lives than
others - the bias can be attributed to either or both of two things. It
could be, as Sparks argues, that "being a survey respondent is, in
many ways, a middle-class game; it requires a certain amount of
verbal fluency and a capacity for abstract conceptualisation, both of
which are to some extent concomitants (if not consequences) of
formal education" (Sparks, 1981:32). Alternatively - a point to which
we return below - those with more education may apply lower
thresholds of seriousness when it comes to defining, in their own
minds, attacks, assaults, threatening behavior, etc.
It also seems highly probable that in surveys such as the BCS,
women are especially prone to under-reporting of violent victimiza-
tion, because those who are most likely to attack them include
husbands, lovers, ex-husbands or ex-lovers. The victims of domestic
violence may on the one hand assume that their incidents are
non-criminal and thus not relevant to the survey - which will
probably have been introduced as a survey about crime. On the
other, they may be embarrassed or otherwise reluctant to report such
incidents to the interviewer. Whatever the case, a sensitive reading of
the BCS data would suggest that incidents of domestic violence are
conisderably undercounted by the survey.
These problems might be regarded by some simply as sources of
measurement error - with the hope that methods can be refined in
future. At their root, however is an insurmountable problem. There
is not - and could probably never be - any degree of agreement
between broad social groups in defining assault, attacks, fights, etc.
Critics of crime surveys sometimes argue that definitional problems
vitiate the entire project of "counting crime". Definitions of particu-
lar crimes, the argument goes, are not absolute but vary across
groups. Any estimate, therefore is a measure both of the incidence of
the type of crime and of people's preparedness to report relevant
events at interview. This argument does not carry a great deal of
weight so far as burglary goes, for instance, or car theft; one can
assume extensive, though not total, agreement throughout the
population about the sorts of incident which would qualify for a
positive response to burglary "screen" questions in a survey. (A
typical such question might be "In the last x months, has anyone got
into your home without your permission and stolen anything?) But
this is simply not so for most types of violent victimization. When
does pushing, jostling and shoving become assault? And when does
common assault turn into a more serious attack? Different people,
122 On Surveying Victims

and different groups of people, will apply different sets of criteria in

answering "screen questions" such as "has anyone hit you or attacked
you in any way?".
A further but related problem is to be found in what Skogan (1981)
has called the "events" orientation of crime surveys (a problem
shared by statistics recorded by the police). Most crime surveys are
used to produce "incidence rates" - the number of crimes per 1000
adults or households. This assumes that infringements of the law are
discrete incidents - a tenable assumption most of the time for most
offenses against property, but a questionable one for violent offenses.
It may be impossible for a victim to say how many times he or she has
been assaulted in a given period both because of recall difficulties,
and because of difficulties in knowing which incidents are serious
enough to merit the interviewer's attention. Indeed some violent
offenses - threats, for example, and domestic assaults - are better
conceptualized as processes rather than events. How is one to count
"events" when they are not really events? The NCS, the Canadian
Surveys and the BCS have all side-stepped the problem, using the
device of "series incidents." If respondents report several very similar
incidents, the interviewer may treat these as a single "series inci-
dent," collecting detailed information only on the most recent.
Different surveys have treated series incidents in different ways when
calculating incidence rates. The NCS has until recently excluded
them altogether. The Canadians gave series incidents a value of 1.
The BCS gave series incidents a weight equal to the number in the
series, with an arbitrary top limit of 5. All of these are rough-and-
ready, and rather unsatisfactory, solutions. Perhaps the nettle should
be grasped more firmly, and the limited value of incidence rates for
violence more openly acknowledged. Prevalence rates (of the num-
ber of victims per 1000 population) are free at least from this
problem, even if they are equally subject to the problems associated
with response bias.
Whilst therefore a well-conducted crime survey may provide a
better measure of the number of, e.g. burglaries in an area than do
police records, it is hard to sustain the argument that either police
records or survey statistics provide an adquate measure of violent
offenses. A parallel with medical epidemiology can be usefully
drawn. Some illnesses can be counted - with error, no doubt, but
they can be counted so as to provide useful information. Thus, in
England and Wales health statistics are collated about various forms
of cancer, heart disease and the like. Some illnesses, however, cannot
Findings from British Crime Survey 123

and could never be counted with anything approaching accuracy; the

best examples come from mental health - depression, for example,
schizophrenia or psychosis. It does not make sense to try to count the
number of "onsets" of these because there is no real agreement over
their definitions.
In sum, findings from crime surveys on violent victimization are
probably of least value as 'epidemiological' yardsticks of the volume
of violence. They may be able to yield some information about
variations over place and time in levels of violence, but such findings
must be interpreted very carefully, in the knowledge that any
differences may reflect definitional variations as much as variations in
prevalence or incidence. The real value of the findings must lie in the
way in which they can inform explanatory models of violence - the
ways in which they show who is at risk and why. The proviso is, of
course, that any independent variables which can be related to
victimization must be independent of education, class or whatever
variables co-vary with shifts in definitions of violence or ability to
recall violent incidents.



As discussed above there are two sorts of rate to indicate the extent
of crime throughout a population: rates of incidence (the number of
offenses occuring over a given time period per 100 or 1000 popula-
tion); and rates of prevalence (the number of victims per 100 or 1000
popUlation). Table 5.3 shows both incidence and prevalence rates for
violent offenses in England and Wales in 1981.
The BCS collected a fairly extensive range of information about
people's "lifestyle" in order to assess how patterns of everyday
behavior affect the risks of crime (d. Hindelang et ai, 1978). Some
preliminary findings are presented below (rather crudely in the form
of multiway tables; more elaborate multivariate analysis is planned).
The figures in the tables are (unless otherwise stated) the percentages
within each cell of respondents classified as victims of violent crime.
The figures are not strictly comparable to the prevalence rates in
Tables 5.3. Interviews were conducted in the first quarter of 1982,
and respondents were asked about their experience as crime victims
since the beginning of 1981: those who had been victimized only in
124 On Surveying Victims

TABLE 5.3 Prevalence and incidence rates for violent offenses, 1981
(British crime survey)

Prevalence per Incidence per

1000 people 1000 people
aged 16+ aged 16+

Wounding 6.9 ± 2.2 9.8 ± 3.4

Common Assault 23.0 ± 4.2 39.6 ± 9.4
Threat of Assault 15.6 ± (n.a.) 25.9 ± (n.a.)
Sexual Attacks 0.8 ± 0.6 0.8 ± 0.6
Robbery 2.3 ± 1.4 4.2 ± 2.8

All violent offences 45.0 80.2

n = 10 905 weighted data

1982 have been defined as non-victims in computing rates for 1981,

but are included as victims in the tables below.
It can be seen from Table 5.4 that victimization for violent offenses
was very strongly associated with both age and sex. Those aged 30 or
under were very much more at risk than older people, and men were
more at risk than women. This finding is consistent with those of
other crime surveys and should come as no surprise to criminologists.
It is interesting to note therefore, that when the first report of the
BCS was published, this finding attracted considerable attention;
headlines such as "Elderly not main victims" were much in evidence
in the national press. Ironically, the findings were news-worthy only

TABLE 5.4 Percentages of respondents

victims of violent crime, by age and sex (British
crime survey)

Males Females

Aged 16--30 16 7
Aged 31-60 5 3
Aged 61+ 2 1

weighted data
unweighted n = 10 905
Findings from British Crime Survey 125

because of the thorough-going way in which the British press have

previously mis-identified the elderly as primary targets of violent
The association in Table 5.4 between age and victimization holds
within offense types - with, for example, twice as many robbery
victims under the age of 45 as over. The association between sex and
victimization held within offense types - except for sexual offenses, of
course, which by definition in the BCS could only happen to women.
These findings immediately raise the question whether the lower
risks run by women and the elderly simply reflect their lack of
exposure to, or avoidance of, risky situations. Operationalizing
adequate measures of exposure to risk is difficult. One somewhat
"rough and ready" measure employed by the BCS was, simply, the
number of evenings which respondents had gone out in the week
prior to interview. Using this, the BCS suggests that even when
exposure to risk is taken into account, victimization rates for women
and the elderly are low. Table 5.5 shows that risks of victimization are
increased for those who spent several evenings a week away from
home, but that the elderly are less at risk than others even if they lead
an active life. These findings echo those of the Dutch Crime surveys,
and of the 1978 Vancouver survey (Van Dijk and Steinmetz, 1981).
Tables 5.6 and 5.7 sharpen up the profile of the victim of violence.
Drinking of alcohol is clearly associated with violent victimization;
and those who themselves admit to violent behavior are especially at

TABLE 5.5 Percentages of respondents classified as victims of violent

offenses, by age, sex and number of evenings spent out in previous week
(British crime survey)

Males Females
Age Age Age Age Age Age
16-30 31-60 61+ 16-30 31-60 61+

Evenings out
none or one 11 5 2 6 3 1
two or three 15 5 2 6 3 1
four or more 22 8 4 12 2 (2)

weighted data
unweighted n = 6329
bracketed figure: cell size less than 50
126 On Surveying Victims

TABLE 5.6 Percentages of respondents victim of violent offences, by age,

sex and self-reported offending (British crime suvey)

Males Females
Age Age Age Age Age Age
16-30 31-60 61+ 16-30 31-60 61+

Self-reported offending
offended 12 4 2 6 2 1
in past 17 11 2 14 5 (9)
offended in
last year 40 20 (18) 29 (12) (6)

weighted data
unweighted n = 6170
"offending" is defined as admissions to any of the following: carrying a
weapon; starting a fight; intentionally injuring someone. Bracketed figures:
cell sizes less than 50

TABLE 5.7 Percentages of respondents classified as Vlctlms of violent

offences, by age, sex and drinking habits (British Crime Survey)

Males Females
Age Age Age Age Age Age
16-30 31-60 61+ 16-30 31-60 61+

Drinking habits
light drinker 11 4 2 5 3 2
drinker 16 5 2 7 3
drinker 18 5 2 12 4

weighted data
unweighted n = 6299

risk. (This latter finding may in part reflect the fact that some people
who start fights lose them, ending up as "victims".) The data on
offending in Table 5.6 are derived from the BCS self-reported
offending component. Respondents were asked to say whether they
had ever, or during the last year, committed a range of motoring and
Findings from British Crime Survey 127

other offenses. Methodology and findings will be reported fully in

due course. The BCS also found that those who were single, widowed
or divorced were most at risk of assault - even when account is taken
of age, sex and patterns of evening activity.
One might have expected that risks would be concentrated in
urban areas, and especially in inner cities. This appeared to be the
case for serious wounding and robbery, but there was no obvious
geographical pattern for assaults and threats (see Table 5.8). Thus
having controlled for age, sex, and patterns of evening activity the
risks of being assaulted were equally high in the country as they were

TABLE 5.8 Percentages of respondents victim of violent offenses, by age,

sex and area of residence (British crime survey)

Males Females
Age Age Age Age Age Age
16-30 31-60 61+ 16-30 31-60 61+

cities 16 12 5 9 4 1
other large
city areas 18 4 3 9 3 1
areas 15 5 2 7 2 1

weighted data
unweighted n = 10 905

in the inner city. This is in sharp contrast to offenses against property

where the risk of victimization increased with urbanization. (See
Table 5.9 for variations in burglary rates across area.) Findings such
as these underscore the ways in which violent crimes, taken as a
species, differ from property crimes. The latter almost invariably
involve stealth and are easiest to commit in settings where strangers
go unnoticed. Not surprisingly, therefore, the inner city is the most
natural habitat of property crime. Offenses of violence on the other
hand erupt in the course of conflict between individuals or groups,
and conflict seems no more likely to arise in the anonymous settings
of conurbations than it is in smaller towns.
128 On Surveying Victims

TABLE 5.9 Percentages of households burg-

led (including attempts) by area (British crime

% household burgled

cities 10
other large
cities 6
areas 3

weighted data
unweighted n = 10 905

Whilst the young, single, aggressive heavy-drinking male may be

the paradigm of the victim of violence, there are, of course, others.
Thus the BCS found that after pubs, clubs and other places of
entertainment, the work place was the most frequent setting for
victimization (more assaults occurred at work than in the home, in
fact). Those in "high-risk" occupations such as policemen, bus-
conductors and bar-tenders were over-represented amongst victims.
And some 10% of victims of assault were women attacked by present
or previous husbands or lovers. The dynamics of both work-related
assaults and spouse-abuse will naturally differ from the paradigm.


Cross-cultural comparisons are illuminating, and as the number

grows of nationally representative crime surveys, the promise of
reliable international comparisons seems that much stronger. It is a
great pity that these comparisons are not straightforward.
International comparisons are dogged by several things. The age
range of samples is variable; recall periods are variable; and the
categories used to classify incidents vary. This problem is in fact a
compound one; not only do different surveys include or exclude, for
example, attempted assaults or robberies, but there are differences in
nuance in the meaning of terms such as assault. It is not clear whether
the pitfalls are greater or smaller when the surveys compared have a
Findings from British Crime Survey 129

common language - though the BCS research team is still grappling

with their translator's version of one Dutch offense category: "assault
with dishonourable intent." Finally, different surveys treat series
offenses in different ways, as discussed above; where incidence rates
are being compared the same counting rules must be used for offenses
such as assault, where multiple victimization is common. These
problems are surmountable provided that one expects from compari-
sons no more than a "feel" for broad differences. Comparisons are
easiest for surveys where there is scope for reclassifying incidents on
the basis of information collected in "incident report forms" or
"victim forms." Very few such comparisons have been done to date,
though Block (in press) presents such a comparison between the NCS
and the Dutch survey for 1976 and 1977 respectively.
Some tenative comparisons have been made between the BCS and
other surveys using incidence rates (Hough and Mayhew, 1981). Thus
it would seem that burglary rates were half as high in this country in
1981 as they were in the United States and comparable to the
Australian 1974 rate; burglary rates in seven Canadian cities were
rather higher than in comparable English areas in 1981. Car theft in
England and Wales, on the other hand seemed higher than in both
the United States and Canada.
What of violent offenses? Some comparison can be made for
robbery. The BCS, NCS and Canadian definitions of robbery are
similar, and all include attempts. The Dutch category of aggravated
assault with theft on the streets is broadly comparable to the BCS
category of robbery excluding attempts. Table 5.10 summarizes the
findings. It should be stressed that sampling error is considerable for
all figures except those for the United States. Nevertheless, they
seem to confirm that robbery rates are higher in North America than
in Europe (though not by a startling amount).
Table 5.11 presents a comparison between the BCS, the NCS and
the Canadian Cities Survey for assault. The BCS categories include
threatened and attempted assault, the common assaults (i.e. assaults
with no or minimal injury).
The comparisons are for incidence rates, because at the time of
writing, no prevalence figures were available for the United States
and Canada. However, the case for using prevalence rates is compel-
ling for offenses such as assault, and this author would advocate their
use in future comparisons.
To approximate to US counting rules, BCS Series Offences with 3
or more in the series have been counted as 0; to approximate to the
130 On Surveying Victims

TABLE 5.10 International comparison of robbery rates (per 1000 people

aged 16+)

England United Canada

and Wales States 1981 Holland
1981 1980 (7 cities) 1980

National rate
(+ attempts) 4.2 6.5
National rate
attempts 1.9 2.7
Cities rate
(+ attempts) 7.5 10.0

Canadian counting rules, BCS series offenses with 5 or more in the

series have been counted as 1. These adjustments may be question-
able, as interviewers in the BCS seem to have applied the series
procedure more frequently than those in the NCS and Canadian
Table 5.11 certainly does not support stereotypes (popular in
Britain) of the Violent Americas and Peaceful England. Nor does it
offer much credibility to the (attractive) idea that the propensity of
hard-drinking young men to get into fights is a cultural constant.

TABLE 5.11 International comparison of assault rates, per 1000 people

aged 16+

England United States Canada 1981

Wales 1981 1980 (age 16+) (7 cities)

(British counting rules) 75.3
(US counting rules) 45.1 * 22.5
Assault (cities rates
Canadian counting rules) 69.1 57.4

*Or 36.0 if common assaults without injury are excluded - see below.
Findings from British Crime Survey 131

However, the soundest interpretation of the table is probably that the

figures are for one reason or another not strictly comparable. For
example, the low NCS figures may partly result from a screen
question which is unlikely to elicit reports of assault without injury; if
such incidents are excluded, then the BCS figures for comparison
with the NCS should be 36.0 instead of 45.1. Even then, true
comparability requires that the term "no injury" should mean the
same thing in both countries and there can be no guarantee that this is
These findings do little more than illustrate the difficulties of
making international comparisons for violent offenses. However, it is
certainly worth persisting with attempts to get comparable data from
national crime surveys. The prospect for reliable comparison of
incidence or prevalence rates may look a little bleak. More promis-
ing, perhaps, are comparisons of relationships between victimization
rates and explanatory variables.


This papers presents some findings about victims of violent crime

from the first British Crime Survey, conducted in 1982. It first
examines some of the methodological difficulties in surveying violent
crime. In common with other surveys, the BCS seemed to show a
response bias whereby those with most education report most
incidents of violent crime. Other methodological problems are also
Second, the paper presents findings about the risks of violent
victimization, showing that those most likely to be victims are young
males who spend several evenings out each week and drink heavily.
Unlike most property crimes, the risks of assault seemed no higher in
the inner city than in rural areas.
Finally, the paper presents some tentative international compari-
sons for violent crime. The difficulties in achieving reliable compari-
sons for any offenses are severe, and are especially great for violent
crime, and little confidence can as yet be placed in these findings. It
would be premature, however, to abandon attempts to devise
adequate comparisons for violent crime, and there would seem to be
particular scope for making cross-cultural comparisons of the corre-
lates of victimization.
132 On Surveying Victims


Biderman, A. D., Johnson, L., McIntyre, J., and Weir, A. (1967), Report on
a Pilot Study in the District of Columbia on Victimization and Attitudes to
Law Enforcement, US President's Commission on Victimization and
Adminstration of Justice, Field Surveys I (Washington, DC: US Govern-
ment Printing Office).
Block, R. (in the press), "The Impact of Victimization, Rates and Patterns: a
comparison of the Netherlands and the US" in Richard Block (ed.),
Victimization and Fear of Crime Around the World (Washington, DC:
Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice).
Corrado, R. R., Roesch, R., Glackman, W., Evans, J. L., and Leger, G. J.
(1980), "Life Styles and Personal Victimization: a Test of the Model with
Canadian Survey Data," Journal of Crime and Justice, vol. 3, pp. 129-39.
Dijk, J.J. van, and Steinmetz, K. (1980), The Burden of Crime on Dutch
Society 1973-1979, Research and Documentation Centre Report, no.
XXXVIII (The Hague: Research and Documentation Centre, Ministry of
Dijk, J. J. van, and Steinmetz, K. (1981), "Going out - Is It Wise?: a
Theoretical Explanation of the Origins of Petty Crime in Terms of
Opportunity Structure," paper delivered at conference on juvenile crime,
Amsterdam (The Hague: Research and Documentation Centre, Ministry
of Justice).
Hindelang, M., Gottfredson, M. R., and Garofalo, J. (1978), The Victims of
Personal Crime (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger).
Hough, M., and Mayhew, P. (1983), The British Crime Survey: First Report,
Home Office Research Study, no. 76. (London: HMSO).
Penick, B. K. E., and Owens, M.E.B. (1976), Surveying Crime, Final Report
of the Panel for the Evaluation of Crime Surveys, Committee on National
Statistics, National Research Council (Washington, DC: National
Academy of Sciences).
Skogan, W. G. (1978), Victimization Surveys and Criminal Justice Planning,
Visiting Fellowship Program Report, US Department of Justice, National
Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (Washington, DC: US
Department Printing Office).
Skogan, W. G. (1981), Issues in the Measurement of Victimization (Washing-
ton, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice).
Sparks, R. F. (1981), "Surveys of victimization - an optimistic assessment,"
in Tonry, M. and Morris, N. (eds), Crime and Justice: an annual Review of
Research, vol. 3 (London: University of Chicago Press).
Part III
On the Risks of, and
Response to, Criminal
6 Lifestyles and
Victimization: an Update


In 1978, a book entitled Victims of Personal Crime: an Empirical

Foundation for a Theory of Personal Victimization was published.
The book was written by the late Michael Hindelang, Michael
Gottfredson (now at the University of Arizona), and myself. It
utilized victimization survey data from a number of cities in the
United States to explore a variety of issues: for example, the nature
of injury and property loss in personal victimizations; the characteris-
tics of non-victims, victims, and people victimized repeatedly;
perceptions of the crime problem and the fear of crime. However,
most of the comments we received from people who read the book
pertained to Chapter 11, in which we had made a preliminary attempt
to develop a theoretical model that would account for variations in
the likelihood of becoming the victim of a personal crime. The
theoretical model was based on the concept of lifestyle.
This presentation begins with recapitulations of the lifestyle model
and a similar model - the routine activity approach (Cohen and
Felson, 1979) - which was developed at about the same time. Then
some pertinent criticisms of the lifestyle model are raised and
answered. That is followed by a discussion of some relevant research
that has been reported since the model was developed. Finally, a
revised lifestyle model is suggested, and policy implications of the
model are discussed.


E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
136 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization



Figure 6.1 presents the lifestyle model as it first appeared in Victims

of Personal Crime (Hindelang, Gottfredson and Garofalo,
1978:243).1 Basically, lifestyle - which we defined as routine daily
activities, both vocational (work, school, keeping house, etc.) and
leisure activities - is depicted as determining the likelihood of
personal victimization through the intervening variables of associa-
tions and exposure. Moving from right to left, back through the
model, lifestyle patterns are determined by individual and group
adaptations to structural constraints and role expectations. The broken
line enclosing demographic characteristics - age, sex, race, etc. - is
meant to indicate that the enclosed variables are not part of the
causal sequence of the model; rather, we used them as indicators of
the structural constraints and role expectations that shape lifestyle.
The model is grounded in empirical findings from analyses of
victimization data and other sources of information about crime.
Victimization is not distributed randomly across space and time -
there are high-risk locations and high-risk time periods. Similarly,
some characteristics are disproportionately represented among cri-
minal offenders relative to the general population - there are
high-risk persons. Lifestyle patterns influence the amount of expo-
sure that people have to places and times with varying risks of
victimization and the prevalence of associations that people have with
others who are more or less likely to commit crimes.
At about the same time that the lifestyle model was being
developed, Cohen and Felson (1979) were formulating a similar
model, which they referred to as a "routine activity approach." They
defined routine activities as:

... any recurrent and prevalent activities which provide for basic
population and individual needs, whatever their biological or
cultural origins. Thus routine activities would include formalized
work, as well as the provision of standard food, shelter, sexual
outlet, leisure, social interaction, learning and childrearing.
(Cohen and Felson, 1979:593)

Cohen and Felson focused on "direct-contact predatory viola-

tions": those "involving direct physical contact between at least one
offender and at least one person or object which that offender
r-------, ~
I I -.:::
Vocational PERSONAL ~.
Race Individual EXPOSURE
I Income I Subculture
Leisure !:l
I Marital status I STRUCTURAL

I r-.
Education I
Occupation I Economic
IL ______
Familial ;:::
Legal ~

FIGURE 6.1 Original lifestyle model of personal victimization

138 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

attempts to take or damage" (p. 589). In order for these offenses to

occur, three minimal elements - motivated offenders, suitable
targets, and absence of capable guardians - must converge in space
and time. They argued that, since World War II in the United States,
routine activities have shifted increasingly away from the home and
toward interactions between people who are not members of the
same household. These changes have resulted in greater exposure of
people to potential offenders outside the home and, concomitantly,
in less time spent at home. In terms of the minimal elements for
direct-contact predatory violations, more time spent away from home
with non-household members makes people more suitable targets for
face-to-face victimization, while greater absence from the home
decreases the presence of guardians of household property, making
households more suitable targets. 2
There are a number of similarities between the lifestyle model and
the routine activity approach. For example, neither tries to explain
the motivation of offenders; criminal inclination is taken as a given,
and attention is shifted to the contexts which allow the inclinations to
be translated into action (see Cohen and Felson, 1979:589). In
addition, both deal with patterned behavior among population
aggregates rather than with variability in individual characteristics
(such as the psychological propensity to "precipitate" violent interac-
tion); thus, the lifestyle model and the routine activity approach are
sociological in their orientations.
The apparent differences between the two are more differences in
how they were explicated by their authors rather than differences in
substance. For example, Cohen and Felson utilized the routine
activity approach to link changes in crime rates to changes in the
patterns of behavior of the aggregate United States population, and
they examined a range of crimes that included direct thefts of
property in which the victim was not present. In contrast, Hindelang,
Gottfredson, and Garofalo related differences in victimization rates
to differences in the lifestyles of population segments at one point in
time, and we focused our attention more narrowly on crimes that
involved direct contact between the victim and offender (personal
crimes). However, it is implicit that both the lifestyle model and the
routine activity approach are applicable cross-sectionally and longitu-
din ally , and as was pointed out in its original presentation (Hinde-
lang, Gottfredson and Garofalo, 1978:272), the lifestyle model is
relevant to other types of crimes, particularly household burglary,
non-commercial larceny and vehicle theft.
Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 139

The discussion that follows, then, can be made to apply to either

the lifestyle model or the routine activity approach. However, the
discussion will be specific to the lifestyle model because of the
author's involvement in that model's development.


There are three major criticisms directed at theories that use lifestyle,
or a related mechanism, to explain victimization. Actually, the first
two are more in the form of dangers to be avoided than criticisms that
have been raised. These two will be addressed in this section. The
third criticism will be mentioned at the end of this section, but will be
dealt with later in the paper.
First, the lifestyle concept can be used in a way that makes the
theory true by definition, and therefore, uninformative and trivial.
This occurs if the theory is reduced to a form that says, in effect:
people who are not themselves exposed - or whose property is not
exposed - to potential offenders have no risk of victimization. But
lifestyle-type theories are really not reducible to this form. A
convenient way of approaching the issue is to draw on the differentia-
tion, recently made by Gottfredson (1981), between absolute and
probabilistic exposure to risk. Absolute exposure is a necessary
condition for victimization to occur: The victim (a person or proper-
ty) must come into contact with the offender for the crime to occur. 3
But victimization is not assured whenever simple contact takes place.
Offenders do not commit crimes in every instance in which they come
into contact with potential victims; other aspects of the situation must
be conducive to offending (e.g. the offender must believe that he/she
can complete the crime successfully). Thus, the more frequently a
person (or piece of property) is exposed to potential offenders in
situations that are highly conducive to the commission of a crime, the
higher the likelihood that the person (or property) will become the
object of victimization - this is probabilistic exposure.
Another approach to the matter is to think of lifestyle as determin-
ing levels of risk that exceed or fall below the average risk in society
(see Smith, 1982). This approach even suggests a way to link the
routine activity concept with the lifestyle model. As presented by
Cohen and Felson, the aggregate structure of routine activities in a
society affects the aggregate rate of victimization in the society. The
structure of routine activities is subject to change over time, and
140 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

these changes can be helpful in explaining changes in rates of

victimization. However, at any given point in time, the structure of
routine activities can be viewed as influencing the average likelihood
of victimization in a society. Since the lifestyle model focuses on
differences among subgroups of a society, it can be seen as attemp-
ting to account for deviations from the average likelihood of victi-
mization in a society.
The second criticism of the lifestyle model is more real because it
pertains to how the model is used. The criticism is that the model
creates a strong temptation for ex post facto explanations. Given the
vagueness of the lifestyle concept, it is easy to account for the
associations and the lack of associations between victimization and
various factors by claiming that some of the factors (those showing an
association) are indicators of lifestyle, while others are not. This,
however, makes the theory virtually non-falsifiable.
The ideal way to handle this criticism is readily apparent: simply
develop a rigorous definition of lifestyle and specify the variables that
are indicators of the concept in advance. In practice, however, the
ideal is difficult to fulfill. In the first place, there is no widespread
agreement on a definition of lifestyle and on the variables that are
indicators of lifestyle (see Sobel, 1981). Equally important is the fact
that researchers seeking to analyse the lifestyle-victimization rela-
tionship generally do not have the luxury of specifying the indicators
they want and developing data collection instruments that will
generate the exact indicators desired. More often, researchers are
faced with the necessity of conducting secondary analyses of data
collected for other purposes, and, therefore, using whatever indica-
tors happen to be present in the data. I have yet to see a victimization
study designed primarily to test lifestyle-type models (although the
items included in the recent British Crime Survey indicate a move-
ment toward using victimization surveys for theory testing). Perhaps
the reason is that victimization studies are relatively expensive, and
there appears to be a belief that research into the lifestyle-victimiza-
tion link will not produce many insights that are directly applicable to
public policy development. This is the third criticism of the lifestyle
model, and I will defer addressing it until the last section of the
paper. Now we turn to a brief review of some relevant research
findings that have accumulated since the lifestyle and routine activity
theories were presented.
Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 141


Continuation of Cohen's Work

Cohen and his colleagues have used the National Crime Survey
victimization data to examine models of the lifestyle/routine activity
type from a variety of perspectives. Their findings for personal
larceny of two types 4 (Cohen and Cantor, 1980), personal robbery
(Cohen, Cantor and Kluegel, 1981), and residential burglary (Cohen
and Cantor, 1981) generally support the predictions from the model.
There were, however, some differences in the relationships found for
the different types of crimes.
In the multivariate analysis of robbery - the type of direct-contact
victimization on which the development of the lifestyle model was
based - Cohen, Cantor, and Kluegel (1981) found that age, race,
income, household size (a dichotomy of living alone vs. not living
alone), and major activity (a trichotomy of employed, unemployed,
and home centered5) were all related to the likelihood of victimiza-
tion in the predicted direction. Specifically, blacks, the young, and
people with low incomes - who are more likely to interact with
potential robbery offenders - had higher risks than whites, older
persons, and those with higher incomes; persons living alone - who,
by definition, spend less time in the company of household members
- had a higher risk than persons not living alone; and the risk of
robbery was highest for the unemployed, about average for the
employed, and less than average for the home centered, assumedly
reflecting different levels of exposure outside the home. When the
joint effects of these factors were considered, the differences in risk
were striking. For example, the risk was 9.85 times higher than the
national average among young (16-29), unemployed, low-income
blacks who lived alone, but it was only 0.13 of the national average
among older (50+), home centered, high-income whites who did not
live alone. Note that sex was not even considered in this analysis
because there were too few female robbery victims in the sample.
When Cohen and Cantor (1981) examined residential burglary, the
associations with risk were again evident for age (of the head of the
household) and race. Because the nature of the target in burglary is
different than the target in personal crimes, Cohen and Cantor used
different indicators of exposure and guardianship. Whether the
142 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

household was located in the central city of an SMSA, outside the

central city of an SMSA, or completely outside of an SMSA was used
as an indicator of propinquity to potential burglary offenders. They
also used an indicator of the amount of time that households were
occupied, dichotomizing the sample into those households in which
there was "at least one household member who did not go to school
or engage in work at least fifteeen hours per week" and those not
having at least one such member (Cohen and Cantor, 1981:118). As
predicted, the risk of burglary was greatest for households located in
central cities and designated as "less occupied."
But the variation of risk across income categories showed a
different pattern for residential burglary than it did for robbery. The
risk of burglary was highest in the bottom income category, but next
highest in the top income category; middle income households had
the lowest risk of burglary. Cohen and Cantor explain this pattern by
noting that income is really an indicator of two factors: the location of
a household vis-a-vis areas with high concentrations of offenders, and
the attractiveness of the household as a target. Low-income house-
holds are more likely to be in close proximity to potential offenders,
while high-income households represent more attractive targets. 6
In their analysis of personal larceny, Cohen and Cantor (1980)
reported results parallel to those from their robbery analysis for
several variables: Risks were higher for the young, persons living
alone, and the unemployed. However, blacks and whites had roughly
similar risks when the other variables were taken into account, and
the main effect of income showed increasing risk with increasing
income. When one considers the nature of the larcenies examined by
Cohen and Cantor (see note 4), the race and income findings are not
too puzzling. Like most of the robberies they studied, all of the
personal larcenies occurred outside the home, and this could lead one
to predict a higher risk for blacks and low income persons because of
their greater exposure to potential offenders. But, unlike robberies,
almost all of the personal larcenies involved no contact between the
victim and offender; they were primarily thefts of visible, unattended
property, such as the theft of a camera from a parked car, a coat from
a restaurant, luggage from an airport, and so forth. Given the nature
of personal larceny, it is not surprising that people who are more
likely to possess the kinds of goods that make attractive targets have
higher risks of being victimized.
Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 143

Studies Using Direct Indicators of Lifestyle

Corrado, et al. (1980) reported the results of a victimization survey

conducted in Vancouver, B.C. in 1979. They analysed violent
personal victimizations (sexual assault, robbery, assault) and unco-
vered associations with age, sex, and marital status similar to those
existing in the US National Crime Survey Data. In addition, they
utilized a direct measure of out-of-home exposure: how many times a
month the respondent went out during the evening for various
activities. Corrado and his colleagues found that people whose
frequency of going out during the evening was higher than the
median frequency of the sample had a rate of violent personal
victimization that was more than triple the rate of people whose
frequency of going out was less than the median.
Because demographic variables (such as age, sex, and marital
status) are indirect indicators of various aspects of lifestyle (such as
frequency of going out), Corrado and his colleagues hypothesized
that the associations between the demographic variables and victi-
mization would disappear, or at least be attenuated, once frequency
of going out was taken into account. This apparently did not occur.
Associations between victimization and sex and age continued to
exist among persons with high (above the median) scores on the
"nights out" variable as well as among persons with low (below the
median) scores. 7 However, it must be remembered that frequency of
going out in the evening is only one aspect of lifestyle on which
people in various age, sex, and marital status categories differ, and
even when thoroughly measured, lifestyle is not expected to explain
all variation in victimization risks. Furthermore, an overall measure
of the frequency of going out in the evening does not take into
account the different types of activity in which people engage while
they are out. The importance of types of activities is evident in the
results of the next study to be discussed.
Using victimization survey data from residents of a community in
the Midlands of England, Smith (1982) found that a number of
lifestyle-relevant variables (e.g. age, social class) discriminated vic-
tims from non-victims. 8 Most important here, however, is Smith's
variable reflecting frequency of spare-time activities, which she found
to be the most powerful discriminating factor between victims and
non-victims, as well as between persons who had been victimized
once and those reporting multiple victimizations.
144 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

Carrying the analysis a step further, Smith looked at the propor-

tions of victims and non-victims that reported engaging in different
types of spare-time activities. For activities that are generally struc-
tured and that involve associating primarily with friends or relatives -
i.e. organized clubs, religious meetings, visiting family and friends,
further education - the differences between the percentages of
victims and non-victims reporting participation were relatively slight,
only a few percentage points. But relatively large differences were
evident for activities that are less structured and that involve more
contact with strangers in public places. For example, 29% of the
non-victims, but 40% of the victims, reported participation in
"cinema/theatre/dancing/bingo" as a spare-time activity. Similarly,
18% of the non-victims, but 34% of the victims, reported "frequent
pubs/cafes" as a spare-time activity (Smith, 1982:393).
Preliminary findings from the British Crime Survey - presented
and discussed by Mike Hough in Chapter 5 - apparently provide
additional support for lifestyle-type models. The British data show
that violent victimization is positively associated with frequency of
going out in the evening and with drinking habits, particularly among
people between 16 and 30 years old.

Areal Studies

There are several other lines of research that have produced findings
relevant to lifestyle-type models of victimization. For example, the
whole body of work dealing with areal variations in crime patterns is
important to the notion that spatial proximity to potential offenders
increases the likelihood of victimization. Because areal studies have a
long history and are so numerous, it is impossible to review even the
major findings in this chapter. For now, it will be sufficient to note
two recent studies that illustrate how some areal findings are directly
relevant to lifestyle issues while others may not be.
Roncek (1981) reported associations between official crime counts
and aggregate characteristics at the block level for two United States
cities: Cleveland, Ohio and San Diego, California. In both cities, he
found that rates of violent and property crimes were positively
associated with the concentration of apartment housing and the
concentration of "primary individuals" (the percentage of households
with no relatives of the head of household present) on city blocks.
Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 145

These indicators reflect urban areas in which unmarried, unattached

persons are concentrated in a type of housing that minimizes
recognition of and interactions with neighbors. One can also infer
that the indicators describe areas in which households are frequently
left unattended while the occupants are out pursuing occupational
and leisure interests. Thus, the indicators represent residential
concentration of particular lifestyles, and it is often the case that
people choose to live in these neighborhoods because the neighbor-
hoods are consistent with their lifestyles.
More typical of findings in areal research are those uncovered by
Sampson and Castellano (1982) who utilized the "neighborhood
characteristics" information that appears on the National Crime
Survey data tapes. They found strong negative associations between
the economic status of neighborhoods (measured either by median
income or the unemployment rate) and rates of personal crime in the
central cities of United States metropolitan areas. 9 This oft-reported
finding illustrates the heightened risk of victimization faced by people
who reside in neighborhoods that have high concentrations of
potential offenders. However, it is questionable to treat this finding
as evidence of an association between lifestyle and victimization risk.
Economic (and racial) segregation among urban neighborhoods is
really a structural feature of a given society. Certainly, the limited
residential options available to low-income and minority group
members represent a structural constraint which influences their life
opportunities, but the fact of being constrained to live - because of
low income or racial/ethnic characteristics - in a high-crime neighbor-
hood is not, in itself, an aspect of people's routine daily vocational
and leisure activities. In contrast, when one has options of where to
live and chooses to live in a neighborhood having features that are
consistent with one's style of life - as I inferred was reflected in the
Roncek findings discussed above - the ramifications of that choice for
the risk of being victimized can be treated as being affected by
The difference in the relevance of the two areal studies to the
lifestyle model of victimization represents an issue that is basic in
conceptualizing and testing the model: which features of a person's
total life situation should be subsumed under the concept of lifestyle?
Lines must be drawn somewhere. If lifestyle refers to any and all
aspects of people's life situations, then the criticism mentioned earlier
is valid: Any association can be incorporated into the model in an ex
post facto fashion, and the theory represented by the model is
146 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

nonfalsifiable. I will deal with this issue later, when some modifica-
tions of the lifestyle model are suggested. But now we can turn to
another body of evidence that is relevant to the lifestyle model.

Studies of Offenders

A central hypothesis of the lifestyle model is that - given the

disproportionate contact among persons who share similar lifestyles
and the importance of demographic characteristics as indicators of
lifestyle differences - "an individual's chances of personal victimiza-
tion are dependent upon the extent to which the individual shares
demographic characteristics with offenders" (Hindelang, Gottfred-
son and Garofalo, 1978:257). Therefore, to be consistent with the
lifestyle model, studies of offenders should show that people who are
involved disproportionately in the commission of personal crimes
have demographic characteristics similar to people who are disprop-
ortionately the victims of personal crimes. Furthermore, these results
should be present in studies that do not rely on data about offenders
who have become enmeshed in the criminal justice system (e.g. data
about arrested or incarcerated offenders). In general, the findings
that do occur are consistent with the lifestyle model.
Studies using victim reports of offender characteristics in the
National Crime Survey data show that rates of offending are higher
among males than among females, and that they are particularly high
among young black males (Hindelang, 1978 and 1981) - the same
demographic groups with the highest victimization rates for personal
crimes. Focusing on offender age groups, McDermott (1979) found
that, in personal crimes, juvenile offenders predominantly choose
other juveniles and adult offenders predominantly choose other
adults as their victims. Even in the relatively small subset of personal
crimes committed by female offenders, Young (1979) found that the
majority of victims were female, and the victims and offenders
generally fell into the same age groups.
Additional evidence appears in recent analyses of self-report and
official data from follow-up interviews with a sample of adults who
were initially identified in the ground-breaking study of delinquency
in a Philadelphia birth cohort (Wolfgang, Figlio and Sellin, 1972).
For example, Thornberry and Farnworth (1982) found that social
status was negatively associated with criminal involvement among
white and black male adults in the sample. Perhaps the most
compelling evidence from this data source appears in Singer's (1981)
Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 147

description of "homogeneous victim-offender populations." Not only

did he find that those who were most likely to report being the victims
of serious assaultive violence had characteristics similar to offenders
in the crimes (e.g. unemployed, single, black, school dropouts), but
also that the same people often alternate between being victims and
offenders in serious assaultive violence at different times. Victims of
these crimes showed higher levels of involvement in both official and
self-reported criminal activity than did others;lO they were also more
likely to have a friend who had been arrested and to have a history of
gang membership.
Singer's findings are consistent with the preliminary findings of the
British Crime Survey presented in Mike Hough's paper. In the BCS,
there was a relatively strong association between self-reported
offending and being the victim of a violent offense.
There are other types of offender-oriented studies that produce
evidence relevant to a lifestyle model of victimization. For example,
research on offender mobility and target selection techniques, (e.g.
Carter and Hill, 1979) can help us to understand why particular
lifestyles are associated with higher than average risks of victimiza-
tion. But, as was the case with areal studies of crime, the volume of
research on offenders is much too great to be reviewed here.
Before closing this brief review of recent research, it should be
noted that the number of countries in which victimization survey data
are becoming available is increasing (see, for example, Steinmetz,
1979; Sveri, 1982; Corrado et al., 1980; Braithwaite and Biles, 1980;
Hough and Mayhew, 1983). This will allow lifestyle-type models to
be subjected to the most rigorous type of testing - namely, whether
they can stand up to cross-cultural examination.
In sum, a variety of types of studies reported since the lifestyle
model was published in 1978 have generated a number of findings
that are consistent with the lifestyle model. However, some findings
suggest ways in which the model should be modified. I now turn to a
discussion of possible modifications; that is followed by the final
section of the Chapter, in which public policy implications of the
lifestyle model are addressed.


Figure 6.2 illustrates my preliminary thoughts on how the lifestyle

model can be modified to provide a more thorough understanding of
the risk of victimization. Before describing how and why Figure 6.2


DIRECT" ::tl
I ~
LI_ _ _ _--'



FIGURE 6"2 Modified lifestyle model for direct-contact predatory victimization

Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 149

differs from Figure 6.1, three comments are necessary. First, the
model is meant to apply to "direct-contact predatory violations," as
defined by Cohen and Felson (1979). That is, the model is restricted
to those types of crimes in which the offender comes into direct,
physical contact with the person or object that the offender wishes to
injure or steal (or steal from). Although a number of crime types
(e.g. corporate crimes) are excluded from consideration, "direct-
contact predatory violations" covers more types of crime than the
"personal crimes" used in the development of the original lifestyle
model. Second, the actual workings of the model can vary depending
on the nature of different crime types; for example, "associations"
are less important for explaining variations in the risk of burglary
than for explanation of variations in robbery risk, while the opposite
is probably true for "target attractiveness." Third, the model assumes
given levels of offender motivation and state-provided protection
from crime. These factors produce a certain level of crime potential,
while variation in the elements shown in Figure 6.2 allow this
potential to be realized to a greater or lesser extent.
The core of the original lifestyle model from Figure 6.1 remains:
Lifestyles are formed through adaptations to role expectations and
structural constraints, and different lifestyles embody different types
of associations and levels of exposure,l1 which affect the risk of
victimization. But, in Figure 6.2, structural constraints are shown as
having effects on associations that are not mediated through lifestyle.
Primarily, this is meant to reflect the constraints of the economic
system and the housing market on where people live. People who
have sufficient economic resources and who are not constrained by
racial/ethnic biases in the housing market can select their residences
to fit their preferred style of living - e.g. a rural setting, a singles
apartment complex, a walled community with access controlled by
security guards. The housing choices of these people are directed at
enhancing their opportunities to engage in the vocational and leisure
activities that comprise their lifestyles. In contrast, others have few, if
any, options for residential location. These people can still have
higher or lower risks of victimization depending on the patterns of
their routine vocational and leisure activities. But the base level of
risk that they face is heightened by their sheer proximity - and hence
exposure - to potential offenders.
Another modification involves the inclusion of "reactions to crime"
as a factor that affects exposure and associations both directly and
through lifestyle. Reactions to crime represent the behavioral man-
150 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

ifestations of perceptions about crime (e.g. fear, evaluation of risk,

beliefs about the amount and nature of crime) which can stem from a
variety of sources not shown in the model (e.g. the media) as well as
from the first-hand experience of being victimized, indicated by the
feedback loop in Figure 6.2 (see Garofalo, 1981; Skogan and
Maxfield, 1981). Reactions to crime can involve relatively minor
changes in what people do, such as selecting a bar frequented by
fewer unsavory characters, buying better locks, or avoiding dimly lit
streets when walking home at night. In these cases, the reactions have
direct effects on associations and exposure. However, reactions to
crime can also be far-reaching and involve basic changes in how one
spends one's time. Examples would be deciding never to go out in the
evening unaccompanied or foregoing access to the cultural amenities
of a large city in order to move to the relative safety of a distant
suburb. Such major reactions affect associations and exposure via
basic changes in one's lifestyle.
Finally, two factors unrelated to lifestyle are shown as having direct
effects on the risk of victimization: target attractiveness and personal
idiosyncracies. Target attractiveness can involve symbolic as well as
instrumental considerations. 12 For example, selection of a target for
the vandal's destructiveness or the assaulter's blows is likely to
depend on the expressive needs of the offender, making target
attractiveness a very subjective matter. As it is used in Figure 6.2,
target attractiveness reflects only the instrumental or symbolic
"worth" of the target to the offender. It does not include the notions
that some targets are more attractive because they are closer or
unguarded; these factors are included within the concept of exposure
(see footnote 11).
At first, the inclusion of personal idiosyncracies as a factor in
Figure 6.2 may appear to be simply a way to smuggle an error term
into the model without calling it an error term - any variation in risks
not accounted for by the other factors can be attributed to personal
idiosyncracies. In fact, its inclusion is meant to signify that variations
in risk cannot be accounted for entirely at the sociological level of
explanation. Psychological and even biological variables are relevant.
For example, people differ in their psychological propensity toward
risk-taking and in the image of physical vulnerability that they project
to potential offenders.
Target attractiveness and personal idiosyncracies are left more or
less "dangling" in Figure 6.2. No attempt has been made to develop
ideas about how they might interrelate with the other factors in the
Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 151

model. This is because my major focus has been on incorporating

perceptions about/reactions to crime and the unmediated effects of
structural constraints (primarily residential location) into the lifestyle
model. By doing so, I believe that the lifestyle model comes into
sharper focus, particularly because there is less of a temptation to
expand the lifestyle concept into areas where it does not belong. For
example, the fact that poor people and minority group members are
constrained to live in high-crime areas of cities is important in
determining their exposure to potential criminals; but it is preferable
to treat that constraint separately in the model than to try to force
economic/racial housing segregation into a concept that is defined as
the patterning of routine vocational and leisure activities. Likewise,
the addition of unmediated effects of reactions to crime on associa-
tions and exposure frees one from the temptation to dilute the
lifestyle concept by forcing into it relatively minor behaviors such as
locking doors and windows.


In discussions with others about lifestyle-type models of victimiza-

tion, I occasionally hear the complaint: "That's all very neat in an
academic sort of way, but it says nothing about how we should go
about reducing the risk of victimization. What are we to do? Tell
people to change their lifestyles?"
Such reactions miss a very important point in the lifestyle model,
namely, that lifestyles are shaped by social forces, designated as role
expectations and structural constraints in the model. And the fact is
that both role expectations and structural constraints - and, there-
fore, lifestyles - are influenced by public policies. 13 For example, tax
policies and legal provisions that encourage or discourage marriage
or divorce influence the proportion of households that consist of
unattached persons living alone; public subsidies for highways and
other forms of transportation encourages mobility in the population;
primary dependence on the free market for housing encourages the
segregation of residential areas;14 mandatory school attendance,
restrictions on the participation of the young in the labor force, and
mandatory retirement ages discourage associations across age
groups; vigorous enforcement of affirmative action programs can
draw more women into the labor force; various economic policies
152 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

affect the level of unemployment. The list could be extended, but I

don't believe it is necessary to do so.
In reading through the preceding list, it should be obvious that
some of the public policies that encourage lifestyles associated with
higher risks of victimization are not policies that many of us would
want to do away with. A good example is affirmative action programs
for women. The lifestyle model predicts that, as more women leave
the housekeeping roles and assume the roles of employed (or
unemployed) persons, the risk of victimization for women should
increase. But this is certainly not a reason to restrict the opportunities
of women to enter the labor force. The potential positive and
negative effects of other policies may be less clear. For example,
encouraging more interaction across age groups in the labor force and
in other spheres of life may decrease the risk of victimization for
young people and increase the risk for older people as the associa-
tions of members of each group become less age-homogeneous. At
the same time, elimination of policies such as mandatory school
attendance, restriction on child labor, and mandatory retirement
could lead, in some economies, to the exploitation of both groups in
the labor market.
Thus, it is clear the public policies can affect lifestyles and risks of
victimization. It is not always clear what the effect will be, nor is it
certain that a possible negative effect on the risk of victimization
would outweigh other positive effects of a policy. In fact, it is quite
reasonable to argue that increased risk of criminal victimization is a
logical accompaniment of increases in the material wealth and
personal freedom of a society.
My argument is not for or against any particular policy; rather, it is
that implications for the risk of victimization should be taken into
account as costs or benefits when policies are considered. Furth-
ermore, recognition of these implications could make it possible to
anticipate and try to deal with increases in victimization risks that
might accompany the implementation of otherwise positive policies.


1. Actually, the title of the original diagram referred to a "lifestylel

exposure" model of victimization.
2. Cohen and Felson also discussed target suitability in terms of the growing
number and increasing portability of consumer goods in circulation.
Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 153
However, these developments are not direct indicators of changes in
people's routine activities, even though changes in the technological and
material aspects of society can, in turn, produce changes in the routine
activities of citizens.
3. Of course, "contact" can occur in many ways other than concurrent
physical presence (e.g. the bank official who embezzels by using a
computer to manipulate accounts has "contact," but not direct physical
contact, with the funds being stolen). In this paper, however, our
attention is focused on the subset of crimes described by Cohen and
Felson (1979) as "direct-contact predatory violations."
4. Their analysis dealt with two categories of larceny: "(1) personal larceny
with contact, consisting of purse snatching, pocket picking, as well as
attempts to perpetrate these crimes; and (2) personal larceny without
contact, which includes personal thefts or attempted thefts (except of
motor vehicles) occurring away from the residence of the victim in which
there is no personal confrontation between the victim and offender."
(Cohen and Cantor, 1980:141).
5. "Home centered" consists of persons keeping house, unable to work, or
retired. It was predicted that these people would have less exposure to
robbery offenders than would the employed, who usually spend their
work days in relatively safe, structured environments away from the
home, and that the employed would have less exposure than those who
were unemployed but looking for work (Cohen, Cantor, and Kluegel,
6. Cohen and Cantor (1980:154) did find some significant interaction effects
involving income. Although income was positively associated with risk in
the entire sample, it had a negative association with risk among the
employed, a positive association among the unemployed, and virtually
no association among persons whose major activity was keeping house.
7. The extent to which the associations may have been weakened is not
clear because measures of partial association were not presented in the
8. All victimizations uncovered in the survey were considered together.
Most of the victimizations were thefts and vandalism; only 15 percent
were direct-contact victimizations (Smith, 1982:387).
9. The relationships were weaker in suburban areas and were not present in
more rural areas. In addition, the relationships in central cities were
much stronger for crimes involving theft than for purely assaultive
10. In an earlier study, Sparks, Genn, and Dodd (1977) also found an
association between being an offender and being a victim in assaultive
11. "Exposure," as ·used in this model, could be decomposed into finer
concepts. Here, it is meant to include the spatial and temporal location
of people and property, residential propinquity to potential offenders,
and target vulnerability (in the sense of presence or absence of suitable
guardiansJ as described by Cohen and Felson, 1979). In contrast,
"associatipns" is meant to reflect the types and numbers of people that
one purposely engages in interactions with.
154 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

12. Cohen and Felson (1979) also note that, for crimes of theft, the
portability (perceived inertia) of the target as well as its monetary value
should be considered in judging target attractiveness.
13. Of course, role expectations and structural constraints also influence the
level of motivation to commit crimes, and thus, the motivation to offend
is also amenable to influence by public policy. To simplify matters,
however, I assume a constant level of offender motivation in describing
the implications of the lifestyle model.
14. Public-supported housing can also have segregative effects when sepa-
rate projects are designated for low-income groups and the elderly.


Braithwaite, John, and Biles, David (1980), "Crime Victimization in Austra-

lia: a Comparison with the U.S.," Journal of Crime and Justice, vol. 3,
Carter, Ronald L., and Hill, Kim Q. (1979), The Criminal's Image of the City
(New York: Pergamon).
Cohen, Lawrence E., and Felson, Marcus (1979), "Social Change and Crime
Rate Trends: a Routine Activity Approach," American Sociological
Review, vol. 44, no. 4, 588-608.
Cohen, Lawrence E., and Cantor, David (1980), "The Determinants of
Larceny: An Empirical and Theoretical Study," Journal of Research in
Crime and Delinquency, vol. 17, no. 2, 140-59.
Cohen, Lawrence E., Cantor, David, and Kluegel, James R. (1981),
"Robbery Victimization in the U.S.: an Analysis of a Nonrandom Event,"
Social Science Quarterly, vol. 62, no. 4, 644-57.
Cohen, Lawrence E. and Cantor, David (1981), "Residential Burglary in the
United States: Life-Style and Demographic Factors Associated with the
Probability of Victimization," Journal of Research in Crime and Delin-
quency, vol. 18, no. 1, 113-27.
Cohen, Lawrence E., Kluegel, James R., and Land, Kenneth C. (1981),
"Social Inequality and Predatory Criminal Victimization: an Exposition
and Test of a Formal Theory," American Sociological Review, vol. 46, no.
Corrado, Raymond R., Roesch, Ronald, Glackman, William, Evans, John
L., and Leger, Gerald J. (1980). "Life Styles and Personal Victimization: a
Test of the Model with Canadian Survey Data," Journal of Crime and
Justice, vol. 3, 129-39.
Garofalo, James (1981), "The Fear of Crime: Causes and Consequences,"
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 72, no. 2, 839-57.
Gottfredson, Michael R. (1981), "On the Etiology of Criminal Victimiza-
tion," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 72, no. 2, 714-26.
Hinde1ang, Michael J. (1981), "Variations in Sex-Race-Age-Specific Inci-
dence Rates of Offending," American Sociological Review, vol. 46, no. 4,
Lifestyles & Victimization: an Update 155

Hindelang, Michael J. (1978), "Race and Involvement in Common Law

Personal Crimes," American Sociological Review, vol. 43, no. 1, 93-109.
Hindelang, Michael J., Gottfredson, Michael R., and Garofalo, James
(1978), Victims of Personal Crime: an Empirical Foundation for a Theory
of Personal Victimization (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger).
Hough, Mike, and Mayhew, Pat (1983), The British Crime Survey: First
Report. Home Office Research and Planning Unit (London: HMSO).
McDermott, M. Joan (1979), The Criminal Behavior of Juveniles and Adults:
Comparisons Within Crime Categories, Ph.D. dissertation, School of
Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Albany.
Roncek, Dennis W. (1981), "Dangerous Places: Crime and Residential
Environment," Social Forces, vol. 60, no. 1, 74-96.
Sampson, Robert J., and Castellano, Thomas C. (1982), "Economic Inequal-
ity and Personal Victimisation: an Areal Perspective," British Journal of
Criminology, vol. 22, no. 2, 363-85.
Singer, Simon I. (1981), "Homogeneous Victim-Offender Populations: A
Review and Some Research Implications," Journal of Criminal Law and
Criminology, vol. 72, no. 2, 779-88.
Skogan, Wesley G., and Maxfield, Michael G. (1981), Coping with Crime:
Individual and Neighborhood Reactions (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage).
Smith, Susan J. (1982), "Victimisation in the Inner City," British Journal of
Criminology, vol. 22, no. 2, 386-402.
Sobel, Michael E. (1981), Lifestyle and Social Structure: Concepts, Defini-
tions, Analyses (New York: Academic Press).
Sparks, Richard F. (1982), Research on Victims of Crime: Accomplishments,
Issues, and New Directions. National Institute of Mental Health, Center
for Studies of Crime and Delinquency (Washington, DC: US Government
Printing Office).
Sparks, Richard F., Genn, Hazel G., and Dodd, David J. (1977), Surveying
Victims: a Study of the Measurement of Criminal Victimization (New York:
John Wiley).
Steinmetz, Carl H. D. (1979), "An (Empirically Tested) Analysis of Victi-
mization Risks," Paper presented at the Third International Symposium
on Victimology (The Hague: Research & Documentation Centre, Ministry
of Justice).
Sveri, Knut (1982), "Comparative Analyses of Crime by Means of Victim
Surveys - The Scandinavian Experience" in Hans Joachim Schneider
(ed.), The Victim in International Perspective (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter)
Thornberry, Terence P., and Farnworth, Margaret (1982), "Social Corre-
lates of Criminal Involvement: Further Evidence on the Relationship
Between Social Status and Criminal Behavior," American Sociological
Review, vol. 47, no. 4, 505-18.
Wolfgang, Marvin E., Figlio, Robert M., and Sellin, Thorsten (1972),
Delinquency in a Birth Cohort (University of Chicago Press).
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Parsonage (ed.), Perspectives on Victimology (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage)
7 Responding to Crime:
Reflections on the
reactions of Victims and
Non-Victims to the
Increase in Petty Crime

As it becomes increasingly obvious that the measures taken by the

authorities to repress crime are bearing little fruit, there is a growing
interest in the part the public itself plays or could play in the fight
against crime. Subjects attracting particular attention are crime
prevention and the ways in which individuals can exercise social
control over each other. For various reasons these new topics are
being taken up especially by criminologists whose previous work
involved victim surveys and related studies. There is a close theoretic-
allink between the question of how the public reacts to crime and the
question of how recent victims react. Also victim surveys can easily
be extended into an instrument for general research into individuals'
reactions to the crimes they see around them, whether or not they
have actually been victims. The RDC's victim studies, which since
1975 have been conducted nationwide with the help of the Central
Bureau of Statistics, have gradually developed into population
studies covering various aspects of crime and crime prevention. The
original questions about victims' experiences and reporting crimes
have been supplemented in recent years by questions on attitudes to
crime (feelings of insecurity), willingness to take precautionary
measures, experiences of crime as a bystander, and on a local scale by
questions about offenses committed by the respondents themselves.


E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
Responding to Crime 157

We reported these incidental results of our victim studies in a series

of articles and conference papers. In this Chapter I shall try to draw
more general practical and theoretical conclusions from the research
data now available.
I propose to consider the following problem. National victim
studies have shown that in the Netherlands since the early 1970s,
petty crime has increased sharply almost across the board and very
often has actually doubled. The question is whether an increase of
this magnitude does not provoke more or less spontaneous opposi-
tion among the population which could act as a check on crime in the
future, or, conversely, whether there are any indications that the
public is giving increasing encouragement to offenses in certain
respects, and/or whether crime is a self-perpetuating social phe-


In 1973 and 1974 the first research conducted in the Netherlands into
feelings of insecurity and disquiet showed that public attitudes to
crime were highly emotional and were strongly influenced by mass
media images of serious crimes of violence. 1 This was borne out by
certain other findings: there was no very close connection between
people's feelings of unease and their own experiences as a victim or
the objective probability that they would be victims; there was little
willingness to take preventive measures, and such willingness as there
was bore scarcely any relation to people's feelings of disquiet.
A repetition of this research within the 1978 and 1980 victim
studies revealed certain new facts and attitudes. 2 In 1980, practically
the same picture emerged as in 1974 from the answers to the
question: "Do you ever feel afraid if you are alone at home at
night? ," which is particularly directed at determining emotional
elements in people's feelings of unease. On the other hand, there was
a considerable rise in the percentage of positive answers to questions
with more cognitive content - for example, "Do you think that the
probability of your being the victim of a crime has increased over the
last two years?" Moreover, in 1978 and 1980 people proved to be
much more willing to take technical preventive measures or to take
precautions in their daily life, for instance by not opening the door to
strangers or not going out alone at night.
158 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

More detailed analysis showed that in 1980 personal experience of

crime contributed more significantly to feelings of insecurity than in
previous years. Of those who had had a conversation about crime in
the last few days 40% stated it had concerned an actual experience of
a crime. The proportion in earlier research was around 20%, and
media reports then proved to be the most important source of
information. The 1980 conversations dealt less frequently with crimes
against the person (35%) than in the past (over 50% ). Evidence of a
connection between willingness to take preventive measures and
feelings of insecurity was entirely in line with these changes.
The general conclusion to be drawn from these findings is that, as a
result of the sharp increase in crimes against property in the 1970s,
certain sections of the Dutch population now have a more realistic
image of crime and have begun to act accordingly. It is now widely
understood that ordinary individuals are most likely to be affected by
small crimes against property and that they themselves can take more
effective action against them than the police and the law. This
conclusion is supported by the findings of the Nederlandse Stichting
voor Statistiek (Netherlands Statistical Institute), which show that in
1980 the very people who were most worried about rising crime
figures expected fewer benefits from a repressive approach, involving
more police and more severe sentences, than from crime prevention. 3
Greater willingness to take preventive action does not appear to be
linked to greater reluctance on the part of victims to report crimes to
the police. The studies show that victims' willingness to report crimes
has remained relatively stable over the last few years, and indeed may
even have increased in some places.
The conclusion that the public is now better informed about crime
and more willing than ten years ago to take preventive measures is
not in itself, however, sufficient to justify the assumption that the rise
in the crime rate will be slowed or halted as a result: certain
additional conditions must be satisfied first. It must be established
whether greater readiness to take preventive measures leads to an
increase in the number of preventive measures actually taken, and
then whether such an increase produces a fall in the crime rate and in
the likelihood of being a victim. The surveys showed that despite
their good intentions, many victims neglected to take certain preven-
tive measures at the crucial moment. Nevertheless, the proportion of
victims who did take measures is rising, indicating that more willing-
ness has actually produced an increase in the number of security
measures taken. 4 It appears that this trend will continue.
Responding to Crime 159
The indications are less favourable however in relation to the
effectiveness of preventive measures. Apparently the risk of becom-
ing a victim of a crime against property can be reduced only to a
limited extent by technical means. 5 We shall examine the causes of
this in detail shortly. First, however, I should like to point out that,
even if technical measures did reduce the risk considerably, it is not
certain that the crime rate would fall as a result. Before this could
happen, preventive measures would have to be taken on a large scale
by the most appropriate sections of the population, so that potential
criminals could no longer find easy targets. The victim studies show
that young people in the major cities run the greatest risk of falling
victim to most kinds of crime. They would be therefore the most
obvious people to take part in crime prevention. Yet in the major
cities young people (especially men) are relatively unbothered by
feelings of insecurity and see little need to take preventive measures. 6
In other words that section of the population to which a significant
number of victims belong takes a fairly casual attitude to the risks it
runs. Consequently young criminals still have plenty of opportunities
to commit offenses in their own environment. For the time being,
therefore, one cannot expect changing attitudes towards crime
prevention to have a noticeable effect on the crime rate in general.
The fact that a large proportion of the general public are becoming
more realistic about the crime problem and showing a greater
willingness to take preventive measures is however a move in the
right direction.



It has already been mentioned that the effectiveness of technical

preventive measures is often disappointing. The theft of bicycles
fitted with a security lock is still widespread, for instance. 7 This
ineffectiveness becomes understandable in the light of survey data
about the public's experiences of crime as bystanders and their
reactions. Of those who had witnessed at least one offense in the past
two years, only one in four had by their own admission called the
police or intervened personally.8 As a field experiment conducted in
the centre of The Hague in cutting bicycle padlocks proved, this
percentage is probably even lower in reality. 9 These findings illustrate
once again how little offenders have to fear from informal social
160 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

control by bystanders. Using their own tools criminals can deal with
any security safeguards without much risk. As long as private
individuals are so reluctant to react to offenses they themselves
witness, technical means can do little to reduce the risk of victimiza-
Since information on the willingness of witnesses and bystanders to
report crimes and to intervene was collected for the first time only
very recently, we cannot say whether or not there has been an
increase in such public-spirited actions in recent years. For various
reasons however the prospects are not bright. Before bystanders will
intervene they have to be present in sufficient numbers. But feelings
of insecurity about crime mean that a section of the population -
especially women - no longer dares to go out at night. The more
common these feelings become, the less informal social control will
be exercised in the streets. Events in the United States have shown
that, when certain areas of a town acquire a reputation, deserved or
not, for being somewhat unsafe, they may swiftly become very
unsafe, because ordinary people avoid them more and more, so that
informal social control steadily declines. 10 Given that housing, etc. in
the Netherlands is much more under local authority control, it does
not seem likely that similar developments would occur here in such
an extreme form. Nevertheless, it is clear that the increase, visible in
the studies since 1974, in the number of people who dare not go out
alone at night in their own neighborhood means that informal social
control in residential areas of the big cities must have deteriorated
still further.
There is another way in which feelings of insecurity have a
quantitative and qualitative effect on informal social control: accord-
ing to the studies, such fears fonn one of the most significant reasons
for witnesses not intervening in a crime. Although there does not
seem to have been a great change in the public's emotional attitude to
crime since 1974, there has been an obvious increase in apprehensive-
ness about dangerous situations. Many people will thus feel even
more inclined to hurry away from any crime they may witness in
This reluctance of bystanders to take action seems to derive mainly
from a feeling of non-involvement in the affairs of perfect strangers.
People were particularly reluctant to do anything in cases where they
knew neither the criminal nor the victim. 11 Research in America
showed that bystanders who did intervene had often been victims of
similar crimes shortly before,12 and thus probably identified with the
Responding to Crime 161

victim even if they did not know him or her. The question now is
whether the rise in the crime rate will make at least some of the
population more willing to intervene or to report a crime, just as it
made them more willing to take preventive measures. The study
results indicated that recent victims reacted more often than other
people by intervening in a crime they witnessed. By their own
account 18% of the 276 recent victims had reacted by intervening,
while the figure for others was 10% (of 128) (X2 = 3.88, P < 0.05).
The more bystanders present who have themselves been victims, the
greater is the probability that at least one of them will intervene. This
may be seen as a spontaneous mobilization by part of the population
against the higher crime rate, but so far little is known about the
effectiveness of such opposition. It is quite clear that in this regard
the increase in crime evokes completely opposite reactions from
people: some withdraw into the safety of their own homes or hurry
past when they witness a crime; some, on the other hand, respond by
being more willing to intervene in offenses they witness. Since the
first reaction has to date been far more common than the second, it
seems probable that on balance informal social control is undermined
rather than strengthened by a high crime rate.
The willingness of the various sections of the population to
intervene is largely consistent with their attitudes to taking preventive
measures: male adolescents - potentially the most significant group as
they witness the most crimes - seem to be comparatively less
involved. The very group that should be first to take action against
rising crime is in fact more apathetic than the rest of the population.



It was stated above that the rise in petty crime has certainly aroused
opposition among the public but that this alone will probably be
unable to halt the trend. One shortcoming of the change in attitudes
towards crime prevention is that it is unevenly distributed throughout
the various population groups. Young men in the big cities are not
only the most significant target for crime they also come most
frequently in contact with it as bystanders. Yet it is they who are still
disinclined to take preventive measures and/or to react to offenses
committed against third parties.
162 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

Self-report studies have shown that offenders as well as victims and

witnesses are heavily over-represented among young people. By
combining self-report studies with victim studies it may be possible to
investigate interactions among the three ways in which people can be
involved in a crime.13 Analyses showed that a sizeable group among
the adolescents surveyed in the big cities had been involved in crimes
in all three capacities over the last year. Adolescents with plenty of
free time which they spent outside the home were the most likely to
have experienced crime as offenders, victims and witnesses. In theory
this overlap could be a more or less accidental consequence of the
fact that young people who spend a lot of time in the anonymity of
bars, cinemas and other places of amusement run a greater risk of
being victims and are more often tempted to commit offenses. As
observed above, young people are comparatively unwilling to take
preventive measures and to intervene, with the result that there are
more opportunities to commit crimes in and around their regular
haunts. Yet the coincidence of victims, witnesses and offenders is so
marked that there seems to be more involved than this. We therefore
investigated the relationship between experiences as victims and the
commission of offenses, taking the amount of free time spent away
from home as a constant factor.
The results of this analysis are given in Table 7.1, which indicates
that for young people each of the two factors (the amount of leisure
time spent outside the home and whether or not they had been
robbed in the past year) independently has a significant connection
with self-reported delinquency. It is interesting that the link between
being a victim and being an offender is weakest for the group of
young people who spent little leisure time away from home, and
strongest among boys, particularly boys from higher social back-
Like Wolfgang, Singer (1981)14 looked closely at the overlap
between offenders and victims of violent crimes. The experience of
being the victim of a violent crime can be a stage in a subcultural
learning process which leads people on to commit similar crimes. The
data in Table 7.1 lead us to suppose that for some young people the
experience of having something stolen also acts as a criminogenic
factor. The explanation is not hard to find: being the victim of a theft
creates an acute need to compensate oneself in some way while at the
same time suggesting a method of doing so quickly, namely by
committing a similar theft oneself. The effects of normative curbs on
stealing could also be impaired by an awareness that they obviously
Responding to Crime 163

TABLE 7.1 Percentages of young people who admitted to having committed

a theft within the last year, classified according to whether or not they had been
a recent victim of theft and the amount of leisure time they spent outside the
home (sample of young people aged between 12 and 18 from The Hague and

N of offenders X2 test

much leisure
time outside victims 360 63 X2 3.8
the home non-victims 80 50 df 1 (S)

average leisure
time outside victims 628 49 X2 14
the home non-victims 201 33 df 1 (S)

little leisure
time outside victims 380 37 X2 1.7
the home non-victims 176 31 df 1 (NS)

SOURCE Research by Junger-Tas and Junger, 1982. 15

X2 leisure time x offenses: 64 (df2).

did not discourage other people in the same situation. As regards the
abstract notion of "other people," the victim can remind himself that
his offense will only pay them back in their own coin for what they did
to him. A survey of pupils in a junior secondary school near The
Hague was used to investigate in more detail the thesis that the
experience of having something stolen is a criminogenic factor. The
results of this study are given in Table. 7.2.
Table 7.2 shows that the great majority of pupils who admitted
having committed a certain type of theft had earlier stated that they
had been victims and/or witnesses of a similar theft. The percentage
of those with experience as a victim or a bystander was significantly
lower among those who said they had committed no thefts. Details
about the dates of the different events prove that experiences as
victims or witnesses very often preceded the committing of an
offense. These data and conversations with some of the pupils
concerned indicate that also (and perhaps precisely) in cases of theft,
the experience of having been a victim can have a criminogenic effect
on some young people. It seems that to have been the victim of theft
164 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

TABLE 7.2 The connection between victim/witness experience of 3 types of theft

and the commission of similar offenses, among pupils of a lyceum (pre-university
school) near The Hague (N=302)

Theft of bicyle Theft of money Theft of clothes, etc

Victim and
witness Non- Non- Non-
experience offender Offender offender Offender offender Offender

~) 48%187) 92% 65) 5 ) 82% ~)

27 43% 9
victim and witness 33 13 35% 10)
7 79%
witness 28 8 27 4 15 6
victim nor
witness 136 3 161 4 175 8

total 263 36 280 22 271 31

X2 victim/witness experience X2 = 24 X2 13 X2 18
x thefts committed oneself df = I(S) df I(S) df I(S)

at least once is often the deciding factor pushing people into

delinquency, particularly in the case of adolescents who spend a lot of
leisure time outside the home and thus have every opportunity to
steal. Trends in petty crime are naturally adversely affected by this
phenomenon of compensatory thefts committed by young victims,
which drives the crime rate higher. The rise in crimes against
property by young people appears to be partly a self-perpetuating
process: each new offense creates not just one direct victim, but often
other victims indirectly via compensatory thefts committed by the
first victim. There seems to be a multiplier effect at work in crime
trends which can be compared with the cumulative effects of invest-
ment impulses in the economy.


Victim surveys in the Netherlands demonstrate that the petty crime

figures have practically doubled in the last ten years. Every year,
about one in every three people in the Netherlands becomes the
Responding to Crime 165

victim of at least one offense. The surveys have also produced data to
indicate at the same time that the public is taking a more realistic
view of crime and methods of combating it.
It is now much more widely understood that crime prevention is "a
matter for both the police and you," in the words of a successful
advertising campaign. In the short term, however, it appears that not
too much can be expected of the crime prevention movement as a
means of cutting down crime. Technical prevention measures can
have only a limited effect if they are not supported by an adequate
system of informal social control. Yet the feelings of unease aroused
by the high crime rate undermine this informal social control, so that
in this respect crime seems to be self-perpetuating. Although the
public in general is showing an increased willingness to take preven-
tive measures, the beneficial effects are not as great as they might
otherwise be since the views of the section of the public most affected
by crime, i.e. young people in the major cities have not undergone a
similar change. There are still many opportunities to commit offenses
in the social environments where these young people gather.
Moreover, our data show that a not insignificant number of young
people who have been victims of theft will react with a theft of their
own to balance their account. It is obvious that these victims-cum-
offenders will not be particularly keen to take preventive measures
and will be especially reluctant to report any offenses they may
witness to the police. They are less concerned about the risk of
another victimization and naturally they have a somewhat ambivalent
attitude to the police. As a result, crime is spreading rapidly among
young people of school age.
These reflections, many of them based on empirical research
findings, lead one to the conclusion that public reactions to the
increase in crime offer on balance little prospect of any spontaneous
decline in the crime rate. Although in the 1960s and 1970s crimino-
logists often claimed that formal control mechanisms would only
make matters worse, it now has to be recongized that the problem of
crime will not just solve itself. On the contrary, there are indications
that many kinds of crime, among young people in particular, are
self-perpetuating social phenomena. It would thus be by no means a
superfluous luxury for the authorities to take positive - and above all
imaginative - action to combat crime, concentrating on the develop-
ment of methods to improve informal social control and co-operation
with the police. More particularly, attention should be given to ways
of reducing adolescents' opportunities to commit offenses.
166 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization


1. Dijk, J. J. M. van, "Public Attitudes Towards Crime in the Nether-

lands," Victimology, nos. 3-4 (1979); Dijk, J. J. M. van, "L'influence des
medias sur l'opinion publique relative a la criminalite: un phenomene
exceptionnel?" Deviance et Societe, vol. 4, no. 2 (1980).
2. Steinmetz, C. H. D. and Dijk, J. J. M. van, "Meningen over crimina-
liteit, lezing op bezinningsweekend van de Nederlandse Vereniging van
Criminologie" ("Opinions on crime," unpublished lecture given at the
Netherlands Criminology Association's weekend meeting, 2-3 Oct.
3. Dijk, J. J. M. van, "Research on Public Attitudes Towards Crime Policy
in Holland" in Participation of the Public in Crime Policy, European
Committee on Crime Problems (Strasbourg: July 1982).
4. Dijk, J. J. M. van and Steinmetz, C. H. D., "Het voorkomen van
misdrijven: een evaluatie van de landelijke voorlichtings-campagnes"
("Crime Prevention: an Evaluation of National Information Cam-
paigns"), Tijdschrift voor Criminologie, (Sept./Oct. 1980).
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Roell, A., Dijk, J. J. M. van, "Praktijkgerichte onderzoeken naar
bestrijding fietsendiefstal" ("Practical Experiments in Preventing Bicycle
Theft"), Algemene Politieblad (3 Apr. 1982).
8. Dijk, J. J. M. van, Roell, A., Steinmetz, C. H. D., "Bystanders
Intervention in a Crime: a Preliminary Comparison Between the Results
of a Questionnaire Study and a Naturalistic Experiment," paper given at
the 20th International Congress of Applied Psychology, (Edinburgh:
25-31 July 1982).
9. Roell, A., Dijk, J. J. M. van, and Steinmetz, C. H. D., "Interventieged-
rag door omstanders: een veldexperiment" ("Bystanders' intervention: a
field experiment"), Tijdschrift voor Criminologie, (Jan. 1982).
10. Goodstern, L. and Shotland, R. Lance, "The Crime Causes Crime
Model: a Critical Review of the Relationships Between Fear of Crime,
Bystanders Surveillance, and Changes in the Crime Rate, Victimology,
vol. 5 nos. 2-4 (1980). .
11. Ibid.
12. Huston, T. L., Ruggiero, M., Conner, R., Geis, G., "Bystander
Intervention into Crime: a Study Based on Naturally-Occurring epi-
sodes," Social Psychological Quarterly, vol. 44 (1981).
13. Dijk, J. J. M. van and Steinmetz, C. H. D., "Victimization Surveys:
Beyond Measuring the Volume of Crime (in preparation).
14. Singer, S. I., "Homogeneous Victim Offender Populations: a Review
and Some Research Implications," Journal of Criminal Law and Crimi-
nology, vol. 72, no. 2 (1981).
15. Junger-Tas, J. and Junger, M., "Achtergronden van jeugddelinquentie
1983" ("Backgrounds to Juvenile Crime," in preparation).
8 The Fear of Crime and Its
Behavioral Implications *


In the decade-and-a-half since victimization surveys were conducted

in the US for the Crime Commission there has been a great deal of
descriptive research on "fear of crime." Under this headline pollsters
have revealed that people rate their chances of being victimized as
moderate (below, for example, being involved in an auto accident),
but substantial numbers of Americans fear to walk somewhere not far
from where they live, and virtually everyone thinks crime is in-
This chapter summarizes some of this research, proposing three
simple concepts by which many of these descriptive findings can be
categorized: they are beliefs about crime, assessments of risk of
victimization, and perceived threat of crime. The two latter categor-
ies turn out to deserve the general appellation "fear of crime,"
although they are conceptually distinct and measure somewhat
different things.
However, the next section of the chapter argues that the most
important manifestation of fear of crime is its implications for

* Some of this material appeared earlier, in Skogan (1981). Preparation of

this manuscript was supported in part by Grant No. 81-IJ-CX-0069,
awarded to the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Northwest-
ern University, by the National Institute of Justice, US Department of
Justice, under the omnibus Crime Control and Safe Street Acts of 1968, as
amended, and by a visiting scholar grant from the Max-Planck Society.
Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the author
and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the US
Department of Justice, or the Max-Planck Society.

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
168 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

behavior. This raises at least two problems. Firstly, there has been
much less good research on crime-related behaviors. Secondly, most
research indicates that "crime-related behaviors" are only marginally
related to many measures of fear. The first section of this chapter
comments briefly on this paradox (for a more extensive review of the
literature on this, see Skogan, 1981). The second section proposes
some solution, in the form of four models of crime-related behavior
which do not assume (as empirically seems the case) that attitudes
and behaviors in this area are necessarily congruent.


Opinion surveys constantly ask about the issue of crime, usually

dubbing responses measures of "fear". The Harris Poll routinely
inquires if the crime rate has been "increasing, decreasing, or has it
remained the same as it was before?" The Gallup Poll asks if there is
a nearby area ... "where you would be afraid to walk alone at night?"
The US Census Bureau questions people if "crime is more serious
than newspapers and TV say? Americans are also routinely quizzed
about their "community's worst problem," and if more money should
be spent on crime, or less. Answers to these questions are used to
conduct research on fear of crime, to evaluate the consequences of
crime prevention programs, and - perhaps - to make public policy.
While opinion polls present a seeming jumble of data about popular
perceptions of crime, those perceptions can be usefully divided into
three categories: beliefs about the facts of crime, people's percep-
tions of how likely they are to fall victim, and indirect but revealing
measures of the threat of crime.

Beliefs About Crime

On the basis of direct and indirect experience, people develop images

of the world around them. These fact-images - the cognitive compo-
nent of their world view - play an important role in shaping how they
react to events and actors. Such beliefs are judgemental as well as
"empirical," if only because people's attitudes and values shape how
they view their environment and help them develop beliefs about
things with which they have no real experience.
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 169

These fact-images are many and complex. They include ideas

about how much crime there is, and whether it is going up or down.
Individuals also hold beliefs about the nature of crime (for example,
how violent it is) and criminals (why they do it), as well as general
judgements about crime, including where it stands on the public
agenda and how much money we should spend to deal with it.
Perhaps the most consistent belief revealed by public opinion polls
is that crime is increasing. Polling organizations have been asking
about crime since the mid-1960s, and since then close to a majority or
more of Americans have reported they think crime rates are on the
upswing. In 1967 the Harris Poll found 46% of the population
thought crime had increased "in their area." By 1975 that figure hit
75%. Further, asking about specific offenses, Harris found people
were most likely to believe it was serious crimes - "robberies and
house-breakings" - which were on the rise. This of course matches
news accounts of official crime statistics. The FBI's "crime clock" has
ticked off an increasing number of "robberies every minute" for the
past 20 years.
Research indicates people tend to overestimate the amount of
crime around them. When asked about the number of burglaries or
robberies which occur, most give figures which are much higher than
the actual rate. They also overestimate the amount of violence
relative to other kinds of crime. While most people realistically
perceive that there is more property crime than personal crime, they
grant the former too small a share of the total.
One very important feature of popular beliefs about the distribu-
tion of crime is the tendency to see it as a problem which occurs
somewhere else, largely involving others. For example, in surveys
conducted by the US Census Bureau in the nation's five largest cities,
respondents were asked if they thought crime was increasing or
decreasing in two different contexts - their neighborhood, and the
nation as a whole (Gaquin, 1978). It was revealed that 86% thought
crime in the United States was increasing, but only 47% thought
crime was on the upswing in their area. Violent crime in particular
was seen as increasing elsewhere, while local increases were believed
to be more confined to property crime. When asked to compare their
neighborhood with others in the same city, only 6.1 % thought their
community was above average in terms of danger. Across the 26 big
cities surveyed by the Census Bureau, the largest proportion who
thought their own neighborhood was more dangerous than most was
in Newark; there,ll % shared that pessimistic view.
170 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

The tendency of individuals to "distance" themselves from crime

can be seen more dramatically in their views about effects of crime.
In the Census Bureau's big-city surveys, respondents were asked
about "limiting or changing activities because of fear of crime." Fully
87% of those in the largest cities thought "people in general" did this,
but the figure for "people in their neighborhood" was 67%. When
asked about themselves, only 48% indicated they limited their
activities because of crime (author's computations). These percep-
tions are so widespread that Hindelang et al. (1978) concluded even
urban dwellers see crime as a "non-personal, non-local" problem. In
their view, people are not incapacitated by concern about nearby
crime, and see the problem as a manageable one.
Popular beliefs about the causes of crime are more difficult to
summarize. Surveys on the topic differ by methodology and over
time. When people are asked sequentially about a number of
potential causes of crime, they tend to give many of them high
ratings; when asked to volunteer causes on their own, a lot fewer are
mentioned. Three factors seem to be prominent when the latter
approach is employed: drugs, law enforcement, and the breakdown
of families. In more recent surveys, drug use is a frequently volun-
teered cause of crime and delinquency. There has also been a mild
increase in the tendency of people to point a finger at the courts, a
lack of severity in penalties, and leniency of laws. In earlier surveys,
neglect and the inability of families to exert control over children
were frequently mentioned, but that perceived source of delinquency
has declined somewhat in popularity.
At a general level people's judgements about what society should
do about crime show more consistency. Surveys indicate crime is a
local rather than national problem. The Gallup Poll frequently asks,
"What do you think is the most important problem facing the country
today?" Through the 1970s between 2 and 3% of the population put
crime at the head of the list. It was bested by the cost of living,
energy, unemployment, international affairs, and several other issues
(Gallup Organization). On the other hand, many more people put
crime near the top of their local community's list of problems,
accurately reflecting the balance of local and federal contributions to
law enforcement.
Whatever can be done, there is immense public support for
government activity against crime. Since 1971, the Gallup Organiza-
tion and the National Opinion Research Center have monitored
people's opinions about government spending in ten major areas,
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 171

including cities, education, health, defense, space, foreign aid, and

crime. They have been asked if "too much" or "too little" has been
spent on those, or if spending has been "just about right." Over that
decade, crime has had the most support for more spending. It has
consistently been "number one" on the list of issues on which it is
thought the government (presumably local) spends too little. Support
for spending on crime has also been the most unwavering of the list;
while public enthusiasm for other issues has waxed and waned
(defense is now waxing, and the environment is waning), the
proportion thinking that government does not spend enough on
crime has remained constant at about 70%.
While most Americans say they want government to do more
about crime, it is not clear that their beliefs about the problem have
many implications for their own lives. Research on general beliefs
about crime indicates by and large that they have few roots in
experience, and are not related to individual behavior. Beliefs about
crime are not related in any impressive way to the victimization
experiences of individuals; at most, they vary a few percentage points
between victims and non-victims (Hindelang et al., 1978). Nor are
general beliefs strongly linked to indicators of how vulnerable people
are to attack, or to other attitudes they hold (Tyler, 1980). In fact, it
is residents of low-crime neighborhoods who are most likely to place
crime high on their agenda for public action (Furstenberg, 1971). As
a rule, people overestimate its frequency and overvalue its serious-
General beliefs about crime are related to media exposure. Re-
search in other areas indicate print and electronic media play an
important role in shaping popular beliefs about the nature of social
problems and the possibilities for public policy. Several studies
indicate media exposure, but not personal experience or vulnerabil-
ity, shapes beliefs about the volume of crime in America. Yet such
beliefs seem to be unrelated to what people do about crime. Behavior
is more rooted in experience and assessments of one's personal risk of
victimization, which also are unrelated to general beliefs about crime
(Tyler, 1980).

Assessments of Risk

Unlike many beliefs about crime, assessments of risk are personal

and concrete, and related to behavior. They are judgements people
172 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

make about how much crime problems threaten them. While beliefs
about crime trends and their causes can be abstract and are often
unrelated to experience, assessments of risk are evaluations of the
reality of the threat of crime. They may not be entirely accurate, but
they are how people read their immediate environment.
Most evaluations of how people perceive risk gauge "how likely"
they think a particular crime will strike them or their household.
Alternately, people can be quizzed about the likelihood some
particular consequences of crime will occur, such as being killed or
injured. Studies indicate these estimates are relatively accurate when
risks of various sorts are evaluated comparatively (Green, 1980).
Research on assessments of risk also indicates those judgements are
related to - although not completely determined by - the "officially
announced" level of crime and people's perceptions of how much
crime there is around them.
One study of the relationship between perceived risk and official
rates of crime is summarized in Table 8.1. In a survey of the Chicago
metropolitan area (Lavrakas, 1980), respondents were asked how
likely it was they would be victimized by three types of crime "in the
next couple of years." Table 8.1 links their responses for each type of
crime to comparable official crime rates (per 100000 residents) for
their suburban municipality or city community area. Perceptions of
the risk of personal crime are particularly strongly linked to police
figures on the incidence of crime in each area. The officially
announced risk of burglary is less closely linked to declining per-
ceived risk.
The relationship between perceived and officially recognized risk
of victimization is independent of such individual-level factors as sex,
age, race, or income. Official crime rates for areas were related to
personal estimates of risk in quite consistent fashion, even when
those individual attributes were taken into account. These estimates
of risk seem to be rooted in the reality of community conditions.
Other studies confirm that individual estimates of the probability of
being victimized are linked to local crime rates and to victimization
rates measured independently, via surveys. Perceived risks are higher
among blacks and latins, the poor, and center-city residents (Lavra-
kas, 1980). They are also higher among people who have had direct
personal experience with crime - victims - and those who have
reported personal contact with others who have been victimized. The
latter is a form of indirect or vicarious experience with crime with
many significant consequences for perceptions of crime. Further,
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 173

TABLE 8.1 Assessments of risk and official police reports of crime

Perceived risk Official crime rate per 100000

of victimization Robbery Assault Burglary

very likely 582 350 1136

somewhat likely 337 264 1032
somewhat unlikely 220 180 1014
very unlikely 180 118 998

Based on random-digit dialing telephone survey of the Chicago metropolitan

area, 1979. For further information, see Lavrakas, 1980.
SOURCE Author's computations.

people who are more vulnerable to crime rate their risks of falling
victim higher than do others. Two strong correlates of perceived risk
are sex and age, with women and elderly (but see Lavrakas, 1980)
being more likely to report high levels of risk, even when controlling
for many other factors (Tyler, 1980). Both groups are (comparative-
ly) vulnerable to physical attack, more powerless to resist if they are
assaulted, and are exposed to more traumatic physical and emotional
consequences when they are attacked (Skogan and Maxfield, 1981).
One reason beliefs about how much crime there is are unrelated to
assessments of risk is that perceptions of the amount of crime are
unrelated to all of these factors. As indicated above, general beliefs
about crime seem to be shaped by the media, and not by personal or
indirect experience with crime, or even vulnerability to attack. On
the other hand, perceived risk is strongly related to these aspects of
people's lives, as well as to community crime and victimization rates.
All of this indicates assessments of risk of victimization reflect a
somewhat realistic reading of one's environment, which may explain
why perceptions of risk - but not beliefs about crime - are related to
individual behavior.
It is important to note that people's reports of perceived risk
probably have some assessments of their own behavior, as well as
readings of environmental conditions, factored into them. That is,
people who are actively doing things to protect themselves from
victimization seem to perceive somewhat lower levels of personal risk
as a result. When measures of neighborhood crime rates or people's
174 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

perceptions of the level of crime in their neighborhood are compared

to their self-assessed level of risk, the discrepancy between the two
(higher crime but lower risk) is greatest for those who report limiting
their exposure to risk. Personal vulnerability, environmental condi-
tions, and behavior, all are important factors shaping these assess-

Threat of Crime

If popular beliefs about crime and people's assessments of their risk

of falling victim are cognitive and evaluative components of their
perceptions of victimization, then fear of victimization is the affective
or emotional dimension. It is both an expressed attitude and a
psychological state provoked by an immediate sense of personal risk.
While individuals hold beliefs about crime, they feel danger.
The physiological state of fear is triggered when we encounter
fear-provoking stimuli - perhaps a band of youths, or a dilapidated
street. These are learned associations with danger (Stinchcombe et
al., 1978). The physical manifestations of fear include a rapid heart
rate, narrowed field of vision, high blood pressure, enhanced reaction
time, an increased flow of blood to the large muscles, and endocrinal
changes such as the release of adrenalin in the blood stream. These
all prepare us for "fight or flight." They are autonomic, visceral
reactions over which we have little direct control (Baumer and
Rosenbaum, 1980).
Most survey measures of the fear of crime stand at a considerable
distance from these reactions. Public opinion polls ask people "how
afraid" they feel under certain conditions (like "walking in your
neighborhood at night"), or how worried they are about being
victimized. They obviously do not measure fear when it occurs, but
ask people to recall episodes of fear they have experienced, or which
they anticipate they would feel under selected conditions (Garofalo,
1980). They actually measure the perceived "threat" of crimes under
those hypothetical circumstances. Surveys also asked about levels of
crime in the area, or "how much of a problem" neighborhood crime
is, often by type of crime, to get a reading of perceived possible
The rather general way in which opinion polls measure threat, and
the great distance between verbal responses to those questions and
the immediate and acute emotional state they represent, have led
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 175

critics to challenge the validity of research on perceptions of crime.

The criticism has been cast in two ways. First, it is argued that
popular measures of the fear of crime in fact measure many things
besides people's reactions to the risk of crime itself. Second, critics
contend that the emotionalism of the issue clouds responses to the
questions, and treats the fear of crime as an irrational attitude
unrelated to the reality of crime.
People's expressions of fear have been attributed to a number of
conditions in addition to the direct and immediate threat of crime.
The concern about crime registered in opinion polls may be a
manifestation of other problems, including mounting interpersonal
distrust and suspicion, cynicism about the efficacy of authorities,
unhappiness about changing values, and anxiety about the future and
the course of social evolution. Fear may have as much to do with
anxiety about neighborhood change and the disruption of normal
routines as it does with crime (Garofalo and Laub, 1978). Fear levels
mount with city size, as do crime rates. However, because urban
dwellers have many reasons to evidence these other concerns, they
may as a result register high on measure of worry or unease about
crime. Finally, any discussion of the validity of fear-of-crime mea-
sures must confront the issue of race. It is widely argued that among
whites discussions of crime are in fact covert conversations about
their fear of black Americans, and that fear of crime in these
instances reflects racial intolerance.
Recent research has challenged these criticisms, however. It
indicates that perceptions of threat are largely independent of most of
those alternative interpretations of their meaning. In a national
survey, perceptions of threat were not linked to other forms of
mistrust, suspicion, and concern about change, and they were
uncorrelated with expressions of racial intolerance by whites. In-
stead, they were related to the threat of crime and of becoming a
victim. People who live in neighborhoods with crime and disorder
problems are more threatened than those from more placid com-
munities. Those who are victimized by personal crime feel more
threatened than do others, controlling for a host of alternative causes
of fear, and the more serious the victimization the greater the
perceived threat (Skogan and Maxfield, 1981). A number of studies
also indicate that perceived threat levels are higher in cities and
neighborhoods with higher official crime rates (Skogan and Maxfield,
1981; Skogan, 1977), as are assessments of risk.
176 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

Others have questioned the validity of expressions of fear because

they do not seem to square with the social distribution of victimiza-
tion. One of the most significant findings of crime-related surveys has
been the relatively low levels of victimization reported by women and
elderly, two groups which seemed to suffer from severe crime
problems (Antunes et al., 1977). They both report fairly low rates of
victimization, but at the same time express high level perceived threat
(Riger, 1981). This seeming paradox led some to question whether
fear of crime is indeed a rational response to crime at all.
Again, recent research has pointed to many sources of fear among
less victimized groups which seem "rational" indeed. Frequently they
fear the potential consequences of victimization rather than its sheer
frequency, and for women and the elderly those consequences are
likely to be more severe. Elderly victims face the possibility of never
recovering from physical injuries in their lifetime, while women face
the implicit threat of sexual assault in nearly every criminal encoun-
ter. Those groups are also physically more vulnerable to attack, less
able to resist young males who constitute the bulk of offenders.
Stories about crimes against the elderly and women are also promin-
ent in the media, and are widely discussed by neighbors when they
take place nearby. Those stories generate even more fear when they
reach people who are similar to the featured victims (Skogan and
Maxfield, 1981). Many criticisms which presume the irrationality of
perceptions of the threat of crime have been too narrowly focused on
the relationship between direct personal victimization and fear, and
have not paid attention to other sources of information and cues for
concern which should provoke heightened levels of perceived risk.
All of this suggests that the concern about crime registered in
public opinion polls can be taken at some degree of face value. When
people say they would be frightened, it reflects their experiences,
vulnerability, conditions around them, and information which comes
to them about crimes and victims.
It is important to note that "crime" needs to be broadly conceptual-
ized to fully encompass the range of experiences which seem to stir
the blood of ordinary citizens. Some measures of threat ask about
levels of serious crime in the neighborhood - rape, robbery, and
burglary. However, another important class of threatening environ-
mental conditions are important as well, those "incivilities" (Lewis
and Salem, 1980) which threaten what Wilson (1968) called "the right
and seemly standards" of community life. These often involve
troublesome conditions which the police do not take seriously (or,
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 177

more likely, have given up on), including the presence of loitering

bands of youths, public drinking, street solicitation, visible grafitti
and vandalism and the presence of abandoned buildings. Surveys
indicate that incivilities have important implications for fear of crime
(Fowler and Mangione, 1981), perceptions of risk and satisfaction
with neighborhood safety (Taub, Taylor and Dunham, 1981), com-
munity organization (Lewis and Maxfield, 1980), and individual and
household protective measures (Skogan and Maxfield, 1981).



As the previous section indicated, there has been a great deal of

descriptive research on levels of fear of crime, variously conceptual-
ized. While fear of crime alone is a legitimate focus for research and
policy, perhaps its greatest significance is to be found in its implica-
tions for behavior.
At one extreme, individuals may be "prisoners of fear," locking
themselves away behind steel doors and barred windows. At the
other they may become activists, banding together with neighbors to
prevent crime by taking aggressive steps to challenge strangers,
intervene when they observe suspicious circumstances, and act to
reduce opportunities for crime. Some research has been conducted
and a great deal of money has been spent by the government in an
effort to encourage the latter, which some would characterize as
"public minded" rather than "private minded" behavior (Lavrakas,
1980). Large numbers of people find their lives touched by crime in
some noticeable way. The Census Bureau's surveys in the mid-1970s
found between 35% and 56% of adults "limited or changed activities"
because of crime, depending upon the city involved (Garofalo, 1977).
A recent national survey found more than two-thirds of Americans
reported doing something to prevent crime (Mendelsohn et al.,
However, the relationship between what people think and do about
crime is problematic. The things individuals can do in response to
crime range from passive withdrawal through aggressive communal
action to eventual flight from the jurisdiction. They at the same time
express a variety of beliefs about the nature of the crime problem and
the threat it possess and feel the emotional impact of crime.
178 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

However, there is not a simple, one-to-one relationship between the

two. As extensive reviews of the research literature on this issue
indicate (Skogan, 1981; DuBow, 1979), we cannot assume that
beliefs, assessments of risk, or perceived threat of victimization
propel people to action in some mechanical fashion. What I have
called beliefs about crime seem in particular to be unrelated to
experience or subsequent behavior. Most forms of household be-
havior are adopted more frequently by those enjoying lower rates of
victimization and living in more secure neighborhoods. Community
organizers frequently find it most difficult to mobilize those living in
high-crime areas. Whites and the well-to-do in cities generally report
the fewest problems with crime and fear, but they are still the most
likely to move to the suburbs.
In the face of these paradoxes, researchers have advanced a
number of explanations of individual reactions to crime which seem
"closer to the data." These explanations can be thought of as
"models" of behavior, because they take the form of simplified
sketches of theories about the relation between perceptions and
action. This section reviews four models of crime-related behavior
which do not assume a simple relation between perception and
action. The testing of these models - and developing new ones -
appears to me to lie at the top of the research agenda on "fear of

Conflicting Sociological Models

Sociologists have advanced two prominent theories of the rela-

tionship between the threat of crime (in the language used here, risk
and fear) and what people do in response. One theory emphasizes the
positive effects of crime, the other its negative consequences.
The first theory, that of the French Sociologist Emile Durkheim,
argues crime has an integrative function. In this view, crime shocks
the sentiments of ordinary people by threatening their life, property,
and views of appropriate behavior. The affront leads them to act
individually - and more important, collectively - to "do something."
This effort increases community solidarity and morale, and streng-
thens the informal social control exercised (in part through crime
prevention) by the collectivity (Conklin, 1975).
Another view, in opposition to Durkheim (see Lewis, 1979), is that
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 179

crime erodes the capacity of communities to exercise social control.

According to Conklin (1975), the key is that fear of crime generates
insecurity, suspicion, and withdrawal from community affairs. In
high-crime areas, residents lose confidence in the capacity of formal
authorities to assist them, and develop a negative view of their own
neighborhood. Interaction with their neighbors drops off, as does
participation in the collective life of the area. Community facilities
stand empty. As a result, the community is even less capable than
before of exercising control over juveniles and strangers there.
Unlike Durkheim, Conklin emphasizes the negative consequences of
crime. In his view, personal precautions (and if possible, flight) will
be the predominant reaction to crime in high-fear communities, while
household and collective efforts will dwindle in the face of increasing
Of the two models, empirical research seems to favor Conklin.
Precautions such as staying home, exercising great caution on the
street, and avoiding strangers predominate in higher-crime urban
areas. Participants in community organizations and anti-crime prog-
rams are less fearful than nonparticipants. Household crime-
prevention efforts and community participation are greatly encour-
aged by having substantial economic stakes in the community, and
both are more frequent in cohesive, low-crime areas. These data
seem more consistent with the view that crime is incapacitating, not a
motivating force behind positive responses to the problem.
However, none of this research has taken seriously the collective,
community-level elements of these theories. For example, Dur-
kheim's functional view implies that crime's shock to community
sentiments reduces the dispersion of attitudes or norms about be-
havior, thus "pulling the community together" more tightly. Crime,
by clarifying what actions lie outside the bounds of acceptable
behavior, reaffirms the collectivity'S central norms and draw clearer
boundary lines around their perimeter. Action is facilitated by this
consensus, at whatever degree of tolerance it is struck. This hypoth-
esis is not well tested by (say) examining the individual-level rela-
tionship between fear and participation or intervention. Rather, we
want to know: are individuals more likely to intervene in communi-
ties united in their normative view? Does a lack of normative
consensus (measured, perhaps, by its variance) inhibit public-minded
action or collective organizing efforts. Testing these formulations of
the problem requires data aggregated at the community level as well
as individual reports of behavior.
180 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

The Utilitarian Model

Utilitarian models of behavior of all kinds stress that actions have

costs as well as potential benefits. Thus, there is no such thing as
cost-free crime avoidance. As Green (1980: 277) put it:

Pragmatically, what is really of interest is how people will behave

in relation to some level of risk. We may want to know, for
example, how much people would be willing to pay for some
decrease in risk.

From this point of view, people strike an optimum balance

between the risks they face and the cost of reducing them any further.
That point is their level of "acceptable risk." This model of behavior
also is called "economic" because it assumes a more-or-Iess rational
cost-benefit analysis on the part of individuals.
Of course, the cost side of this analysis of behavior should take a
broad view as to how they are measured, but some of the costs of
avoiding crime are direct and financial. Furstenberg's (1972) original
typology of crime-prevention behavior categorized together tactics
that needed money to be carried out, and he found higher-income
people were more likely to adopt them. Recently, I priced a full
"security package" of hardware items in the Sears and Roebuck
Spring/Summer Catalog, including front and back steel security
doors, a burglar alarm, good quality door locks, and other interior
and exterior equipment. Together with shipping, but exclusive of tax
and installation charges, this order would cost almost $900.00.
Householders who are not particularly handy would find the one-time
cost of a full security package a very substantial investment. And if
they desired to purchase special household theft insurance, it would
set them back about an additional $100.00 every year. A handgun for
the home would be extra.
In addition, there may be other direct costs attendant to risk
reduction. For example, people may be driven to give up jobs or
abandon investments in higher-crime areas, or to pay more in travel
costs to go shopping in the suburbs, because they are unwilling to
bear the level of risk they see attached to lower-cost options.

What economists label opportunity costs for feeling safe probably

are far greater economic burdens of crime for these citizens than
the direct cost of victimization (Biderman et al., 1967).
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 181

There are a host of non-dollar costs that people may be forced to

pay in order to reduce their risk of victimization. Economists would
label them the "externalities" of crime prevention. Some of these are
social. In high-risk areas, isolation and withdrawal may be the most
effective way to avoid personal victimization. People may avoid
parks, playgrounds, the downtown, and community facilities because
they perceive the risks of crime there to be too high. Young singles
may fear to visit the nightclub district, while the elderly may avoid
public transit even if it is their only transportation option. There are
also psychological costs to be paid for acting to forestall victimization.
Staying at home, installing steel doors, avoiding the neighbors, and
other behavioral restrictions may impose undue restrictions on our
freedom of movement. Buying a gun may be an affront to other
values. In the end,

There will come a point where any further increase in the safety of
a situation means going without so many other things that an
increase in safety is not worth having. Ultimately the value of any
increase in safety is a value judgement ... (Green, 1980:284).

However we account for the costs, the utilitarian model has people
choosing one position or another on a curve relating cost and risk.
Those without much money, or with a taste for higher levels of risk -
such as young people - might position themselves on the higher-risk,
lower-cost end of the curve linking the two. People with vested
interests to protect, whose social lives are not severely impacted by
staying close to home, or who have the wherewithal to remove to the
suburbs, might locate themselves at a higher-cost, lower-risk posi-
tion. Living in a city as opposed to rural areas would have the effect
of shifting the entire curve; in cities, higher levels of risk go with
similar investments in security.
There is evidence supporting this view of crime-related behavior.
For example, fewer people install burglar alarms, window bars, or
outdoor lights (high-cost items) than routinely ask their neighbors to
watch their home when it is empty. The most frequently purchased
piece of household anti-crime hardware is the indoor light timer,
costs less than $8.00 (Lavrakas, 1980). Furstenberg'S (1972) finding
that higher-income households are most likely to undertake higher-
cost tactics is consistent with the economic argument. So is the higher
frequency of household protection efforts by homeowning, upper-
income whites who face lower objective and self-assessed risks of
182 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

victimization (Skogan and Maxfield, 1981). Perhaps the greatest

contribution of this mode of thinking is its message that researchers
should examine more carefully the behavior side of the perception-
and-behavior linkage, and consider both the potential benefits and
tangential, "external" effects in light of their costs.

A Psychological Model

"Rational-cognitive" psychological theories about human behavior

emphasize people's experience, information-processing capacities,
view of causation, and beliefs about responsibility for conditions and
events. In this tradition, perhaps the predominant model of indi-
vidual "prevention" behavior is that advanced by Irwin Rosenstock
(1966), the "Health-Belief Model" (HBM). The HBM stresses the
importance of three factors in explaining why people act to protect
themselves, in predicting who will and will not do so, and in designing
interventions to encourage them to do so more frequently. Those
factors are risk, seriousness, and efficacy (Lavrakas, 1980). Being
psychologists, advocates of the HBM focus upon perceptions of those
elements of one's environment and alternatives, but others have
found those perceptions to be rooted in reality (Green, 1980).
The first components of the HBM is one's perceived probability of
being struck, infected, or visited by some threatening condition or
event. In disease studies, this likelihood of infection is labeled
"susceptibility," while for our purposes it is the perceived risk of
The second component of the HBM is the perceived severity of a
threatening condition or event. The common cold and umbrella theft
differ in anticipated impact from heart disease and armed robbery,
and this makes a difference in how stimulating they are.
Together, the probability of the threat and its potential seriousness
constitute "readiness to take action" in the HBM (Mendelsohn et al.,
1981). Actions themselves are evaluated in terms of their efficacy.
Not surprisingly, the HBM postulates that people will be more likely
to take an action if they think it has a high likelihood of actually
preventing or reducing a problem, and if it seems at all feasible to
take it. Note this is a hypothesis about statistical interaction, predict-
ing step-level shifts in levels of protective behavior among those in
the "high-high" subgroup on these measures.
In sum, the HBM is a rational-cognitive model of individual
decisionmaking about behavior. It hypothesizes that people are
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 183

motivated to act by a desire to lower their risk in the face of

potentially severe consequences, when they think it is likely to work.
The HBM is a powerful model of prevention behavior. In a
national survey, Mendelsohn et al. (1981) found a component of the
model - perceived vulnerability - to be the "one factor above all
others" explaining the number and frequency of individual crime-
prevention actions. It was a particularly strong predictor of taking
precautions against personal crime. Lavrakas (1980) also found both
risk, seriousness, and efficacy to be related to individual behavioral
restrictions. Both studies revealed that beliefs about the efficacy of
proposed actions were good predictors of their being taken and
repeated frequently. In Mendelsohn's survey, efficacy beliefs ("how
likely is it to work") were particularly strong correlates of individual
precautions, while Lavrakas found efficacy beliefs (but not risk and
seriousness) to be very strongly linked to household protection.
There are a number of variations on the basic HBM. For example,
evaluations of prevention campaigns usually investigate the effect of
"cues to action" as well. These include the message, treatments, or
shocks which were intended to trigger particular prevention efforts.
Mendelsohn's survey was undertaken to evaluate a federally financed
media campaign encouraging people to "Take a Bite Out of Crime."
Other studies may take into account "barriers to action." These are
constraints or limitations which affect the feasibility of particular
tactics, or which bar them completely. In the case of crime preven-
tion, these might include renting rather than owning one's residence,
limits on what can be spent for risk reduction, or role demands - such
as having a night-shift job - which force people to expose themselves
to what even they feel to be high-risk situations.
A great theoretical contribution of the HBM is its emphasis on the
efficacy of anti-crime efforts. This is particularly important in light of
our very limited knowledge of what actually works in the area of
crime prevention. Mendelsohn and his colleagues emphasize the
responsibility crime-prevention specialists have for not overselling
their recommendations. People seemingly will not act unless they
believe there will be concrete benefits to be gained, but they also will
not be fooled for long if those benefits are not forthcoming.

Opportunity Theory

The problematic relationship between what people think and feel

about crime and what they do about the issue can also be seen as a
184 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

political problem. In this view, what people can do about crime is

shaped in considerable degree by the structure of opportunity which
confronts them. This constitutes a framework which opens or fore-
closes various possibilities for action. Opportunities for action are
shaped by the options made available to people in the form of
proximity to services, their physical surroundings, employment possi-
bilities, school quality, access to transportation, and capacity to pay
for private-market products as well as to qualify for public sector
goods and services. The distribution of these opportunities in society
is determined in the largest sense by politics.
Where the structure of opportunity confronting them is limited,
people have more difficulty acting on the basis of their values. No one
wants to face a crime problem in his or her neighborhood, but some
are more successful than others in getting their wishes. The poor
living in high-crime areas fear for their safety, hope neighborhood
toughs will not harass them, want safe public transit, and need better
police protection. Their problem, from this point of view, is that they
often do not have the political, economic, and institutional capacity
to achieve their goals.
City dwellers also want safer homes. They want stronger doors,
working security arrangements, and most of the hardware package
detailed above. But those with the greatest crime problems are very
frequently renters rather than homeowners. Control of one's living
space is an important prerequisite for making such improvements, in
the absence of strong building codes specifying security standards for
rental housing.
People in problem-plagued neighborhoods find it difficult to band
together in common action against their problems. Frequently those
neighborhoods experience tremendous residential turnover each
year, those who live there are poor, and many families are headed by
only one adult. In the absence of professional leadership it is very
hard to sustain community organizations in such an environment.
However, it is neighborhoods like these which also cannot afford to
support on their own a paid organizational infrastructure to guide an
attack on local problems.
The opportunities - options, environment, and resources - that
people have are thus an important force in shaping individual and
household reactions to crime. Some seemingly blocked opportunities
can be reopened by industry, intelligence, political action, and luck,
but others can seem insurmountable when viewed as a practical
problem. The reactions to crime which are most frequently reported
Fear of Crime & Its Behavioral Implications 185

by the poor are the cheapest and most individualized - staying at

home, closely restricting their behavior, and avoiding victimization.
These also may be the most costly options in terms of their impact on
individual morale and neighborhood cohesion. An important mes-
sage of the opportunity model of behavior is that social-structural
factors surrounding individuals affect the relationship between what
they want and what they get, since what they get may not always be
what they need.


In this chapter, I argued there is a problematic relationship between

how people perceive crime and their reactions to it. This seeming
paradox hinges in part on how those perceptions of crime are
conceptualized. Many of the beliefs individuals hold about crime
appear unrelated to their behavior. The more general and impersonal
those beliefs, the less rooted they are in experience and the condi-
tions which surround people. General beliefs about crime are shaped
by the media and the value-and-belief "filters" which organize our
thoughts about things for which we have little personal "data." On
the other hand, assessments of their risk of victimization are more
strongly linked to people's reports of what they do about crime.
There is some evidence that those estimates are rooted in neighbor-
hood conditions as well as the personal vulnerability of individuals to
attack. Most surveys indicate that measures of fear of crime are
particularly strong correlates of things people do to protect them-
selves from personal victimization.
The relationship between perception and behavior also becomes
clearer when we examine alternative models of how the two might be
linked. Except for Durkheim's "naive sociological model," none of
them assumed a simple fit between perception and action. Conklin's
alternative to Durkheim stressed how perceived risk and fear make it
more difficult for people to do much beyond withdraw from the
community. Of the four categories of reactions to crime that we have
reviewed here, only individual precautionary tactics seem to be
directly encouraged by fear. The utilitarian model of behavior
stresses their costs, and points out that individuals endure risks at
some acceptable level which take those costs into account. We should
not assume that people are always trying to reduce their risks, even if
they perceive them to be relatively high. The health belief model also
186 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

emphasized how features of possible countermeasures shape how

frequently those who are exposed to risk adopt them. The perceived
efficacy and feasibility of various tactics are part of the perception-
behavior calculus. Finally, the opportunity model pointed out that
fear and perceived risk may shape what psychologists would call
behavior intentions, but that a number of real-world constraints
inhibit the capacity of people to act on their predispositions. People
may not get what they want, especially in high-crime neighborhoods.


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(Chicago, Ill.: National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago).
188 On Risks of & Response to Criminal Victimization

Taub, R. P., and Taylor, D. G., and Dunham, J. D. (1981), "Neighborhoods

and Safety," in D. Lewis (ed.) Reactions to Crime (Beverly Hills, Calif.:
Sage) pp. 103-22.
Tyler, T. R. (1980), "Impact of Directly and Indirectly Experienced Events:
the Origin of Crime-Related Judgements and Behaviors," Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 39, 13-28.
Wilson, J. Q. (1968), "The Urban Unease: Community versus the City," The
Public Interest, vol. 12 (Summer) 25-39.
Part IV
On Victims and the Criminal
Justice System
9 Victims of Crime in the
Criminal Justice System

Practically no subject in either criminal or civil law is so fraught with

emotion and polemics as that of victims of crime. The idea of being a
victim goes to the heart of our social assumptions about moral values,
our political judgement about how to treat perceived aggression
against law and order, and perhaps most importantly, our individual
sensibilities with respect to the experience of being victimized.
Regardless of the perspective from which we approach the broad
subject of victimology, be it political, social, ethical or individual,
there is a set of assumptions which have affected individual judge-
ment and social policy. The degree to which these latter two have
often been confused in this area has further complicated an already
complex terrain of values, prejudices and unclear policy options. The
difficulty with victimology is that having committed ourselves to what
we might term motherhood assumptions, namely that it is right to
punish aggressors and protect the rights of victims, we thereafter find
ourselves identified with other assumptions, such as the ethical
criteria according to which we punish aggressors and advance
theories about victims' rights in the criminal justice system - ideas
which we are, in short, less clear about and recognize as leading in
directions where for reasons either of ethics or pragmatics we are not
comfortable in pursuing.
Not all victims look alike as far as our ethical sensibility is
concerned. Our assessment of which victims deserve rights, general
to all victims in the criminal justice system, or rights specific to a
sub-category of victims, cannot be safely addressed unless we are
prepared to differentiate the sorts of victims who enter the criminal
justice system, and then explore further the relationship that these
categories of victims have, if any, with victims who choose to redress

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
192 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

their wrongs through the civil law system. This requires us to

investigate the working conceptual structures of criminal and civil
law, for the integrity of victims' claims can only be illuminated by
justifying their entitlements via the integrity of the legal doctrines
through which these claims are properly connected. To advance
victims' claims without an existing legal apparatus may be to stir our
sense of virtue or propriety or even to convey feelings which are
deeply rooted in public sentiment. But somehow, there must be a
regrouping of forces on the back, so to speak, of legal remedy, lest
our interest in victims be reduced to a matter of populist political
support, or worse, punitive social resentment directed against specific
groups of aggressors or victims. This is an area which demands that
we inform rhetoric with well-substantiated legal principles and
theory. If we are unsuccessful in this venture then at least we will
have clarified the limits of our concepts. To do that should instruct us
about the avenues left available to us to improve or clarify our legal
concepts in order to address documented wrongs around which there
is an acknowledged popular consensus demanding legal redress in
favor of victims.
It is difficult to speak at a high level of generalization about
something as amorphous as the legal system. For it, as we well know,
is comprised of many actors - judges, advocates, academicians,
students, and not the least, ghosts from the past, our legal precedents
and historical values. It is not an easy task to allow the law itself to
speak out for or against victims in the criminal justice system. That is
so because in practice and theory, the legal system in its diverse forms
gives us many mixed messages about who the rightful victims are;
again, the message depends on where we have placed victims in time
and space, and the level of abstraction at which we are operating.
One thing is for certain, and that is that the lega] systems are a
protector of legislated values and, in our particular legal system,
which is based on a laissez-faire ethic, we have not always been
consistent nor indeed even committed to protecting the foolish and
the weak. Citizens are presumed to take realistic chances in their
human activities. In administering this laissez-faire model our legal
system has distinguished, though, between losers and victims. The
assumption is that when parties of relatively equal power-positions as
citizens or institutions enter into relationships, each is deemed to
have made calculations about the outcome of these relationships; the
wins and losses of the system are built upon these calculations and are
protected, for example, by the law of contract. One of the major
values permeating this model, affecting the core of contract, tort and
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 193

crime, is that of consent. The legal system assumes the freedom of

citizens to act autonomously and reasonably and seeks to ensure that
there are no serious compromises encroaching on the privity of
human action.
We are led to believe that a person has been victimized when his
capacity for autonomous and reasonable action has been degraded or
severely frustrated. This is so because at such points it is our
perception that a person has been made to feel or can be objectively
seen as placed in a position which disallows him to behave humanly,
with respect, that is, to effecting voluntary acts and directing a
conscious will. This perception can be applied to any human act and
particularly to the phenomenon of victimization. In my view the
experience of being victimized, simply put, is to be treated without
the respect that we assume to be part of the working principles of
daily human relationships which find protection in law. This is
accentuated in cases where it can be shown that the persons who have
been victimized did not have the normal adult human capacities for
independent judgement in the first place.
The celebrated English choirmaster case of the 1920s illustrates
paradigmatically how the criminal justice system deals with the
specially vulnerable victim. This notorious choirmaster has seduced
his pupil, young Mary, pleading all the while that he was, in the name
of God and blessed by her parents, cleaning her airpipe in order to
improve her singing voice. As many of us have instructed generations
of law students, the choirmaster was sentenced to seven years of
penal servitude. The logic of the law here is straightforward. Mary
had not meaningfully consented to the act in question. This incapac-
ity with respect to understanding the scope and nature of the act
draws the line in law for independent as opposed to vulnerable or
victimized human action. It is a well-worked valuation in the legal
system that we are not prepared to allow misrepresentation or
extreme duress to be defended despite our extensive commitment to
a laissez-faire ideology. One might say that the legal system has a
"deep structure" valuation that autonomy will be presumed, but that
in cases where it can be proven that human independence does not
exist and has been exploited or manipulated to the detriment of the
parties, such parties shall be properly regarded as victims and thereby
will be protected by criminal sanction.
The difficulty, however, in the criminal justice system is that there
are hosts of examples which are not of the simple garden variety of
Mary and the choirmaster; that is, where the actors in question may
be hybrids of aggressor and victim and where the relationship
194 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

between the parties may involve political issues, conflicting social

values, and psychological dimensions which are not easily resolvable.
What do cases such as Gandhi's treatment at the hands of the British,
the impact of white man's civilization on indigenous populations, the
handling of provincial or municipal interests by federal government
authority, or the criminal law's treatment of sexual offenders and
their victims, have in common with a child's victimization by an adult
in a superior power position? Even in the case of Mary we ought not
to be overly self-assured in the one-sidedness of the victimization.
The clearer moral and legal paradigm would be in the victimization of
children by the Nazis. There could be no doubt that children who
were the object of a genocidal plan were innocent victims. Mary,
though, in the blossom of mid-adolescence may in her interaction
with her instructor have led him in the temptation of innocence to his
doom. We know enough now from the data produced by social
science research that fields such as pedophilia and incest are much
better understood in the framework of interactionist models rather
than seen through the telescope of a cowboys-and-Indians universe,
made up solely of aggressors and victims.
We sometimes make the connection between victimization and
passivity, but this must be explored lest we make the mistake of
associating passivity with ineffectiveness or weakness. Gandhi had a
philosophy of passive resistance which, in raising the level of
consciousness of both his co-actors and those of the British author-
ities, led to a displacement of moral authority such that the victim
became the victor. To be a victim though in these circumstances
requires careful exploration. It would be odd to say that Gandhi and
his colleagues thought of themselves as victims. Certainly, they did
not perceive themselves as passive in the sense of lacking a strong
moral or political persona. Their strategy was one of passivity, but
their self-concept was one of persistent action and consciousness
raising. World opinion on the question was stimulated initially by
newsreels fanning the flames of emotion by showing Gandhi and the
Indian people as victims of colonialism. Presumably, the perception
of their victimization dissolved with the declaration of the independ-
ence of the Indian state, or possibly at the earlier point when it
became the public view that Gandhi was winning the battle. This
could have occurred when he famously directed the plan to confront
the "salt works," which symbolized colonial domination. In the
closing of the salt works the Indian workers laid themselves open to
the repeated bombardment of the English billy sticks to the point
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 195

where their oppressors were overcome with ineffectiveness, the

inability to control the situation. Can we say that at the precise
moment this occurred they had become victims of Gandhi's plan? Or
would that be to distort our ordinary understanding of what it means
to victimize another? Probably, it would be a distortion, because it
was Gandhi's intent to educate the British to acknowledge the human
presence of those whom they were disciplining. Once this conscious-
ness came into play, if we are to turn to ethical phrasing, the Indians
were treated as ethical subjects, as ends, not as means, as persons
capable of determining their moral and political destiny. This was a
turning point in the history of colonialism. This experience has a vast
universal allure because it teaches us about the power of moral
recognition of other persons. It would be a perversion of the meaning
of victimization to apply the term to the defeat of wrong behavior by
the forces of Good. To operate with moral authority and for the other
party in conflict to recognize this is to elevate the condition of the
parties to the point where victimization is an irrelevant and mislead-
ing attribute. For at its heart, victimization means that the autonomy
and moral person has been robbed and denigrated. Victimization,
therefore, is part and parcel of the experience of being dehumanized,
in the deepest sense of the word.
Persons who have the incapacity to respond to the human quality
of others suffer from a moral lacuna which we sometimes identify
with psychopathy. This defect of moral perception and emotion
leaves the aggressor with the icy emptiness of being unable to relate
to the person or persons who are, or feel, maltreated. Modern clinical
psychiatry persistently tells us that a disproportionately large number
of deviant criminals in our society have this particular lacuna, the
inability to experience what the other side is feeling, a disengagement
of the human self from the objects of their victimizing behaviors.
Unfortunately, the history of our western political and legal
systems similarly suffers from what we might call the "syndrome of
the psychopathic lacuna." By logic, if not by overt criminal act, and
without proper justification, legal and political systems have defined
certain persons or groups as being subhuman: that is, as lacking the
capacity to form independent judgements and relationships. Such
decisions quickly lead to the treatment of such persons in unaccept-
able and demeaning fashions. Oddly enough, on occasion, to begin
by thinking of a person as a victim by definition can lead to
specifically demeaning behavior as well. To identify certain persons
or groups as victims may be to define them as subhuman in some
196 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

sense, legally or politically. For it may be to assume all too swiftly

that such persons should be treated as objects of our guardianship,
rather than as autonomous human beings. The benevolence move-
ments of previous centuries, which treated the poor, prisoners, and
mental patients as tarnished, malformed, imperfect humans in the
name of religion and science, transported these individuals out of the
arena where their moral autonomy might otherwise have flourished.
Latterly, rehabilitation has as a pseudo-science and moral philosophy
served the exact same purpose, to make society responsible for the
tarnished individual and, in so doing, render him ineffective in the
general scheme of social and political willing, the normal acts of being
human. The victimization thus is a double-edged sword which, on the
one side, is the act of violating the moral autonomy of another, while
on the other side, curiously, it makes out of the person, an ineffectual
submissive object of our benevolence. Our aim in understanding the
phenomenon of victimization should be to locate those instances in
the history of theory and practice in the criminal justice system where
aggressors have victimized and victims have thereafter or concurrent-
ly been victimized doubly by the official guardians, be they theolo-
gians, philosophers, or the criminal justice system, itself.
The treatement of woman in the history of the criminal justice
system is exemplary in this regard. In the past decade, we have
witnessed vociferous debates about the position of woman in the
context of political power and entitlement to legal rights. The
feminist movement has confronted the political imagination of the
twentieth century with strong demands, placed on political and legal
systems almost everywhere in the world, for increased recognition of
the independence of women, as well as with the assertion that
political and legal systems must relinquish the notion of female
dependency and servitude. Critical observers in many different areas
of the criminal justice system, family law, and labor relations,
continue to argue that women are victimized by disproportionate
power being vested in males, as well as by legal doctrine, more
explicitly, which has made woman a victim of a male-dominated legal
To begin to uncover the source of these allegations and commen-
taries we must turn away from our immediate controversies about
rape law and the like, to the historical origin of the legal system's
definition of woman, and then return to the contemporary issues.
One hopes that our theory of victimization will thereby be more fully
clarified. It is my view that in doing that, we will isolate the problem
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 197

of victimization as once again being one of definition; that is, of

compromising the person's moral autonomy and, thereby, legal and
political effectiveness.
The theoretical basis for legal rules is at the best of times highly
illusive, insofar as we are often unaware of precisely how legal rules
have evolved over time. Some portion, perhaps even a substantial
part of our criminal justice system, can be distilled according to
general principles only with the benefit of hindsight. Rules are often
the result of historical accident, pressures which we might deem
extra-legal, or the working out of values which are transient,
inconsistent or even outright contradictory. There may be a spider's
weave of perfect legal logic in the criminal justice system, but, to
date, this would appear to have escaped the attention of even our
bravest abstractionists. Nevertheless, there are some overriding
themes, almost of archetypal fortitude, which have directed western
legal systems in framing specific legal rules. Such, I would argue, is
the case with the victimization of woman in the history of our criminal
justice systems, and bearing in mind the aforementioned double-
edged sword, with the additional phenomenon of once declaring her
a victim, victimizing her with our collective benevolence.
The archetypal nature of the world view to which I refer is that of
patriarchy. Western legal systems have rather consistently, for a
period of two and a half thousand years, demonstrated a remarkable
passion for presenting a "legal mythos" for justifying the flawed
nature of woman, that is, of defining her as a flawed male, in the
sense that her rationality, the quintessence of which is maleness, is
compromised by femaleness, which is a state of being unable to think
rationally and therefore legally. In the very origins of western legal
culture, whether in the patriarchy of Old Testament Judaism or in the
founding fathers of western legal philosophy in Athenian Greece,
woman is sub-male - that is, inferior to the spirit of maleness which is
given the respect of God, reason, and the law. Woman is seen as
unable to receive the blessing of patriarch, prophecy and citizenship,
whether in Jerusalem, Athens or Rome. In all ancient places of high
culture, theocratic or civil, woman by definition was rendered a
second class or non-citizen. Her autonomy, in short, as a moral
being, was put into question. In this way she was victimized.
Recognizing her as a victim was to victimize her doubly, to pity her
and protect her from her tempestuous and irrational persona.
Beguiling Eve is the mainstay of our western psyche.
The perceived inferiority of woman was seized upon by the
198 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

tradition of high philosophy and theological discourses which pre-

sented theories to substantiate specific laws in both the criminal and
civil law. As history unfolded, the institutions of church, state and
law maintained the power of man over woman almost unceasingly.
Throughout the centuries, woman was considered unfit to perform
the priestly functions, to receive the divine blessing for rulership and
to serve as judge and advocate. It seems no accident, when we look
closely at the history of western philosophical and legal thinking, that
woman found her proper place as having less entitlement within the
legal system than males, given her inherent inferiority, justified and
explained on the basis of reason. When we look at the patriarchs of
the Old Testament, the early church fathers, the Roman legal system
which became the model of law for the western world, the metaph-
ysical philosophers, both religious and secular, and even the utilita-
rian reformers of the last century, it is remarkable how rationality has
been associated with maleness, and the law viewed as the property of
It is problematic in western legal theory and practice how legal
logic became bonded with maleness. We can, however, postulate
how the general trends emerged. The first major western legal theory
was that of natural law, which originated during the classical Greek
period. This theory held that the laws of the universe are discoverable
by the use of reason, and through reason one can arrive at an
understanding of first principles. Implicit in this theory is that those
who have the greatest claim to rationality have the greatest claim to
power. The ideal statement of this principle is that "all men are born
equal." The criterion, though, for determining equality was a capac-
ity for rational thought. As women were deemed to be deficient in
rationality, they, by the design of nature, had a lesser claim to
property or citizenship, that is, to effective political power. Once they
were victimized by the theory it was an easy step to then declare them
objects of property themselves, which, like other chattels, slaves or
children, had to be protected from misuse in the spirit of paternalistic
Following the aristocractic philosophical appraisals of Plato and
Aristotle the Romans continued to emphasize rationality in law.
Cicero defined true law as right reason in agreement with nature and
Justinian believed the universal law to be the law which natural
reason had prescribed for all mankind. The height of medieval
natural law philosophy saw law as human nature rationally con-
ceived. Aquinas in the thirteenth century defined laws as the rational
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 199

ordering of things which confirm the common good. In his attempt to

unify reason and faith he defined natural law as the participation in
God's eternal law by rational creatures. That rationality corres-
ponded to the masculine principle became obvious. Even Aquinas'
idea of eternal law was described as a rational guidance of created
things on the part of God. Man's inclination to do good apparently
arose out of his rational nature. There was little room in Aquinas'
theory of natural law for what we might call the non-rational or
intuitive feminine principle, in contradistinction to rational law and
legalized rationality. The age of enlightenment was no improvement
on the Aquinean universe. There was no historical accident in the age
of enlightenment's creating a society owned by men as judges,
citizens, and inheritors of the property of law and legal property. In
short, over the centuries in western legal systems man appropriated
law, and more exactly legal logic, for his own authority and power.
Woman remained a second class non-citizen, a chattel of history, a
passive artifact, whose intuitive sensibility could not challenge the
rigorous logical structures of the civilized institutions of the public
world found in government and courts. Whether in the form of
theological natural law or secularized philosophies of natural rights,
woman, from the point of view of the autonomy of personhood, was
made a victim.
Natural law provided in western legal systems the moral authority
for male entitlement to political power and responsibility for the legal
system itself. It is significant, however, to add to this perspective the
logical consequence of the second major theoretical tradition in
classical jurisprudence, namely that of positivism, a philosophy of law
which reduces legal phenomena, crudely expressed, to an expression
of the will. Broadly speaking, the positivist theory represents a legal
system which banishes both moral and intuitive content and becomes,
in its more rarefied expressions of theory, a closed rational system in
which legal decisions can be logically deduced from legal rules
without any regard for morality or subjective considerations. Once
law was reduced to a command theory, that is, a hierarchical set of
relations, positivism followed natural law in the historical rhythm of
patriarchy. Man's prowess over women, based upon will and biology,
became its own justification. The "might is right" theory joined the
philosophy of natural essence and defined man as superior over
It must be seen, though, that what actual legal systems took away
with one hand, in theoretically justifying woman's natural or actual
200 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

inferiority, they strove to return in furnishing protective devices to

intervene on her behalf. Until recently, woman's status in law, and
particularly her treatment in the criminal justice system, have
represented a true vestige of feudal order where definition by birth
brought with it unalterable conditions of life. It is in the western legal
system's definition of woman as a sexual being that we begin to
realize the degree to which, if there are rights vested in women, for
example in the criminal justice system, they are protected via the
supervisory interest of the male. Where women's claims have
threatened the paterfamilias their entitlements have been severely
restricted lest they detract from male supremacy in property and
sexual relations. To be fair, we should admit that in familial life
woman reserved considerable power, which undoubtedly affected
many legal arrangements. But on balance her power was marginal
and did not go to the core or to the assumptions upon which legal
systems were built. As a chattel of her husband, woman had limited
power in responding to acts of sexual violence and subjugation to low
status in the labor force. The laws of the western world are replete
with references demonstrating the passivity and frailty of women in
contrast to the autonomous rational male whose activities in the outer
non-familial world are the result of a natural superiority and biologic-
al fortitude.
The picture of female victimization takes on a special meaning in
the sphere of sexual criminality. In the legal psychology, which we
can represent in actual criminal laws, praxis can be shown to be
consistent with the high theory of legal philosophies themselves. The
criminal justice system for centuries has operated with the assump-
tion that woman is by nature a limited creature whose natural
beguilements make her at once inferior and deserving of our kind
legal attention. Women are seen as weak-willed, hysterical and easily
tempted. The criminal justice system, as a display of rigorous logic,
was fortified in its claims by medical science and criminology which in
Foucault's phrase, participated in the "hysterization of women's
bodies." Medical criminology in the nineteenth century could identify
with the rigors of science as legal philosophy had done in theory and
criminal laws in practice, namely, with the dangers of viewing women
as anything other than highly irrational, emotional, undependable
objects of male sexual desire. Women were caught thereby on both
edges of the victimization sword. On the side of passivity the
controllers of the criminal justice system could view normal women
as passive and without sexual feeling. Therefore, for example in the
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 201

Victorian world, it could be assumed that the majority of women

would not be in trouble with the criminal law as they were not in the
habit of luring men into sexual intrigue with them. On this side of the
sword, female sexuality was victimized. On the other side, the
criminal law had a perfect answer for the women who would come
forward as a proclaimed victim of sexual abuse. There is no question
that the criminal justice system found it not only convenient, but
natural, to shift the burden against women who argued for their rights
in cases of rape, incest, and so on. Women were characterized, when
they came forward as accusers, as natural hysterics or masochists who
had in their unfemale, that is, non-passive, overly sexualized female-
ness, lured men into criminal wrongs. With predictable frequency the
criminal justice system produced a flip-flop of reality where men were
perceived as victims of Eve.
In the twentieth century we have begun to confront female
victimization by the criminal justice system, in the two senses in
which we have described it, by first and foremost demanding that we
redefine our perception of woman. In so doing, we have the
possibility of de-victimizing her and of allowing her to be liberated
from legal logic and its attendant rules and assumptions in such areas
as the criminal justice system. This means in concrete terms that we
have begun to embark on a serious program of law reform and
alteration of our rules of evidence. We have most recently seen in
Canada, to name one jurisdiction, the removal by the federal
parliament of rape language, which has been replaced by assault
language more consistent with the premise of the equality of sexes
and the autonomy of persons. In my opinion, this does represent a
quantum leap forward, an improvement on reactionary philosophical
and legal premises from the past. The change in rules of corrobora-
tive evidence in this legislation has strengthened the likely impact of
the symbolic alteration of legal language. Clearly, there are difficul-
ties in any sudden attempt to remove the ghosts of the past. In our
zeal to alter the consciousness of participants in the criminal justice
system there will undoubtedly be overreactions and distortions which
will in some sense make victims out of men. This is not to say,
however, that the direction of our thinking in the changes of the
Criminal Code of Canada have been ill-founded. They are defensible
because they follow the route of devictimizing persons whose moral
autonomy has been violated by traditional laws and legal procedures.
The feminist movement raises the deeper question, though, which
must be explored in the pursuit of working out a general theory of
202 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

how, once we have attempted to devictimize our ready-made victims,

we can supply the means through which we can allow actual victims in
the criminal justice system to have their wrongs satisfactorily redres-
sed. In the past few years, there has been an intensifying public
debate about the conditions under which we might stimulate victim
participation in seeing that justice be properly done to respond to the
victim's needs, to restore the victim to her position before the harm
occurred. Many people believe that the criminal justice system has
usurped the role of the victim and taken on the chore of seeing crime
always as a hostile act against the state, where the victim has only a
peripheral interest in aiding the state to intervene. Criminal law
purists see a precise dividing line between the criminal and civil law
systems and argue that to put them together will be to distort both of
them and to produce an unwieldy system which flies in the face of
well-heeled legal logic. It behooves us, therefore, to sort out the basic
assumptions of the criminal and civil law systems with respect to
victims' interests in order to be able to answer this widely accepted
perspective. It is necessary in doing this to trace briefly the history of
legal systems, and the philosophies which have protected a division in
theory and practice between the criminal justice system and civil
We assume in law, as in other disciplines such as medicine, that
once we have arrived at a scheme of categorization, the scheme is
written in stone, like Moses' tablets, and should be unalterable.
Although twentieth-century law makes no claim that its origins are
divine, the weight of precedent and judicial principles bear down
upon us with a weight commensurate to that which Moses must have
felt when he came down the mountain. Like Moses, we can assume
that the law that we presently know, at least for public consumption,
has been steadfast in maintaining its pathways in order to avoid the
criss-crossing of traffic or a landslide of confusion that could destroy
the important project at hand. Indeed, the purity of legal doctrine,
the integrity of the division of labour among tort, crime, contract and
property has, by this time in history, become an inflexible panoply of
minor legal traditions, each with its own lines of reasoning and
exceptions to general rules and principles. It is no surprise, therefore,
that when the request is placed before our current generation of
legalists there should be considerable resistance in accommodating to
the blurring of well-worn categories of the law.
The anatomy of the law is something which has taken centuries to
produce, because, unlike medicine, centuries ago lawyers and judges
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 203

could not be entirely certain about their agreements with respect to

the body of knowledge upon which they justified their profession. In
fact, it is part of the history of our western legal institutions and
commentaries that the life of the law has been preoccupied with
designating the proper scope and nature of cluster areas which over
time have been reflected in specialized fields of legal practice. With
the hard-won certainty that we are presently operating with, in being
able, for example, to distinguish between crime and tort with their
attendant rules about burdens of proof, due process requirements
and limitations of sanctions, there is a further concern that we cannot
turn back the clock to some romantic age when humans were human
and law was law. The incentive to cast aspersions on our current
categories though stems from the notion that the aims and purposes
of our different areas of law have over time become distorted and
that only in returning to earlier methods of redressing wrongs can we
reachieve the human requirement of law and the necessary logical
consistency and coherency of doctrine upon which our legal system is
justifiably predicated.
If we turn to the history of legal theory it is somewhat remarkable
that, despite the lengthy historical lineage to be found in case law and
legislative pronouncements about the logic that distinguishes civil and
criminal law, learned authorities have stood on both sides of the
fence of this issue and have offered extensive rationalizations for
their claims. Lord Mansfield, for example, has always given comfort
to the first-year law student in his renowned protestation that there is
no distinction better known than that between the criminal and civil
law. In opposing forces we can locate, at least for Anglo-Saxon law,
equally impressive authorities such as Bentham, Austin, and Holmes,
who have supported the notion that the difference between civil and
criminal injury is entirely illusive. It was their view, I suspect, that the
real issue is one of function and that the meaningful test of our
separations of doctrine must ultimately be found in the measure of
whether our stated aims and purposes have been achieved in practice.
It is interesting to note in this context that Ferri, the distinguished
Italian criminologist of the early twentieth century, came to the
conclusion that any separation between criminal and civil law was on
its face illogical.
Now at the end of the twentieth century the opposing forces of
purists and integrationists continue to wage battle with each other
amidst the vocabulary of reparative sanctions, indemnification, res-
titution, community service orders and compensation tribunals. The
204 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

restitution movement has moved swiftly, inching its way into the
hitherto untouched territories of criminal law , which appeared to be
solitary and tranquil for some centuries. To some extent, we might
say that the purists were taken by surprise, as it is easily a corollary of
this thinking that, although imperfect, the status quo of criminal law
doctrine is a substantial improvement over the paleolithic vengeance
doctrine of the early middle ages. The argument that has ensued
between these two schools of thoughts has prompted voluminous
speculation about the manner in which victim and offender dealt with
each other before the criminal law reorganized and reconstituted the
nature and resolution of conflict.
Some authors have referred indeed to the golden age of victims, an
era when victim and offender through a creative interpretation of the
lex talionis could make their peace under the proverbial palm tree.
The saga here suggests with the advent of kings and legal interlopers
the victim was thrust from his seat of justice and was displaced by
money-making robber-barons and professionals who created unde-
serving interests for themselves and monopolies of power and
authority. What are we to do with such presentations? It appears to
be a reasonable assumption that we will, even after having the benefit
of greater historical detailing of these epochs, be unable to make
global judgements about the practical states of affairs in those times,
if we are to be truly responsible. There is compelling evidence, in
such sources as the legal historians Pollock and Maitland, for
example, that the appearance of the state on the horizon of criminal
law sanctions was an emancipation for the majority of actors there,
offenders and victims. The job of assessing history for its pluses and
minuses with respect to the daily life of its inhabitants is at the best of
times shrouded in the vagaries of our historical methodolgies and
personal predilections. This is even more so in the case of legal
history where we have a well-developed capacity to reconstitute
historical reality according to the preordained design of legal jus-
tifications. Legal hindsight is an essential attribute of the inherent
conservativism which lawyers and judges utilize to prove that the
logic of the law is always discoverable, but never created.
What we should be able to do more forthrightly than simply to bear
witness to the state of law and its defenders of many centuries past, is
to unravel the movements in crime and tort law, at least in the past
century, where they have been close enough to us that we can make
some reasonable claim to knowing them, even if not intimately. For
the past century they have been firm and unitary in their affirmation
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 205

that any meeting between them would be regarded as highly irregu-

lar. They have stated their purposes and have gone about their
business with an integrity deserving of their high doctrinal office. The
cynics, however, know better and have carried tales through the
corridors of the law that there have been clandestine meetings
between them, and that new laws have been propagated, the status of
which has now reached a crisis of no mean moral proportion. What
stands before us is the very legitimacy of the doctrines of restitution
in their manifold forms.
The defenders of the status quo argue that the dangers that lurk in
fostering legal bastardization are vast. Even if it is the case that we
are encountering frustrations in delineating the terrain between
public and private interests, to allow squatters and anarchists to run
wild, they assert, would be to destroy any progress we have made in
gaining control over the process of resolving our conflicts. Their view
is that introducing civil remedies into the criminal process is in effect
to tribalize once again the relationship between victim and offender.
It matters not under which slogan of integrated law this occurs. For in
their perspective the long and short will be that the level of discretion
of the participants in the system will be so enlarged that an ad hoc
populism will replace the impersonal rigor of codified and judicially
made law. In addition, they argue that, given the current inefficien-
cies of the criminal law system, it is unrealistic to expect that judges
will be able to deal with the minutiae of civil law damages and that
the system thereafter will turn into a jungle of administrative
entanglements. The purists regard any position other than their own
as romanticism and nai"vete with serious risks to the current level of
order that we have painstakingly achieved in both criminal and civil
law areas. To break down the existing structures would be to
over-strain a dam already pressured by fiscal crises, high recidivism
rates, and corruptions and distortions in the political and legal
One of the administrative improvements in the past century is that
the procedures affecting the equal application of the law have been
tightened and more systematically applied, such that it is more
difficult, at the level of theory, to speak of a poor as opposed to a rich
man's law. In any event, this is the official defense offered by
commentators and judges who favor the status quo and have wanted
to delimit the scope of informal practices which could lead to
arbitrariness through unbridled discretion. This view has been put
forward even in the face of benevolent motivation in diverse areas
206 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

such as the juvenile court, in labor law and in due process require-
ments developed in criminal cases. In my judgement, we are now
caught somewhere between the devil and the black letter of the law.
The more we chase the shadow of legalism, the more we come to
realize that we have not served our clients' interests or notions of
justice. The system is already overburdened with protections and
interventions which delay justice and are costly and self-serving to the
professional. But in this observation there is, unfortunately, a mixed
message. For the question becomes whether increased formality or
greater flexibility in responding to the specific personalities and
attributes of victims and offenders will create greater legal tonnage
which the system will ultimately be unable to carry.
Even if we could resolve the issue of discretion, and it could be
shown that there is a pathway or some signpost which directs us to a
system which could better serve both our social needs and those of
victims, would there still be a line of conservative resistance? Our law
school notebooks tell us that civil wrongs bring civil remedies and
that crime, when paid, results in punishment, not cash. But after
some weeks of legal instruction we are told that on the same piece of
behavior there can be two legal actions running concurrently. On
occasion, students become muddled about why the two should not be
put together - for example, in the case of common assault or battery.
But they are quickly corrected in their wistful imaginings. What has
escaped them is the logic of legal principles upon which we differenti-
ate categories in law.
There are two sets of arguments which are presented for our legal
discrimination between crime and tort. One goes to the nature of
describing a public as opposed to a private interest. The second
addressed the nature of fault or responsibility, that is, the proper aim
of crime as opposed to tort. On reflection we begin to recognize that
many of the decisions in tort law are fully involved with public
interests, even to the point where tort law is dictated to by criminal
law statutes or by public policy infused with criminal law standards,
or by public sentiment, which is affected, even unconsciously, by the
current state of criminal law thinking. In a similar vein, we can locate
myriads of cases in criminal law where, if we were given some leeway
and the benefit of common sense, we would prefer to deal by
negotiation or conciliation, and with a restitutional component, if it
suited the purpose of resolving the conflict to the proper satisfaction
of the victim. In a society where notions of community and neighbor-
hood have been in the main displaced by abstract references to the
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 207

public interest there is a strong urge in the criminal justice system to

want to humanize the law, all the more so because we know
statistically the degree to which real crime often finds its place among
the familiar and intimate.
The rationale of crime and tort theory follows in both cases closely
on the heels of fault. It is widely understood that criminal law
commentators are still struggling, after many decades, to understand
the contours of their moralistic arguments, in the light of the
conflicting theories of punishment that have entered the criminal
justice system, and due to the introduction of expert testimony from
the psychological sciences. In tort law itself there is an identity crisis,
insofar as tort law has found it necessary to distinguish its moralistic
fault-accounting from that of the criminal justice system. The chal-
lenge to contemporary tort law is to illuminate whether the com-
pensatory interest should be ruled by fault, or vice versa. If it can be
proven, as we can effectively do in some arenas of tort law decision-
making, that the availability of insurance has so perverted the
original fault design of the doctrine that the system denies or rejects
its historical doctrinal mandate, and, in addition, that the tort system
is significantly less efficient than alternative compensation models,
how can tort law persist in the business of moral approbation with any
certainty or integrity? In fact, the pressure being thrust upon the
criminal justice system to adjust to civil law remedies has a parallel
force in the tort system where observers realize that unless the tort
system can justify its sanctions through offering punitive damages and
moralizing in the public sector, its efficacious role as a public service
ombudsman may be short-lived. That is, unless tort law can infuse
itself with the symbolism of the criminal law sanction, it may defeat
its original mandate of showing itself to be consonant with public
morality and conscience.
In my view, there is no reason, based either on logic or history, for
the rigid separation of crime and tort. If they were bedfellows at one
time in history, there is no reason to prevent their unifying again, so
long as we take care in the marriage vows that we know they can
support and that we can protect our ongoing legal systems. Clearly
celibacy has not been easy for either one of them. This does not mean
to say that when they were together once upon the time that they
were compatible. But in our present day and age we should not
import such loaded language to measure the strengths or weaknesses
of legal doctrine - which is already neurotically inflicted with cruel
patterns of self-assessment. What we can say, with some certainty, is
208 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

that from the drift of recent doctrine and the impact of judicial and
legislative crises, crime and tort have been experiencing something of
a life change which requires our sympathetic attention. On reflection,
though, I doubt, that we are more mature in our wisdom than they, as
historical fixtures, in being able to choose what is best for them. In
my view, if we listen to the doctrine, although it is at times
contradictory and puzzling, the message is reasonably clear. Tort
needs crime, and crime tort, and to frustrate this appetite will be to
undermine their effectiveness and resilience in meeting the con-
tinuing demands that we place upon them.
There is no question that theory informs practice and that an
archaeology of knowledge is helpful, not only for unearthing the past,
but for explaining the present. The difficulty, however, with judicial
doctrine and even the deeper, fundamental purposes of such areas as
crime and tort is that, unlike our official mythology about them -
namely that they are lifeless and have been cast in stone - they have
been alive and frolicking for a millenium, and that under the very
nose of our academic scrutiny. We continue to fail to acknowledge
the fluidity of legal doctrine. Its agility has always been its best
protection against the academic purists who want to control and
freeze the law in terms of a logic delimits discretion and contact with
other legal universes.
The bulk of tort law is surely an artifact of history, which now has
taken on the look of a cast-off from the laissez-faire capitalism of the
industrial age. For a time, tort law had utilized its energies in being a
protector of monopolistic capital and avoided addressing claims from
the welfare sector or from individuals wanting to make a public forum
of their plight. This was so because tort law's responsiveness in these
matters could be linked to a moralizing and politicizing function,
which it was perceived was not its proper use. Tort law, like history
though, has moved away from its original personality, and the
doctrine of fault, which was its first commitment, has now been
infused with a new content more responsive to the current age.
In what sense are we then to express the fundamental purpose of
tort law? Its contemporary notion of fault is that government, big
business and professional elites must be more accountable than was
demanded of them in the prior century. Tort law has also become a
vehicle for expressing public opinion in holding citizens accountable
to each other for inflictions of mental suffering, invasion of privacy,
and conveying irresponsible advice. It is moving closer to saying to
citizens that they must behave as Samaritans and good neighbors, in
Victims of Crime in Criminal Justice System 209

an age where human conflict is often shadowed by anomie. In the

name of fault theory, tort law, in substantive terms, has been doing
what no one would have expected of it one hundred years ago. This
should be encouraging, for it proves that even statues and grand-
mothers change. There is no reason why we should deny crime of the
same possibility. Admittedly criminal and tort law have independent
personalities and lives of their own. But I would venture that for
many more centuries than we are prepared to admit, likely back to
the time of Hammurabi and the Mosaic Law, the legalists could
properly distinguish between crime and tort. They need not have
waited for our legal textbooks of the nineteenth century. But the
living law, and indeed the law on the books, knew early on that a
criminal justice system without the human attachment of a payment
to the victim would, over time, atrophy and not fulfill its sanction
purpose. Similarly, a civil law remedy which could not do the job of
moral punishment could only stand to lose public support. That is
why we instinctively know that in ancient times tort was wedded to
It is instinct once again that tells us that the ancient lore should stir
our imagination to accept the obvious and do justice. That entails,
regardless of pragmatic discomfort and doctrinal inexactitude, the
commitment to pursuing the direction of civil law remedies within the
criminal justice system and to enhancing as well the efficacy of tort
law with the spirit of moral sanction more directly identified with the
criminal law. There will, of course, always be a residual integrity for
distinguishing between the two processes, and arguably this is an
issue of both kind and degree. Nevertheless, it is in the accommoda-
tion of each system to the other that, as legal forms, crime and tort
will redress wrongs and meet human needs. Victims of crime must be
compensated through the criminal justice system, as well as through
existing civil law remedies, if it can be proven that greater satisfaction
will be obtained for victims and the criminal justice system in the
process will not be rendered dysfunctional. Despite resistance and
persuasive arguments to the contrary, this is not an insurmountable
10 Victims and the Criminal
Justice System

It is only in the past ten years that the role of the victim in the
criminal justice system has again risen into prominence. There is now
a plethora of studies, at least in Britain, considering the victim's
experiences, his views and his attitudes. Yet this recent upsurge of
interest is in many ways surprising. We have known for some time
how vital the victim is to the operation of the criminal justice system.
In a simplistic way, one might consider the system, and all the jobs
and workings of the professionals within it, as being built upon the
actions of two people - the offender and the victim. The numbers and
type of cases entering the system and thereby eventually providing
the workload for the courts, prison service and other conventional
agencies, appear largely to be determined by the reporting behavior
of victims and witnesses, not action initiated by the police (Clarke
and Hough, 1980; Bottomley and Coleman, 1981; Maguire, 1982).
We have, therefore, two contradictory facets of the role of the
victim - his practical importance and, in contrast, at least, until
recently, an ignorance of and an ignoring of his attitudes and
experiences by the professionals within the criminal justice system. It
is this paradox which is fundamental to our understanding of the
victim's attitudes to the system. This chapter will explore these
attitudes. I shall be referring mostly to a study of the experiences of
some English victims of violent crime, which I, together with Jon
Willmore and Peter Duff, have been involved with over the last four
This was a study of victims from two towns in the Midlands whose
offenses had been reported to the police. It was longitudinal -
involving interviews with the same victims at various stages as they
went through the system. In this way we could look at changes in

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
Victims & Criminal Justice System 211

attitudes and reduce problems of memory loss or overlay due to latter

events. There were 278 adult victims - male and female victims of
physical assaults (causing injuries ranging from bruises, scratches and
minor cuts to very serious internal injuries), male and female victims
of robberies of the "mugging" type and female victims of sexual
assaults (rapes and indecent assaults). In addition to the interviews
with victims, we attended all court appearances of the cases and made
transcripts, analysed the police files and interviewed police, prosecu-
tion and court personnel.
I shall, however, also refer to Maguire's (1982) and Howley's
(1982) studies of English burglary victims; and to Kelly's (1982) study
of American victims of rape.
In our study of victims of violent crime, we found that victims were
vital in the reporting and investigation of cases and were also
essential as providers of evidence for the courts. Between 35% and
41 % of cases were reported by the victim himself. Another 50% were
reported by other civilians, such as passersby, neighbors, friends or
those in charge of places where the offenses happened (for example,
licensees or managers of bus stations). This high percentage of the
involvement of others is probably due to the violent nature of the
offenses and the consequent inability of the injured or unconscious
victim to report the offense himself. Only 3 to 4% of cases were
discovered by the police themselves.
However, Maguire (1982) found that over 80% of his burglary
victims informed the police immediately upon discovering the burg-
lary. Despite the prevalence of cases in which the trail was cold (in
70% of cases, the victim had been out of the house or asleep in bed
for over six hours and had no precise idea of the time at which the
burglary had taken place) information given to the police by the
victim was the most important aid to detection of the offender.
Indeed, the importance of victims to the reporting of crime has been
shown in many studies (McCabe and Sutcliffe, 1978; Steer, 1980;
Mawby, 1979). The English Royal Commission on Criminal Proce-
dure (1981) has stated:

the overwhelming majority (of offences) '" is not discovered by

the police, but by the public.

As in Maguire's study, we found that victims in our own research

were important in the detection of offenders. Over 60% of cases
were detected as a result of definite information (name or address)
212 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

supplied by the victim. Another 8 to 13% were detected as a result of

definite information supplied by a witness. Only 14 to 25% of
detections were the result of police action. This is not, of course, to
deny a role for the police. Without a quick response by the police
where victims have themselves apprehended the offender, or fast
action where a name or address has been supplied, offenders would
not be caught. The police may not be the major detection agency in
these offenses, but they are responsible for gathering evidence such
that the offender, once caught, can be prosecuted.
In our study, a prompt police response was one of the determinants
of victim satisfaction at their first contact with the police. But the
major factor, as indeed it was throughout the process, was the
attitude of the police officers and the concern they expressed, rather
than what they actually did with the case - a concern with process
rather than outcome. The great majority of victims (over 75%) were
satisfied or very satisfied with the police at their first contact. What
impressed them was the mann'er of the police: "she was marvellous,
she listened to everything" and whether they appeared to take the
case seriously. The few victims that had a negative reaction gave
comments such as:

I was crying but no sympathy - just pen and paper - just as if it

were happening every day to them - just one of a crowd, but you
think you're the only one. (indecent assault victim)

Similarly, burglary victims are concerned that the police should listen
carefully, and perform the almost ritualistic finger-print dusting and
questioning that would indicate to them that the police were taking
the case seriously (Maguire, 1982; Howley, 1982). Howley has
pointed to the discrepancy between police and victim attitudes.
Police officers thought that it was important to appear "professional"
and "efficient," whereas victims were, above all else, looking to the
police for support, reassurance and personal contact. Three-quarters
of Howley's victims expressed satisfaction with police action, but
caring and supportive attitudes were the main subject for victim
praise. Apparently uncaring or casual attitudes were the most
frequent source of criticism. The concern, again, was with process
rather than outcome.
Very similar results were found in a study of a very different
offense - rape - from a very different criminal justice system - the
United States. Kelly (1982) found that her rape victims rated the
Victims & Criminal Justice System 213

police highly (76% were satisfied with patrol officers and 80% with
detectives), but were disturbed about insensitive questioning and any
tendency on the part of the police to regard the victim not as a
person, but as evidence. It is, therefore, the attitude of the police
during initial contacts that determines victim satisfaction.
This concern with attitude and with treatment continues during the
police investigation of the offence. By the middle of the investigation
in our study, however, the initial high levels of victim satisfaction
with the police were starting to decline. This was due largely to lack
of information, for which the police were blamed. By the end of
police and court processes, there was a significant decline in satisfac-
tion with the police handling of the case and also a decline in
attribution of positive qualities to the police generally (so that the
police were described as being less efficient, less over-worked, more
offensive, less fair, less bureaucratic, more crooked and less helpful).
There were even some victims who would not report a similar offense
to the police again. This lower level of satisfaction persisted over the
two or three years after the offense, as did victims' memories of their
experiences. The major reason for dissatisfaction was lack of in-
formation, and a consequent feeling that the police did not care.

They should have let me know. I haven't been kept informed at


Up to the bloke's arrest I was very satisfied - they were pretty

good - then they didn't tell me anything. So I suppose you'd have
to put unsatisfied.

I'm very annoyed - a two-minute phone call would do to tell us

when the case is on. If they want help they should look after the
people who do help them.

The need for information was present throughout the process.

Victims wanted to know whether the offender was caught, what the
charges were, whether he was in custody or on bail (a matter where,
interestingly, the facts were less frightening than fear of the un-
known), when the court appearances would be, whether the victim
would have to give evidence, whether the offender was convicted and
what the sentence was. The most important of these was, however,
the outcome, whether it be conviction and sentence or just that the
offender had not been caught, the police had no further leads and
214 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

were filing the case. Of the victims 88% felt that they should have
received some notification of the result of the case, and most of these
put the responsibility on the police.
Again, a need for information occurs for victims of other offenses.
Maguire's (1982) burglary victims complained that after the first few
days, they had heard nothing further about the case. Only 24% had
received any notification of police progress. Those who praised the
police usually did so in terms of the "trouble they took" over the case.
Their satisfaction was not affected by whether or not the burglar was
eventually detected. Howley's (1982) victims also criticized police
who did not report developments. For Kelly's (1982) rape cases,
victims' assessments of how they were treated by both police and
prosecutors were more favorable if they were provided with informa-
tion, consulted and included in their case. Indeed, the most impor-
tant predictor of satisfaction with prosecutors was not the verdict, but
victims' assessment of how they were treated. The rule was: the more
the contact, the greater the satisfaction (a similar finding to that
suggested by Knudten et al. (1976) for their American victims of all
types of crime).
At the outcome stage, again, it appeared that process was more
important than the actual result of the case. Perhaps surprisingly in
our study, victims were often quite happy if the police did not catch
the offenders, provided that they felt that the police had been
interested and had kept them informed. They wanted, however, to be
told the outcome clearly and fully - to know that enquiries were no
longer continuing. Victims were, again, not particularly punitive
either in the sentence that they would wish their offender to get or in
their reactions to the sentence that those offenders who were
convicted finally received. Their suggested sentences seemed to be
very much within current English sentencing practice. They did,
however, feel that cdmpensation by the offender should have played
a much larger part than in fact it did (only about 20% of victims
whose offenders were sentenced received compensation orders and
many of these were for small amounts). These reactions to sentencing
are not just confined to the victims of violent crime, as in our study.
Maguire (1982) has found very similar results with victims of burg-
lary. It seems that, in England, the "hanging, drawing and quarter-
ing" victim is a myth.
Where victims did attend court to give evidence (or managed to
find out when the court appearances were and attended out of
interest), it tended to be the peripherals of the court system that
caused problems: the lack of facilities, cramped surroundings, sitting
Victims & Criminal Justice System 215

next to the defendant with consequent feelings of intimidation, lack

of notice at the Crown Court, inadequate recompense for their costs
and, above all, lack of information and knowledge of when the
appearance was and what they would have to do. The actual
experience in the witness box) contrary to previous analysis, did not
cause great distress to the majority of victims. The apparent lack of
interest of the prosecutor (who tends not even to meet witnesses or
victims beforehand) was more seriously regarded.

I was nervous, frightened because I hadn't been to a trial before.

They didn't try to help me in any way - the prosecution solicitor
should have explained to me what was going to happen - it would
have been easier. I didn't even know there was a solicitor until it

Kelly (1982) describes almost identical feelings in her American

rape victims. Victims were bothered by a lack of information - about
their legal status and about court procedures. They were frightened
by subpoenas and by grand juries. They felt excluded from their case.
They were particularly annoyed at lack of consultation over plea
bargaining or re-scheduling of court appearances. It was felt that the
judicial system had little regard for the victims' well-being.
So, there is the paradox. The criminal justice system depends
heavily upon victims for the reporting and detection of offenses and
for the provision of evidence in court. Yet, it does not appear to value
the victim. The concern with attitudes, information, consultation
shown by victims in all these studies is an expression of the need to be
valued, to be wanted, to be considered as an important participant.
The system is not geared to the perspective of the victim. There
appears to be a mismatch between the victims' expectations of the
system and the system's assumptions about victim needs. The police,
for example, have become, in Howley's (1982) words: "preoccupied
with technical efficiency, whereas victims look to police for support
and reassurance." Prosecutors and court staff are concerned with
processing the ever-growing numbers of defendants through the
system in the most economical and fastest way (see, for example,
Moody and Tombs, 1982 on the consequent encouragement of plea
negotiation in Scotland).
It does not seem that the system ignores the victim because he is
perceived as a threat. Indeed, the victims in our study were not
expressing a desire to take over the criminal justice system. They did
216 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

not want decision-making power - they were happy that the decisions
to charge, to prosecute, to sentence, should be left with those who
are taking them today. Some interest was, however, expressed in the
possibility of using a mediation dispute regulation procedure in some
circumstances (see Chinkin and Griffiths, 1980). There were some
areas where victims wished for consultation before decisions were
taken - on whether charges should be pressed or dropped at court
and on whether information about victims should be given to the
press. But the major requirements were for information and help -
not as charity but in exchange for the very considerable time and
effort the victims themselves put in at a time when they were injured
or shocked.
The changes in the criminal justice system necessary to approxi-
mate more closely to the present expectations of victims arp not
major or structural ones. They are primarily attitudinal. They involve
training the professional participants in the criminal justice system to
treat the victim courteously, and keep him informed and consulted
about all the stages of the process. They involve treating the victim as
a more equal partner. That, however, would imply a greater emph-
asis on the role of the victim, and, potentially, less emphasis on the
role of the offender and that of the legal profession. This might
include a shift in working practices of the professional participants
that might initially appear to involve more work, more difficulty and
more effort but, paradoxically, may result in easier detection, a
higher standard of prosecution evidence and fewer cases thrown out
at court. Attitudes are, however, not absolute. They depend upon
expectations and upon knowledge of the system. The similarity of
victim attitudes over offences and in different systems is extraordin-
ary. It tends to suggest similar roles for victims and a similar
perception of victims in the different systems. If we adopt the more
victim-centered system suggested by the findings of these studies, we
may merely produce a system more rounded in its concerns but no
less adversarial than at present. Or we may, in so doing, alter victims'
attitudes and expectations so that a different model emerges, one
perhaps closer to a mediated consensus model of dispute regulation.


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(Aldershot, Hants: Gower).
Victims & Criminal Justice System 217

Chinkin, C., and Griffiths, R. (1980), "Resolving Conflict by Mediation,"

New Law Journal (3 Jan.) pp. 6--8.
Clarke, R. V. G., and Hough, J. M. (1980), The Effectiveness of Policing
(Aldershot, Hants: Gower).
Howley, J. (1982), "Victim-Police Interaction and Its Effects on Public
Attitudes to the Police, M.Sc. thesis, Cranfield Institute of Technology.
Kelly, D. (1982), "Victims' Reactions to the Criminal Justice Response,"
Paper delivered at Law and Society Association meeting, 6 June 1982,
Toronto, Canada.
Knudten, R. D., Meade, A., Knudten, M., and Doerner, W. (1976), "The
Victim in the Administration of Criminal Justice: Problems and Percep-
tions," in W. McDonald (ed.), Criminal Justice and the Victim (Beverley
Hills, Calif.: Sage).
McCabe, S., and Sutcliffe, F. (1978), Defining Crime (Oxford: Basil Black-
Maguire, M. (1982), Burglary in a Dwelling: the Offence, the Offender and
the Victim (London: Heinemann).
Mawby, R. (1979), Policing the City (Aldershot, Hants: Saxon House).
Moody, S., and Tombs, J. (1982), Prosecution in the Public Interest
(Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press).
Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure (1981), Report (London: HMSO).
Steer, D. (1980), Uncovering crime: the Police role, Royal Commission on
Criminal Procedure, Research Study no. 7, (London: HMSO).
11 Victim Assistance and
the Criminal Justice
System: The Victim's

The reactions of victims to the criminal justice system and to society's

attempts to assist them cannot be understood without, first, consider-
ing the effects of crime on the victim. These effects are not confined
to the immediate consequences of the offense - physical injury,
shock, loss of property, time off work or financial losses. They can
intrude into most of the areas of the victim's life - producing a change
in his relationships with members of his family, neighbors, friends or
work colleagues. There are also the costs involved in being a victim in
the criminal justice system. Some of these are direct costs - the time,
transport fares and potential loss of earnings involved in helping the
police to investigate and prosecute the offense. Others are more
long-term and more indirect. They include the stress and worry over
the weeks, months or, in a few cases, years the case may take to
finish. During this time the victim may be called upon to help the
police and may constantly be on the alert to be a witness at court.
Unfortunately, we know very little about the effects of crime on
the victim, particularly over the lengthy periods of time that the
criminal justice system and compensation mechanisms take to oper-
ate. I shall concentrate on some English victims of violent crime,
whose experiences we followed in a longitudinal study for up to three
years after the offense. 1


E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
Victim Assistance & Criminal Justice System 219


Crimes of violence appear to produce substantial immediate effects

on their victims. Only 9% of victims had been entirely free of effects
by the time of the first interview, which was generally between one
and three weeks after the offense. Figure 11.1 shows the percentage
of victims suffering various effects at different times. 2 The effects
have been divided into the broad categories of financial loss, physical
effects, social effects and psychological effects. 3 In addition, three
more inclusive categories are used. "Any effect" includes all these
categories. "Possible emotional need" represents the sum of social
effects and psychological effects, since these appear to be interrelated
in individual victims. "Possible financial need" includes all effects
which might have some financial implications for the victims. So,
those losing time off work, those requiring false teeth or spectacles
and those having to replace damaged clothing would be added to
those mentioning specific sums of money in the financial loss categ-
ory. These three inclusive categories might be considered to repre-
sent the maximum proportion of victims experiencing some potential
need for aid. The "possible emotional need" category then represents
a potential expressed wish for emotional support or reassurance and
the "possible financial need" category a potential expressed wish for
financial assistance.
The most striking result from Figure 11.1 is the persistence and
consistency of the prevalence of physical, social and psychological
effects over time, compared to the low level and decrease over time
of financial loss. It might be thought that this was an experimenter
effect, except that the precise effects suffered by the victims changed
over time. Pain in moving might be replaced by aching scars in cold
weather. Disruption of social life by injury might turn to an unwilling-
ness to go out. Many of the social and psychological effects were also
confirmed by relatives. In contrast, financial losses were often no
longer important by the second or third interview. Where they had
occurred, victims had somehow managed to meet them by using
money intended for other purposes (holidays, children, even food) or
by borrowing.
There were, of course, differences between the effects suffered by
victims of physical assaults, sexual assaults and robberies. Physical
assault victims suffered less effects overall, yet the percentages were
still over 60% at the outcome of the cases or even two years
220 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

of victims
.e-_-~.e-----€l any effect
80 ,/
Gl, ",,""
physical effects
70 , ~

50 ,
,~ possible emotional
soci aI effects


psychological effects
10 .....
..................... ...... _-- .... possible financial need

financial loss
o 6m 1yr 1'1. 2yrs 2'/: 3yrs
'2yrs 2yrs

FIGURE 11.1 Effects suffered by victims at different times since the offense

afterwards. Throughout all four interviews with vlcttms, physical

assault victims were more likely to suffer physical effects. Sexual
assault and robbery victims were more likely to describe social
effects. Sexual assault victims were more prone to psychological
effects than were physical assault or robbery victims.
The resistance of effects is echoed in other studies of victims of
different types of crime (see Maguire (1982) for English burglary
victims; Brown and Yantzi (1980) for Canadian victims of all types of
crime). Findings on the effects of participation in the criminal justice
system are also consistent. The greatest wishes of victims are for
information about the progress of the case and about compensation
and for a considerate and consultative approach to the case by the
professionals in the criminal justice system (see also Howley's (1982)
study of burglary victims and Kelly's (1982) study of rape victims).
It is possible to summarize the effects the victims described over
time as follows:
Victim Assistance & Criminal Justice System 221

(1) Immediately after the offense, victims suffered considerable

physical and emotional effects. Some obviously required medical
attention, almost all expressed some wish for emotional support
and reassurance. The role of friends and relations was significant
here, but some victims were isolated or the offense was such that
they found it difficult to talk to those they knew well (for
example, in some sexual assault cases). In initial contacts with the
police, which took place at that time, the manner of the police
was found to be very important. Victims wished the police to be
considerate and to give the impression that they were taking the
offense (and the victim) seriously.
(2) The proportion of victims mentioning practical or financial
effects (not covered by social security benefits) was small. These
effects also appeared to recede in importance after a few months.
The few victims who did suffer these effects felt them very
deeply, however, and there was considerable hardship (for
example, a case in which the victim was unable to return to work,
and so lost his income, because he could not afford new
spectacles) .
(3) In contrast, mental effects, physical effects and effects on the
victim's home and social life affected a considerable proportion
of victims and often persisted over a very long period. Again,
some coped with informal support. Others would have wished for
victim assistance from, say, a Victim Support Scheme. These
were the major effects suffered at the time at which victims
received compensation. Financial problems had normally already
been satisfied by this time.
(4) In their contacts with the criminal justice system, and with
compensation sources, victims expected consideration and in-
formation about the progress of their case. Their contacts with
the criminal justice system were concentrated in the first week,
even first twenty-four hours (Shapland et al., 1981), but the
expressed need for information and for some consultation was
spread over the whole criminal justice process. The most critical
item of information was the outcome of the case.


These are measures of the victims' perceptions of the effect of the

offense and the criminal justice system - whether the victims felt an
222 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

effect was important enough to mention it to the interviewers. They

are not measures of the severity (perceived or actual) of those effects.
Nor are they measures of need. Suffering an effect does not
necessarily imply the existence of a need for any particular kind of
support. Indeed, it is impossible to measure "actual" need. In our
study and in others, it is found that those victims who suffer the worst
perceived effects are not necessarily those who would fit the
stereotype of the most affected victim. In addition, expressed needs
are to some extent culturally based. They are related to the expecta-
tions of victims as to the potential effects of the offense and to their
knowledge of what remedies exist. If victims do not know that victim
support or assistance schemes exist, or that compensation may be
available from the courts or from the state, then they may only be
able to formulate a diffuse wish for emotional support or for
But this is not to suggest that effects or expressed needs are
unimportant. The effects which victims said they had suffered were
sufficiently immediate for the victims to have presented them as
significant to the researchers. They were not prompted about any
particular kind of effect. Some of these effects were alleviated by
informal support by family and friends. Others were stated as
unfulfilled needs. One might consider the effects that victims said
they had suffered as drawing the outer boundaries of expressed need
for the present system. If the system changes, the expectations and,
thus, the effects and expressed needs will also change. Some effects
will be coped with informally. Others form the unfulfilled needs of
those particular victims and may be the basis on which they judge
how responsive a system is to them.



It is mutual expectations which link yet also make problematic the

relationship between the victim's expressed needs of society and
society's view of victims and their needs. As described in Chapter 10,
the victim's problems in participating in the criminal justice system
may be seen to stem from his lack of status, or even accepted role
within that system. If the victim is a non-person in the eyes of the
professional participants, at least as far as the day-to-day functioning
of the system is concerned, then he will not be informed or consulted
Victim Assistance & Criminal Justice System 223

as a matter of course. Even if those participants accept the desirabil-

ity of retaining his good will (because of his possible evidential
usefulness), any information flow will tend to be one-way. The victim
will be told what is deemed necessary or helpful to tell him. It is only
if the victim is seen as being an important partner in the criminal
justice system that the flow of information will become automatically
two-way and consultation will occur. For example, the victim might
have the right to know the outcome of the case and be able to
determine how this information is presented to him.
Strangely, the area of victim assistance and compensation seems
very similar. The major projects aimed at fulfilling victim's needs
have been set up without regard to, or even investigation into,
victims' expressed needs. We now have a plethora of schemes to give
aid and assistance to victims, and this area is one of the fastest
growing fields of voluntary effort. In Great Britain, there is state
compensation to victims of violent crime (the Criminal Injuries
Compensation Board - CICB); compensation from offenders as part
of the sentence of the court (compensation orders) or, in a few new
schemes, as part of pre-trial diversion; Victim Support Schemes to
provide emotional and practical assistance, starting immediately after
the offense; and other groups offering practical, emotional and
financial help to victims of particular offenses (Rape Crisis Centres,
battered wives refuges, etc.). In the United States, there are also
victim/witness assistance projects to provide advice and help at court
(National District Attorneys Association, 1977).
The reasons given when setting up these schemes vary. Some are
apparently victim-centered. State compensation, for example, has
been justified on many grounds. One is the humanitarian and social
welfare idea that the State should compensate those who suffer
hardship occasioned by criminal violence. 4 Others have suggested
that the Government or even society is responsible for its failure in
preventing the crime against the victim and so has some moral
obligation to reimburse him (Burns, 1980). The notions of equitable
justice and of reciprocity in social relationships have also been raised.
These are based on the premise that the victim has suffered through
no fault of his own. A sense of injustice or even of "outrage" may
then arise in the population which can only be satisfied by compensa-
tion of the victim (Thorvaldson and Krasnick, 1980). The reason
finally adduced in the setting up of the CICB seems to combine
elements of the first and third: compensation would show "social
solidarity or the desire to express public sympathy for the victims of
crime" (Home Office, 1978).
224 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

Other reasons for setting up state compensation schemes have not

been so seemingly victim-centered. American schemes have been
advocated to improve the satisfaction and promote future co-
operation of the victim with the criminal justice system. Alternative-
ly, Miers (1982) has argued that most schemes are essentially
"political" - they play on the desire of the public to compensate
victims but merely state the desirability of so doing rather than setting
up effective means to produce compensation. They "make a public
statement about crime and the values which are embodied in criminal
justice and welfare programmes."
Whatever the justification cited for a particular scheme, the
parameters of schemes are similar. Although all state compensation
schemes stress the need to consider and compensate the particular
harm suffered by the individual applicant (and so the applicant is
asked to provide full details of his expenses, losses and suffering), the
decision-making process is one-way. The scheme decides who is
eligible and what expenses may be claimed in each case, according to
the guidelines used to set it Up.5 There may be no consideration of
what harm victims do suffer, or whether the compensation scheme is
meeting any need expressed by victims. State compensation is given
from State to victim, according to rules devised by the State.
This ignoring of the expressed needs of victims is strange. For all
except the "political" purposes of compensation, reference to victims
would seem to be necessary. If we never look at the reactions of
victims, how can we discover whether suffering is alleviated, ex-
penses or losses recompensed, moral status restored, or co-operation
with the criminal justice system increased? Even if we have only a
"political" purpose (and this is predicated on one or other of the
alternative purposes being supported by that society), we may find
that public statements about the worth of victims, which are later
shown to be hollow, may rebound on any who set up such ineffective
On what basis are schemes for victim aid and assistance set up, if
not according to the expressed needs of victims? They seem to reflect
the views of society as to the nature of victims and the needs they are
considered to have. If we consider state compensation again as an
example, this contains the idea that compensation should be awarded
only to "innocent victims." In England and Wales, for example, the
Report of the Working Party which set up the CICB (Home Office,
1961) stated that any scheme should be "based mainly on considera-
tions of sympathy for the innocent victim." Two assumptions have
Victim Assistance & Criminal Justice System 225

flowed from this. The first is that there are undeserving victims which
the State has no "moral" obligation to compensate (for example, if
the crime "arises directly from undesirable activities of the victim").
The second is that there will be fraudulent claims: the scheme
"should provide as many safeguards as possible against fraudulent or
exaggerated claims." Both of these have been amplified by the fact
that state compensation is public money, which has to be accounted
for. The results have been the inclusion in the CICB Scheme of
descriptions of various categories of undeserving victims (who are to
be denied compensation or given only a partial award) and the feeling
amongst those administering the CICB that everything the claimant
says is to be checked. As the administrative officers said in the course
of the present study, "All information given on the application form
is checked." From considering the files, there seemed to be almost a
presumption in some cases that applicants would tend to or try to
exaggerate. Considerable correspondence could take place over
small sums.
Another prevalent view is that assistance is given on the basis of
sympathy, to give help, aid, even charity to victims. The voluntary
sector may be encouraged to playa large part (for example, the
victim support scheme movement), on the basis that victims, like the
poor, deserve charity. Such aid may, however, tend to be concen-
trated on those seen to be the most obviously deserving and innocent.
The most obvious example of this is the concentration, at least in
rhetoric, on the elderly, especially old ladies who are the victims of
Even compensation from the offender, which, in Britain, takes the
form of compensation orders from the courts,6 has been set up to
provide an alternative to civil legal procedures for victims, sO that
they might obtain financial assistance more quickly, more easily, and
at less potential cost. As a result an apparent tension between the
supposedly civil nature of the award and its place in a penal sanction
has been perceived by legal commentators and by prosecutors and
justice clerks (Shapland, 1982).
In other jurisdictions, the benefits to the criminal justice system in
terms of the victim's greater co-operation have been stressed.
Unfortunately, both the present study and that of Doerner and Lab
(1980) in the United States have failed to find any spin-off benefit of
compensation on attitudes to the criminal justice system. The award
of compensation affects attitudes to the compensating authority itself
(the state scheme or, in the case of compensation from the offender
226 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

in Britain, the courts) but not attitudes to other parts such as the
The prevailing view in terms of society's attitudes to victims and
victim assistance appears to be that it is the deserving, innocent
victim who should be compensated or helped and that that help
should be given as a form of charity. It is the schemes themselves who
will decide who fits this stereotype. Assistance, being charity, is not a
right and should not be questioned by the recipient.


We have already stated that victims' view on victim assistance will be

determined, to some extent, by the present response of society - their
knowledge and expectations of those forms of assistance that are
available. Victims' view may, therefore, change as different schemes
are set up, or as publicity about schemes becomes more widespread.
Rather than discussing victim reactions to particular details of
schemes, it may be more useful to consider whether victims agree
with the societal view postulated above, and whether there are any
expressed needs which are not catered for in any way at present.
These views need to be seen against the background of two factors.
The first is that the victims of violence in the present study tended not
to be suffering from financial loss at the time at which they received
compensation (see Figure 11.1). Financial need, where present, was
most strongly felt in the first few weeks or months after the offense. It
is extremely unlikely that any system of state compensation or
compensation from offenders can meet this need (certainly the time
scale of both the CICB and court compensation orders precludes
this). Compensation is thus judged against a background of mental,
not financial, suffering.
The second factor, and the most striking finding of the present
study, is that over half the victims did not know of any means to
obtain compensation, although between 57 and 64% would have
wished it. The views of those who experienced one or other of the
sources of compensation are, therefore, the views of the minority
who did find out and so were able to apply. There was no evidence
that any more of this minority were eligible for compensation than
those who did not know about the possibilities. The almost accidental
selection of those to be compensated by the CICB, in particular, is
contrary to all the purposes that have been put forward to justify state
compensation to victims. This ignorance of practical possibilities for
Victim Assistance & Criminal Justice System 227

compensation was not because victims did not want compensation -

57% definitely wanted compensation and another 7% were un-
decided. Knowledge about compensation was, however, the most
important determinant of whether victims applied for compensation.
The views of those who did apply for or receive compensation
showed a common pattern, whatever the source of the money. If the
money was regarded as compensation (and Social Security benefits
did not fall into this category) then it was not the actual receipt of the
money that was important, but the judgement which that award
represented about the suffering and position of the victim. The only
purely financial aspect seen to be important was special damages,
particularly expenses actually incurred by the victim (as opposed to
lost wages). This is perhaps not surprising, given the low extent and
persistence of expressed financial need.
How, then, did victims view state compensation and compensation
by offenders? They regarded compensation not as mainly a matter of
money or of financial assistance (charitable or otherwise), but rather
as making a statement about the offense, the victim and the position
that the criminal justice system was prepared to give to the victim.
Even the element of payment in proportion to suffering and loss was
subordinated to this symbolic function. This was most obvious in
victims' enthusiasm for compensation from offenders as part of the
sentence of the court. It also appeared in victims' comments on the
operation of the CICB, particularly in their support for the idea of
state compensation as a right for all eligible victims.
To victims in the present study, therefore, compensation was seen
not according to the societal view as charity doled out to innocent,
deserving victims, but according to the very much older view of
compensation as restitution - as the giving back or recompensing to
the victim what he has lost, not only materially but symbolically and
in terms of suffering. Compensation awards, either from the state or
from the offender, were perceived as society's judgement on them as
victims. This has two implications for compensation. First, com-
pensation should be based primarily on the offender with the state as
back-up. Victims saw compensation orders as part of the sentence,
not as primarily a civil measure. They did not expect "full" com-
pensation from impoverished offenders. They did, however, expect
the courts to make such orders a priority in sentencing. Victims who
received compensation orders were significantly more satisfied with
the courts than those whose offenders received a different sentence.
This desire for recognition by the courts is very similar to victims'
reactions to the rest of the criminal justice system.
228 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

Secondly, the tariff for compensation might follow not the present
civil scale but a rather differently-weighted criminal scale. Such a
criminal scale would pay more regard to mental effects - the social
and psychological effects of Figure 11.1. It would also be based on a
concept of "seriousness" of the offense from the point of view of the
It may be useful to go into more detail about this concept, as it is
still unfamiliar to us to think of criminal matters from the point of
view of the victim. It would involve different elements and weightings
of the contributing factors from that derived from the point of view of
the offender (or of "society"). It might, therefore, involve considera-
tion of the perception of the victim, "I might have died" rather than
"the offender might have considered that I would nearly die" or "I
did nearly die."
The seriousness of a crime include consideration not only of its
consequences to the victim but also the symbolic gravity of the
offense and the fact that the victim has been the victim of a crime
(rather than an accident). The victim might be said to have been
brought unwillingly into contact ("stained") with crime. The symbolic
gravity of a crime might include serveral elements, for example,
whether it puts the victim at risk of personal harm or merely touches
his possessions or, perhaps, whether the offense was intentional.
Intentional violence may be considered more hurtful and, therefore,
harmful by its recipient than negligent or accidental violence. A scale
of seriousness of offenses from the point of view of the victim may
thus bear a considerable resemblance in its constituent elements to
scales of seriousness from the point of view of the offender or of
society - hardly surprising, given the cultural continuity. However,
the combination and weighting of those elements will be different.
Let us consider an award of compensation under this new criminal
tariff as opposed to under the civil tariffs now operating. Some parts
of the award will be similar. There will still be a division into expenses
paid out (special damages) and the more general symbolic sum. But
under the criminal tariff, expenses incurred during participation in
the criminal justice system would obviously be included. In the civil
scale, the general sum ("pain and suffering") is mainly based on the
consequences of the offense - the injuries suffered. There is,
however, no particular reason why the actual sums paid under the
civil tariff should have the values they do at present. The criminal
tariff would include the elements of consequences (with a greater
weighting for mental effects), symbolic gravity and criminal nature of
the offense, but these would probably not be additive, at least in a
Victim Assistance & Criminal Justice System 229

simple fashion, since they tend to be interrelated. It would not be

necessary that the total award be greater than the present civil award.
Let us take two examples. One would be an offense of high
symbolic gravity but low consequences (for example, a knife blow
which was deflected and merely scratched the skin). Here, the
general part of the award would be higher under the criminal tariff
than the civil, since the symbolic gravity would be high. The other
example is potentially much more difficult. It is the opposite case,
where the symbolic gravity is low but the consequences high (the
eggshell or thin skull case, in which a slight blow or push with no
serious intention causes serious injury). If the total amount of money
available under the criminal scale were to be the same as that
available under the civil, then the victim would receive much less
under the criminal scale. If we wish compensation to operate as a
welfare system (perhaps because we do not have a full welfare system
for those disabled as a result of accidents or, indeed, any other
cause), then this will be seen as a major stumbling block to the use of
a criminal scale. If, however, compensation is to be a statement about
the victim of crime, then it might be argued that such social welfare
considerations are irrelevant - we cannot attempt to mitigate any
general lack of welfare provision by giving it only to victims under a
rubric of compensation.
This need for recognition and for symbolic status in compensation
does not preclude the parallel wishes of victims for emotional support
and help. The two only seem incompatible in organizational systems,
not in the recipient. Many victims did receive all the support they
needed informally from friends, and relatives and workmates. Only
5% of victims did not refer to the involvement of other individuals at
some stage. However, victims also expressed a desire for greater help
and support both from the police and from a specialized victim
support agency. Slightly more than a third of victims said that they
would have liked help from a Victim Support Scheme during their
own case (such schemes were only available to a minority of victims
in the study). This help would cover practical and informational
matters as well as emotional support.



A system constructed according to the experiences and wishes of the

sample of victims in the present study would have four parts. The first
230 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

would be provision for immediate and emergency payment of

expenses incurred and wages lost. It would also include payments for
damaged clothing, spectacles and teeth and the cost of travel to
hospitals, doctors, etc. It would be an emergency service, and so
would be widely publicized. Many victims would not use it, being
able to cope with such items themselves. It should, however, cover
the expenses of those who have no such reserves. The requirement
for immediacy has two implications. First, it will not be possible to
conduct exhaustive investigations into whether the offense is a crime
of violence or into all the financial resources of the victim. Secondly,
the process of application should be simple and speedy. This implies a
locally-based distribution agency.
The second part would be a system for practical, informational and
emotional support for victims. It would assist victims to claim
emergency payments and compensation and would publicize services.
It would also refer victims to more specialized agencies (such as
psychiatric services, housing services, refuges, etc.) It would, with the
agencies involved in the criminal justice system, attempt to co-
ordinate services for victims, so that it is the agencies, not the victims,
who have to iron out inconsistencies and incompatibilities. It would
make as much use as possible of past victims in this, to ensure that the
process of assistance remains victim-centered.
The third part of the system would be an increasing use of
compensation orders by the courts, amounting almost to a presump-
tion that compensation would be considered in every case. The
information required to assess the value of such orders should be
routinely gathered during the investigation of the case by the police
or prosecution (possibly using a system similar to that introduced in
Scotland). If the court wishes to gather more evidence, or there is a
query about the effects cited, then the victim might be called to give
evidence. Victims should always be notified of the making of such an
order (in the context of informing them of the outcome of the case).
They should then receive regular reports on the progress of payment
of the order and on any enforcement action taken by the court.
Failure to pay compensation should be treated at least as seriously as
failure to pay fines. Throughout, the victim should be treated with
care and consideration by those employed in the criminal justice
The fourth stage of the process would act as a back-up (admittedly
a very substantial one) to the third. This would involve a body such as
the CICB, set up on a statutory basis to provide compensation as a
Victim Assistance & Criminal Justice System 231

right to those deemed to be eligible. The scheme should be widely

publicized. For both the third and fourth parts of the system, awards
might not necessarily be based on damages awarded in the civil
courts, but would be according to the criminal scale discussed above.


In victims' interactions with the criminal justice system, it was the

attitude of the personnel of that system to the victim that was the
chief determinant of victim satisfaction. In general, the system
appeared to regard the victim as a non-person and so failed to accord
him sufficient respect and concern. In the field of compensation and
victim assistance, the problem is subtly different. It is not that the
victim has not been thought of, or aid not attempted. It is that those
attempts appear to have a different basis to that wanted by victims.
The victim does not wish to be in the position of accepting gratefully
what financial assistance he may be offered by the courts or the state.
He expects, not only to receive redress and recompense for the crime
committed against him, but, moreover, to be considered as an
important part of the criminal justice system. The desires of victims
are the same in both spheres - the changes necessary to society's
views of the victim are rather different.
To approach a victim-centered system, society's view of the victim
would need to move from the black-and-white, deterministic picture
of the deserving, innocent victim to a more realistic appreciation of
what affects victims and who they are. Those who suffer most may be
not the stereotypical elderly victim but those who are assaulted at
work and feel unable to continue at that job, or those who are
self-employed and lose not only their own but their family's liveli-
hood. The situational and lifestyle factors associated with victimiza-
tion (such as going out to pubs and clubs in the evening) need to be
appreciated not as provocation by the victim "causing" the offense,
but as the reality of crime.
Allied with this change in the societal view of the victim would be a
change in perceptions of compensation and victim assistance. These
would embody neither solely a rights-based approach nor solely a
welfare approach. Rather, they would be based on respect for the
victim, leading both to rightful recompense and to practical, informa-
tional and emotional help. These would be set within a criminal
justice system, with the focus on compensation from offenders rather
232 On Victims & Criminal Justice System

than state compensation. Interaction between victim and system

would be a two-way process on a basis of more equal partnership.


1. The study, carried out in collaboration with Jon Willmore and Peter Duff,
is described in more detail in Chapter 10. Full particulars may be found in
Shapland et al. (1981) and Shapland (1982).
2. It is possible to calculate the interviews relevant to each time period in two
ways, both of which produce very similar results. The one shown in Figure
11.1 represents the effects described at the next interview after the time
shown (since victims were asked to tell the interviewers about any effects
suffered since the last interview). The alternative would be to count only
interviews taking place within a particular time period, but this produces
more apparent fluctuation due to the lower number of interviews involved
in each period. Note that the three-year point contains only a few
interviews. These results should be treated with caution.
3. Financial loss includes any statement by the victim which mentioned any
specific amount of money, whether for loss of earnings, damaged or stolen
property or medical expenses. These would all come under the heading of
special damages in any compensation award. Physical effects cover both
temporary physical suffering such as headaches or pain while performing
everyday activities; and permanent disfigurements such as scars or missing
teeth. Social effects could occur at home (holidays disrupted, family
concern, etc.), at work (victim changes job, perceives that he is treated
differently, etc.) or concern the victim's social life (victim does not go out
alone, will not go to pubs, etc.). Psychological effects include worry,
anxiety, depression and their symptoms in the victim or in his relatives.
4. Considerable discussion of these issues may be found in Miers, 1978;
Burns, 1980; Thorvaldson and Krasnick, 1980; Harland, 1978.
5. The applicant, as in the case of the CICB, may of course appeal if he feels
that the guidelines have not been followed.
6. Under the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973 as modified by the
Criminal Justice Act 1982, when sentencing, "a court by or before which a
person is convicted of an offence, instead of or in addition to dealing with
him in any other way, may, on application or otherwise, make an order
requiring him to pay compensation for any personal injury, loss or
damage resulting from that offence or any other offence which is taken
into consideration by the court in determining sentence." This applies to
England and Wales. Almost identical legislation exists in Scotland.


Brown, S. D., and Yantzi, M. (1980), Needs Assessment for Victims and
Witnessess of Crime, report prepared for the Mennonite Central Commit-
Victim Assistance & Criminal Justice System 233

tee and Ministry of Correctional Services, Province of Ontario, Canada.

Burns, P. (1980), Criminal Injuries Compensation (Ontario: Butterworths).
Doerner, W. G., and Lab, S. P. (1980), "The Impact of Crime Compensa-
tion upon Victim Attitudes Toward the Criminal Justice System," Victi-
mology, pp. 61-7.
Harland, A. T. (1978), "Compensating the Victims of Crime," Criminal Law
Bulletin, pp. 203-24.
Home Office (1961), Compensation for Victims of Crimes of Violence Cmnd
1406 (London: HMSO).
Home Office and Scottish Home and Health Department (1978), Review of
the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme: Report of an Interdepartmen-
tal Working Party (London: HMSO).
Howley, J. (1982), "Victim-Police Interaction and Its Effects on Public
Attitudes to the Police, M.Sc. thesis, Cranfield Institute of Technology.
Kelly, D. O. (1982), "Victims' Reactions to the Criminal Justice Response,"
paper delivered at 1982 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Associa-
tion, June 6, 1982, Toronto, Canada.
Maguire, M. (1982), Burglary in a dwelling: the Offence, the Offender and the
Victim (London: Heinemann).
Miers, D. (1979), Responses to Victimization (Abingdon: Professional
Miers, D. (1982), "Compensation to Victims of Crime", paper given at
International Symposium on Victimology, Sicily, Italy, 3-10 Jan. 1982,
Victimology (forthcoming).
National District Attorneys Association (1977), Commission on Victim
Witness Assistance, final evaluation report.
Shapland, J., Willmore, J., and Duff, P. (1981), The Victim in the Criminal
Justice System, final report to the Home Office.
Shapland, J. (1982), Compensation to Victims of Violent Crime, final report
to the Home Office.
Shapland, J. (1983), "Victims and the Criminal Justice System", paper given
to 33rd International Course in Criminology, Vancouver, Canada, 6-11
Mar. 1983.
Thorvaldson, S. A., and Krasnick, M. R. (1980), "On Recovering Com-
pensation Funds from Offenders," Victimology, vol. 5, pp. 18-29.
Part V
From Crime Policy to Victim
12 From Crime Policy to
Victim Policy?


steadily growing sector of research in criminology is concerned

with victims of crime. Sometimes this kind of research is simply seen
A a method of obtaining certain basic facts. The victims are useful
because they provide information difficult to obtain about offenders
or offenses, especially when there are no possibilities of obtaining this
information from other sources. Victimological research is then
needed for its general informational value.
The concept of victimology is, however, frequently used in a
different context. It refers not only to a particular source of informa-
tion, but also to a particular type of research, which could be called
"victim-centered." In principle, this research may be carried out in
many different ways. For example official statistics, participant
observation, or interviews with offenders may be used as its sources.
In the following, it is primarily this type of research that I shall be
dealing with.
What new perspectives are brought into criminology by victim-
centered research? First of all, it may simply give the criminologists
who focus on the characteristics of the individual a new set of targets.
In their research, the focus of interest for decades has been the
offender, and much work has been spent on efforts to find out what
kind of peculiarities, anomalies, mental illnesses, intelligence or
character defects could serve as an explanation for criminality. Now,
the same types of questions may be raised with regard to the victims.
The scope of individual-centered research may thus be enlarged
100%, or even more - even so, the usefulness of this kind of
information is not always very clear.

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
238 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

A second, perhaps more significant aspect is that victimological

research may bring a kind of balance to criminological research.
Society has always tried to assign the offender a certain societal role
and to keep him in it. The stereotype of the offender has been that of
an outsider, a different kind of person: evil, sick, mentally deviant.
The stereotype victim, on the contrary, was seen for a long time as
the innocent party whose miserable fate it was to fall victim to a
brutal act. The new perspective introduced by victimology can, of
course, eliminate these stereotypes. In some respect the balance may
even swing too far in the other direction. The victim himself or
herself has been seen as an initiator on whom the blame falls. Still
another alternative has been to exchange the earlier stereotypes of
"black and white" for "grey versus grey." As a great part of
criminality is concentrated within certain groups and certain areas,
both offenders and victims may appear to be odd people inclined to
unlawfulness, provocative and easily provoked. In this way it has
been possible to find new scapegoats for explaining criminality.
The approaches mentioned above remain as one-sided as the
earlier ones. However, victimology need not limit itself to such
narrow conclusions. There apparently is reason to remember a third
point of view: if a crime takes place, we are not merely dealing with
two isolated individuals, but with a relationship between at least two
interacting parties. As a matter of fact this is the special perspective
which makes victimology fascinating. The interrelationship is not
limited to just two persons. The offender and his victim do not
operate in a vacuum, but in a context of a number of historical and
situational factors.


Many victimological studies may be important purely on the basis of

their scientific interest. For example, they provide information on the
actual victimization risk for various offenses, on the ecological
distribution of criminality, and on the validity of other sources of
information. But victimology has also had practical consequences
over the past few years.
In the following I will mention some of these aspects, and at the
same time attempt to chart future perspectives starting from the
present position of the victim in the official criminal justice system.
From Crime Policy to Victim Policy? 239

The Position of the Victim in the Decision-Making Process Today and

in the Future

In the criminal justice system the victim has an ideologically interest-

ing position. In its early stages the criminal justice system may have
been clearly victim-oriented (in offenses with individual victims), but
in today's industrialized countries all decisions on how to deal with
offenses, even those offenses with individual victims, are regarded as
the concern of the State, its prerogative and duty. The culmination
point of this ideology is perhaps best seen in those opinions according
to which criminal law is regarded as nothing more than a sector of
administrative law. The "formalization" of criminal procedure seems
to i~dicate that the formalities and nothing more are needed. Viewed
from this angle, also the victim has his own, highly formalized role in
the system.
At least in the system of continental European law, the victim of
the offense, the "complainant" is to be heard, or at least provided the
possibility of being heard in court, in order to present his own
possible claim. But he is even then only a supporting actor in the
play, with the prosecutor and the offender as the principal actors.
As we know, it has been this way for decades and centuries. Now,
at last, there seems to be a broad consensus about the need for
reform. On the basis of the extent and thoroughness of our present
victimological knowledge, we have gradually become entitled to ask
whether the system I have just described actually fulfills the needs of
the victim.
We can first examine the situation within the criminal justice
system and then apply a wider perspective.

Reforms in the System

Within the framework of today's system of criminal justice, one

possible area for discussion could be the relation between punishment
and compensation.
If we ask victims what they wish for the most, punishment or
compensation, the answer (at least for the minor offenses) would
often be that they want compensation for damages. In our pragmatic
time not all victims would any longer consider it important that the
offender goes to prison; as victims, they probably don't even have a
240 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

very favorable picture of the preventive effect of punishment. For

them it is often more important that the status quo disrupted by the
offense be restored. This can be seen from, for example, interviews in
the newspapers where the victims say that they think the offender
should be made to come personally to repair the damages his offense
- for example, a burglary - has caused. Of course, such a proposal
certainly reflects both expressive and compensatory demands. But
the fact that it is often brought up appears to show the primary
position of compensation.
As a matter of fact, the offender and the victim are not necessarily
involved in a zero-sum game. On the contrary, the social cost to the
offender (the punishment as well as other possible cumulative
consequences) in practice also often burdens the victim. The best and
most often mentioned example is the offender who is sentenced to
prison and who may not be able to compensate damages to the victim
even if he wanted to.
There are many ways in which the present criminal justice system
could be reformed in this respect. One possibility would be that
willingness to pay compensation would be taken into consideration in
the sentencing; to some extent, this is probably already being done in
many countries. The previous legislation on conditional (suspended)
sentences in my own country stated specifically that, when consider-
ing whether or not the sentence should be conditional, the offender's
willingness to pay compensation was to be taken into consideration.
This provision is no longer in force, as it was considered to place the
better-off offenders in too much of a privileged position. But its basic
idea may still be worth acknowledging.
A second potential within the criminal justice system is that the
offender and the victim could become reconciled with each other
during the trial, at least when the offense is not very serious.
This principle is not quite unfamiliar in present laws. The severity
of the penalty is certainly often influenced by the complainant's
demand for punishment. More important, however, is that the laws
in many countries contain provisions on so-called complainant
offenses. These offenses cannot lead to prosecution unless the
complainant explicitly gives his consent to the laying of charges. In
my own country, the victim can withdraw his charges for such
offenses up to the the moment of the trial. (In those exceptional cases
where the complainant himself and not the public prosecutor prose-
cutes for the offense, he can withdraw up to the moment when the
court decision is to be announced.)
From Crime Policy to Victim Policy? 241

But let us imagine that the case proceeds through normal channels.
Compensation to the victim will often enter into the picture. Systems
where this compensation can be demanded directly in connection
with criminal procedure are probably better for the victim than
systems where he must raise a separate civil suit. But even the
simplified system used for example in my own country has its
drawbacks. This is because such a system leads the victim to report
offenses for prosecution simply in order to obtain compensation even
in those cases where he really isn't interested in seeing the offender
punished. Reporting the offense to the police may considerably
facilitate the procedure for obtaining compensation. This tendency is
further strengthened by the fact that before one collects from
insurance companies, one must usually show that the police have
been notified of the matter. It would seem that crime statistics are
needlessly inflated by such "technical" arrangements.
There are of course a large number of cases - especially in
connection with serious offenses - where the detection and punish-
ment of an offense fulfills a real social need. But in borderline cases
this is not true. For example in fraud, it is often only a matter of
opinion whether one should follow criminal procedure or only
demand compensation through a civil suit. Therefore, the system
itself should not induce people to report crimes for the sole purpose of
obtaining compensation.
A second matter calling for reform is the collection of compensa-
tion. It should not be something for the complainant alone. It is
especially here that the official system must come to the aid of the
Obviously, the victim frequently fails to obtain compensation from
the perpetrator. One possibility is that the state would help out. At
least in Scandinavia, only two decades ago, the idea that the state
would pay compensation for crime damages was rather new. I
remember the discussion in my own country fifteen years ago, when
some members of Parliament introduced resolutions to this effect.
The recommendations were opposed both by those who rigidly
maintained that the only one who should pay is the offender, and by
those who -like the Ministry of Finance - thought that this would be a
dangerous road towards increasing state expenditure. It is interesting
to note how, despite the opposition, a law on the state's obligation to
indemnify crime damages was passed about ten years ago after the
Nordic Council (composed of official representatives from Denmark,
Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) accepted a recommendation
242 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

for state compensation for damages caused by an institutionalized

person while on furlough or during an escape. From this very limited
scope, the legislative bill was expanded in Finland to include also
damages resulting from practically all violent offenses.
The complicated nature of the criminal justice system increases the
difficulties that victims have of knowing their rights even today, to say
nothing about being able to do something about them. At least in my
own country there have been complaints that it is easier for the
offender to get help from the authorities than it is for the victim. A
relatively poor victim may have to go to a lot of trouble and expense
before the matter has gone from the report of the offense to the
collection of the damages. There is quite apparently a need for the
expansion of the scope of public legal assistance and cost-free trials.

Reforms Outside of the Criminal Justice System

I have so far limited myself to reforms that would be possible

primarily within the scope of the criminal justice system. Should we
go even further? Many of you today are undoubtedly familiar with
Nils Christie's recent book Limits to Pain. The underlying idea is that
conflicts should not be the sole "official" property of the state.
Instead, they should be left to the parties concerned so that they
themselves could find the appropriate solution. The idea is that the
offender and the victim together might find a sensible way of
resolving the conflict, without interference by the heavy machinery of
the official criminal justice system. Can we move in this direction by
reforming the system of criminal justice?
Many of the approaches that I have mentioned actually support
this tendency. I have already mentioned the institution of com-
plainant offenses for keeping the case out of the court. The com-
plainant can refrain from reporting the offense if he regards the
matter as so petty, bothersome or unpleasant that he does not want
the official system to interfere. Refraining from reporting the offense
could sometimes even mean that the complainant does not feel that
an offense, for example slander, libel or perhaps petty assault, has
actually taken place.
Because I feel that this policy is in many cases advisable, I am
somewhat reserved about recent proposals, e.g. in Sweden, which
would lead to quite the opposite result. Their purpose is a diminish-
ment of the number of offenses regarded as complainant offenses.
From Crime Policy to Victim Policy? 243

How can we be so sure that the victim will be helped best by having
the case taken into the official criminal justice system? The victim,
who has already suffered anguish and expenses as a result of the
offense, may very well feel that he is once again sacrificed in order to
ensure that the system operates properly. It may be that those
making these proposals have an exaggerated view of the benefits
provided by the official system.
The victim - and society in general - may, however, feel that mere
passivity would not be enough. Another solution may be considered.
Instead of shoring up the official system, we should give serious
consideration to how mediation without trial could be expanded. In
many senses, the informal conflict resolution model would be better
than ,the formal. It should be the preferred model whenever we are
dealing with relatively minor offenses primarily directed against
private individuals.
It is another matter what the best means of organizing such
mediation would be; there are others who would be in a better
position than I to make suggestions. It has been suggested that so
called crisis centers could help out in this role. I am not altogether
convinced that this solution is the best one. Is it not to be expected
that the staff identifies too strongly with the victim, their client? It
might be that the staff would allow their emotions to lead them to
regard the offender as a double enemy - an enemy of their client and
an enemy of society. Would it not be better to have a more impartial
mediator for this very difficult task?
For the purpose of crime prevention, it might be tempting to go
one step further. As victimology has demonstrated the important -
perhaps even decisive - role of the victim's own behavior in the
etiology of crime, would the general opinion be ready to demand that
also the potential victims should help to prevent offenses by changing
their own behavior? In other words, is it possible to redistribute the
allocation of costs and burdens of crime on offenders and the
potential victim?
Certainly there is some willingness to move in this direction on a
voluntary basis. For example, if the police announce that they are
prepared to provide advice in preventing burglaries and robberies,
the public reaction is usually quite favorable. To some extent, the
public is prepared to cut down on the risk of crime through their own
activity, sometimes even at their own expense. But at some stage the
difficulties begin in this reallocation of the burden. In public debate in
Finland during the 1950s there were strong demands that car drivers
244 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

who left their cars unlocked in unguarded public areas be sentenced

to a fine. This led to a strong backlash in the press: the general
comment was that now the victims are being regarded as criminals
and criminals as victims - and these proposals were of course
dropped. The situation is even more blatant in connection with, for
example, sexual offenses. There are many examples of this. One
recent incident took place in a city in the Federal Republic of
Germany. As the police - just as the public - were very concerned
about the increase in rape, they prepared brochures telling potential
victims what they should do to lessen the risk. This caused strong
protests from feminists, as they understood the police attitude to be
that women should change their own behavior in order to avoid any
possible increase in the risk of rape.
Apparently the values and attitudes of the public strongly limit the
extent to which we can adopt this approach - no matter how
self-evident it is that often it would be easier to change the behavior
of the victim than that of the offender.
If the preventive measures are more diffuse, and the demands are
not so clearly directed at potential victims, they will be more readily
accepted without protests. For example the laws in my country
prohibiting the carrying of dangerous knives in public, as well as
requiring licenses for firearms are of course also directed at potential
victims, but such prohibitions have scarcely been opposed on these

The Dangers of an Overemphasis on the Victim

A shift from the present system to a more victim-centered system

would result in many improvements. But would there be any
problems? There is, at least, one tendency to be seen. It relates to the
structure of criminalizations. The victim-centered approach would
put the emphasis on the traditional offenses even more than is
already done today. This would especially be true of those offenses
that cause immediately perceptible damage. Offenses of endanger-
ment, and offenses which only cause indirect or slowly accumulating
damage (such as labor and environmental offenses) would be left
without sufficient attention.
Maybe some criminologists believe that our basic criminal code
should only deal with offenses with individual victims, and this is
probably the belief of the public as well. But at least in developed
From Crime Policy to Victim Policy? 245

industrialized countries we must also regard many other acts as

reproachable and deserving of punishment. It is not the so-called
victimless moral offenses I have in mind, but such offenses as bribery,
serious monetary offenses and drunken driving even when this does
not cause any concrete damage. A victim-centered approach should
thus not be allowed to lead to a short-sighted narrowing of criminal
13 Policy Implications of
Crime Victim Surveys


Large-scale and continuing surveys of victimization are costly. They

are, therefore, quite rare and recent in the production of social
indicators about crime. l Because of their cost, governments are their
major source of financial support. Whether or not governments are
their major consumers is moot but I shall concern myself with public
policy implications of crime victimization surveys. There are two
rather different kinds of policy questions one may ask about crime
victimization surveys. One is to ask whether as a matter of public
policy they should be continued, paying attention to such matters as
their cost-effectiveness, their contribution to information, enlighten-
ment, and engineering functions (Biderman, 1970). The other is to
attend to policy implications of the design and substantive findings of
victimization surveys. Of these two, I shall concern myself with the
I take it for granted that societies make public policies about crime
whether or not they have crime victim surveys and often without
benefit of them when they do. The main question is then, how do or
how might surveys of victimization make a difference in formulating
and implementing such policies? This question will be addressed by
asking a number of subsidiary ones: how do crime victim surveys lead
us to ask and answer relevant policy questions? what kinds of answers
have they given us that have relevance for public policy? and, what is
it that they do not do that has implications for how they are used?

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
Policy Implications of Crime Victim Surveys 247



When we speak of crime victims we are speaking about crimes and

their victims in all their variety. Yet both the designers of our
national surveys and the instruments used in them to collect informa-
tion on crimes and their victims carry with them very limited notions
about what is crime and who are the victims. In the US, it is all too
apparent that those immf'diately responsible for the design of our
National Crime Survey (NCS) picture crime in terms of the major
index crimes long measured in our Uniform Crime Reports. Only
criminal homicide was excluded and that was for measurement rather
than policy reasons. The included crimes are forcible rape, robbery,
aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft from persons and house-
holds, and motor-vehicle theft. The NCS altered both the FBI
definition and the operationalization of these crimes somewhat,
defining some as household and others as person crimes and adding
simple to aggravated assault. It defined crimes of violence towards
persons, but not towards their property. The Canadian (Evans and
Leger, 1979), British (Hough and Mayhew, 1983) and Dutch (van
Dijk and Steinmetz, 1980) crime surveys similarly base their ques-
tions on these major crimes although they obtain information on
subclasses of them and a few additional crimes. The British survey,
for example, adds the offense of vandalism (or criminal damage) and
includes rape together with wounding with a sexual motive and
indecent assault in a category of "sexual offenses" against women. It
similarly made changes in the theft category by separating bicycle
from other thefts (Hough and Mayhew, 1983: fig. 1). The Dutch
separate Moped from bicycle theft and collect information on
hit-and-run accidents (van Dijk and Steinmetz, 1980:12). The Cana-
dian survey similarly has experimented with victim reporting of a few
additional crimes and a redesign survey undertaken by Miller,
Groves and Handlin (1982) for the NCS Redesign Consortium in the
US added arson, vandalism, verbal threats, phone threats, indecent
exposure, and disturbance of the peace to the list of victim crimes.
A moment's reflection, however, makes it quite clear that many
kinds of crime are not included in any of these surveys of victims of
crimes. Absent, for example, are the many white-collar crimes,
especially the major kinds of criminal fraud.
What then are the grounds for including some victimizations as
crimes to be measured but not others? Are those choices made on
248 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

policy grounds and if so, should their selection drive other policy
choices? In the USA, it is at times argued that the crimes selected for
measurement are the most serious crimes, meaning by that that they
have serious consequences and are regarded as serious.


Yet public perception of the seriousness of a given crime from the

perspective of its actual and potential victims has a relatively poor fit
with the rank order of seriousness for that crime in terms of the
penalties prescribed for it by the law. Public ranking of crimes in
terms of their seriousness takes into account the status of both victims
and violators and other circumstances much as the law does in
deciding the sanction to be meted out in a given case rather than a
class of cases. Schrager and Short's (1980) re-analysis of the rankings
of the seriousness of crimes by Rossi and his co-workers (1974)
disclosed that the public often not only considered crimes with
organizational violators more serious than those with individual
violators but that organizational crimes with physical impact were
considered more serious than those with an economic impact.
Organizational crimes with a physical impact, indeed, were usually
ranked as equal in seriousness to the more serious crimes against the
person (1980:26).
The crimes selected for victimization surveys might have more
policy relevance were we to redefine what we mean by the consequ-
ences of crime and who or what is considered within our victim
Assume for the moment that policymakers are interested in the
most serious crimes and that what our national crime victim surveys
currently measure are, by some indicators, regarded as the most
serious ones. Seriousness depends of course upon measures of
seriousness. In our crime victim surveys, the major criteria are harm
to victims in terms of physical and monetary losses and altered
behavior. Recent review of how much harm occurs by crime reported
to USA NCS interviewers disclosed that most victims reported either
no harm or only minor harm when victimized (Reiss, 1982:550-64).
Setting aside that all rapes are regarded by definition as causing
physical harm, only three in ten personal robberies or assaults result
in physical injury and much of that injury is quite minor; the
proportion of persons who required some form of medical treatment
Policy Implications of Crime Victim Surveys 249

for their injury, for example, was only about one-fifth in 1980 (BJS,
1982:14). Similarly, although we can demonstrate that there is some
monetary loss in crimes against property, either because of damage to
property or theft, those losses in real dollars are quite small. One
may, of course, question whether these are the most appropriate
measures of harm or of calculating its amount, a matter we shall turn
to later. A substantial proportion of all crime victimizations are
attempted and never completed. Harm is on the average smaller for
attempted crimes. The conclusion then is that a substantial propor-
tion of victimizations reported in victim surveys, such as the NCS,
is for quite trivial events - events that persons may and do not find all
that salient if we consider their own attitudes about reporting such
matters to the police. 2
A main conclusion of crime victim surveys is that a substantial
proportion of all crime victimizations reported to survey interviewers
is not reported to the police. What is significant about that unre-
ported crime, from a policy perspective, are two things. One is that
the major reason citizens give for not reporting their victimization by
crime to the police is that they do not regard the victimization as a
serious matter. What is defined by law as a serious crime is not in
many instances a serious matter for its victims. Two-thirds of all
reasons given for not reporting victimizations to the police indicate
that the victim considers the offense relatively inconsequential
(Reiss, 1982:567), with over 40% saying that either nothing could be
done about the matter or that the offense was not important enough
to warrant bringing it to the attention of the police. Such reasons are
very substantially correlated with the amount of harm reported. It
follows, of course, that crimes which have the most serious consequ-
ences are most likely to be reported to the police and when reported,
their victims are least likely to say that the crime was not important
enough. Although almost one in three persons who failed to report a
crime to the police said that it was not important enough to warrant
doing so, less than 5% of all victims of crimes involving a monetary
loss in excess of $250 gave that reason (BJS, 1979: table 103).


What then are the implications of the patterns of harmful consequ-

ences and their ensuing mobilization of law enforcement for public
policy? I suggest that several conclusions of the US National Crime
250 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

Survey have implications for law enforcement and criminal justice

policies. The main conclusions are:

(1) Much of the crime reported by vIctIms in victim surveys is

relatively inconsequential in terms of the absolute amount of
physical harm or monetary loss.
(2) Citizens generally report matters that they consider serious to the
police. Our current system of reactive citizen mobilization brings
to the police a substantial proportion of crime that is serious in
terms of its consequences for victims.
(3) National crime surveys add a great deal of victimizations to the
category of serious crime that do not seem all that serious in
terms of their consequences.
(4) Legal categories of crime are poor measures of seriousness since
victims' perceptions of seriousness are not always in concordance
with seriousness as indicated by the penalty the law provides for
the crime.

Parenthetically one might add that our police, prosecutors, and

courts recognize such differences in seriousness in terms of the
charging and adjudication processes of our criminal justice system -
from treating some matters as de minimus to the taking of consequ-
ences into account when deciding whether and how to proceed with
charges against offenders. I may add that when one shifts from
victims to offenders, it becomes apparent that a single offender who
causes small harms in single events can do a substantial amount of
harm if he has a high individual offending rate.
Let us put the matter another way. Based on what we know from
our national crime surveys, do we think that the fact citizens do not
report all of their victimizations to the police is a problem requiring
attention? Should governments try to increase victims' reporting to
the police, for example? One suspects, at least on the grounds of the
consequences, that the answer is "no."


To raise a related and parallel issue: are we mistakenly developing

social indicators based on legal categories of crime that imply but do
not measure seriousness in terms of consequences? Should we be
developing rather indicators of crime based on our victim surveys that
measure degrees of seriousness and monitor changes in those indica-
Policy Implications of Crime Victim Surveys 251

tors over time? The answers to these questions are part and parcel of
a larger question on the intelligence, enlightenment, and engineering
functions of social indicators (Crawford and Biderman, 1969; Bider-
man, 1970): how do our indicators meet these three related but
different needs? Surely, our reporting of crime in concepts that imply
rather than measure the seriousness of events to victims is unsatisfac-
tory for any of these three objectives and, therefore, as indicators for
forming and implementing public policy. It may be noted, in passing,
that there are those who will suggest that this is but an argument for
disaggregation of our aggregate indicators. It is not, for at the heart
of the matter is how one conceptualizes crime and not simply how
one measures it.


Our second question is who are the victims of crime and how are they
incorporated into crime victim surveys. This problem has both
conceptual and measurement dimensions because actual victims or
their victimizations are the numerator and potential ones the denomi-
nator for rates of criminal victimization. One must collect informa-
tion on exposed populations who constitute the base for rates as well
as for the populations of victims (Reiss, 1983b).
National victim surveys differ in their selection of sampling and
reporting units and the offenses for which a population is at risk. The
NCS in the USA and the Canadian and British surveys treat persons
and households at risk for person and household crimes. The Dutch
consider persons and households at risk for all offenses including, for
example, burglary of a dwelling unit. The pioneering studies that led
to the development of crime victim surveys also attempted to
measure victimization by selected crimes for other populations of
victims, especially organizational populations. The organizational
populations included both profit-making and not-for-profit organiza-
tions in the private sector, as well as government organizations in the
public sector (Reiss, 1967). Until 1977, the NCS conducted a
victimization survey of primarily commercial establishments soliciting
information on commercial burglary and robbery (NCJISS, 1973-77).
Quite clearly, unless we conceptualize and measure criminal victi-
mization for organizational populations, we shall scant them in the
formulation of public policy. We now do so. Yet, it is far from clear
whether the household and its members have more than a political
252 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

priority in our public policy about crime because they are thought to
be somewhat larger in number and votes. It will be surprising to some
to learn that when all organizations are included the population of
organizations in the USA substantially exceeds that of its resident
population. The extent to which an organization can be victimized
varies, of course, among organizations. The greatest potential prop-
erty loss from victimization by crime is for our largest private
(capital) and public (government) corporate organizations, not for
individuals. Organizations of course affect public policy in a different
sense than do individuals and their crime victimization is dealt with in
different ways.
The survey interview itself poses problems for gathering informa-
tion from different kinds of victims. Those with diminished responsi-
bility and capacity to respond do not fit the model of direct inquiry as
to one's victimization by crime. The proxy interview for such persons
is a partial solution to that problem, on the assumption the proxy is a
valid surrogate. Even the use of proxy may be limited by defining the
population of persons eligible for victimization by crime. The NCS in
the USA defines that population as persons 12 years of age and over.
Clearly that population excludes an important class of victims - those
under age 12 - thereby underestimating victimization by crime.
Exclusion of persons under age 12 and proxy interview with those
aged 12-13 undoubtedly preclude measurement of one type of crime
- parental assaults of infants and children. Although both theft and
assault are probably underestimated because of an age eligibility
requirement for qualification as a victim of crime, the offense of
assaults of parents on children sets a limit on the survey itself as a
means of gathering such information. For, unless one queries chil-
dren directly about assaults against them - and there are distinct
limits for very young children - one is unlikely to uncover that
information since the proxy respondents, not uncommonly, are the
parent and sibling offenders. Where victim and offender reporting
are coupled, a victim survey design may prove unreliable.
Again, there are policy implications to be drawn from these two
examples. Where we seek information on kinds of offenses - such as
child abuse - the current surveys are of no help. Where we may be
scanting an important class of victims in public policy - organizations
- current surveys likewise are of little help. So far as organizations as
victims are concerned, neither our current uniform crime reporting
statistics based on law enforcement intelligence systems nor our
national crime surveys are very useful. Yet by all evidence, non-
household organizational victimization rates are higher, at least for
Policy Implications of Crime Victim Surveys 253

some types of crime, than are those for households, whose rates in
tum are greater than those for individuals. Just what are comparable
rates of victimization for these different victim populations and their
propensity to victimization by different types of crime is far from
clear, however, so that the comparative statement itself is open to



We have indicated already that the social indicator concepts under-

lying current victim surveys and the measures based on them have
limits for intelligence, engineering, and enlightenment functions of
knowledge and hence, for public policy. We shall try to show now
how, in important ways, the current British, Canadian, Dutch, and
US surveys of crime victims all share these limitations in one form or
another, though they perhaps are most glaring in the case of the NCS
in the USA. The British, Canadian, and Dutch surveys include more
measures on victim consequences or the general public's responses to
crime than does the NCS.
Current surveys deal with the harmful consequences of crime in
terms of physical harm such as injury or no injury, type of injury and
the extent to which medical treatment is necessary or in terms of loss
of property or monetary loss. Related measures such as days lost
from work due to either physical harm or property loss are included.
These are measured in terms of standard units of days and dollars or
their presence and absence. Not all measures are applicable to all
victims as, for example, a day lost from work measure assumes that a
worker's time is worth more than the time of one who is not
employed so that those not now at work are potentially less harmed.
Correlatively, the current measure treats losses to employing orga-
nizations as more consequential than those to households (or, at the
very least, that it is more important to know about how much time it
took to handle crime matters for the employed than for those not


Setting aside the ways in which victim survey measures of harm and
its consequences may be flawed, our concern here is with the
254 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

implications of what is not for what are measured as harmful and

serious consequences of crime. The first way we limit the notion of
harm is by our failure to include psychological consequences of
crime, except in a restricted sense.
The British, Canadian, and Dutch surveys measure "fear of
crime"for victims and nonvictims alike. Given the cross-section
design of these surveys, it is impossible to determine the extent to
which one's own victimizations affect one's level of fear. Assuming,
however, that a complex longitudinal design could separate the
effects of each individual's own experiences as a victim from the
knowledge and perceptions of the victimization of others on level of
fear, it does not follow that we have tapped the most important (or
all) of the major dimensions of the psychological consequences of
victimization by crime. It is quite possible that the experience of
being victimized induces and perpetuates fear in ways that distinguish
victims' fear from that of persons who have not had a similar
experience. Regardless of the effect of one's personal or collective
experiences in being victimized or one's fear of being victimized again
or a more generalized anxiety of being harmed by crime, there are
other and important harmful psychological consequences of crime,
such as the experience of a loss of privacy, of trespass, or of symbolic
deprivations. Still more important is to understand the components
that underlie the fear and their consequences. The fear of being
victimized may be consequential for the development of attitudes
towards minority groups, towards youth, and towards other groups in
society - attitudes of antipathy, as in the case of youth and crime and
of sympathy, as in the case of the elderly and crime. What does seem
clear from intensive interviews with victims over long periods of time
is that these psychological consequences of being victimized may
persist far longer than the consequences of physical harm or property
loss. Until we begin to follow victims over time, we shall lack such
measures and the implications they have for public policy.
The design and execution of the sample in all national surveys
limits, however, our capacity to measure fully the consequences of
victimization by crime. Information is gathered about the consequ-
ences of crime for a cross-section during the reference period for
which respondents and their households are at risk. Almost nothing is
known, therefore, about the continuing consequences of victimiza-
tion by crime. 3 For some public policies, one would want to know, for
example, how long fear or behavior changes persist. Does one
continue one's precautionary behavior indefinitely or is it short-lived?
Policy Implications of Crime Victim Surveys 255

In what ways does fear exhibit itself? These and similar questions can
be answered only with longitudinal designs - a more costly form of
the sample survey. 4



Another significant limitation in assessing the consequences of victi-

mization by crime lies in our failure to develop and calculate
measures of the relative magnitude of losses for victims. Though
many losses seem quite trivial in absolute terms, they are less so in
relative terms. Many losses from victimization by crime, and perhaps
eve~ disproportion ally the small losses, are experienced by low
income persons. Small losses undoubtedly are more consequential for
persons and households of low than high income. Lacking also are
measures of how persons cope with harms, an important means of
determining their impact. This observation is part of a more general
one about the policy implications of victim surveys. Less attention is
devoted to measures describing how individuals and collectives cope
with the consequences of victimization than to measuring their actual


Perhaps one of the major limitations of current surveys of criminal

victimization is that we limit the concept of victim to a household and
its members. We noted previously that inattention to non-household
based organizations affects our apprehension of victimization by
crime. An especially significant omission is measurement of the
consequences of crime for territorially organized social life. It is
axiomatic that territorially in societies crime is far from randomly
distributed. Rather, in post-industrial societies crime is disprop-
ortionally concentrated in cities, especially in the older sections of
central cities. Where one lives and works, moreover, is far more
consequential for one's victimization experience than is the level of
crime in the larger society. Yet, crime victimization surveys and the
policies based on them largely ignore the spatial concentration of
crimes and their victims. National statistics like those in our victim
surveys can only lead to national rather than local policies. Even local
256 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

policy decisions about crimes and their victims all too often ignore the
territorial distribution of crime. Local victim surveys typically are
designed to provide only aggregate information for the locality as a
Crime can be as consequential for collectivities as it is for the
individuals that comprise them. Much individual risk of victimization
undoubtedly is a consequence of where one lives and works and not
of who one is. Communities harbor offenders as well as victims in
varying numbers. Offenders, community opportunities, and com-
munity control affect one's risk of victimization.
There is a growing body of evidence showing that crimes of
violence towards property may be more consequential for the quality
of life in communities (Reiss, 1983a:54-7) than are crimes of violence
towards persons. Much of the violence towards property, especially
that of vandalism, affects collective or publicly rather than individual-
ly held property - streets, schools, parks, and playgrounds, for
example (Reiss, 1982:577-83). Violent crimes towards property must
rank among the more serious of crimes, representing, as they do, a
net loss rather than a transfer of value. Where property is publicly
held, replacement costs depend upon tax revenues and their alloca-
All communities give off symbolic information about their levels of
crime and the risk one takes in being victimized. Yet, in victim
surveys we seem to be interested solely in individual victims and their
victimization careers. There is no parallel interest in community
careers in crime. 5 Victim surveys focus on how individuals are
harmed in their individual capacities and not in how societies are
harmed in their organizational and collective capacities. In brief,
current crime victim surveys contribute to our developing and
maintaining policies that are inattentive to the most serious consequ-
ences of crime - that it destroys neigborhoods and communities as
well as individuals and their primary organizations. Recent work by
Kobrin and Scheurman (1981) leads one to conjecture that the
destruction of property by vandalism and of an organized business
community may presage high individual crime rates rather than
follow upon them. In that sense, the crimes of destruction of property
that we have been treating as less serious in our public policies turn
out to be the most serious. The recent British survey, reporting
vandalism rates more than twice that of all other theft of property
(Hough and Mayhew, 1983:8), has a message not only at the level of
the individual and his or her household but for the communities in
which they live.
Policy Implications of Crime Victim Surveys 257

Yet the crime victim survey is not very well adapted to measuring
the distribution of crime in space. One of the advantages of police
statistics is that they can more readily do so. Both our current
sampling techniques and the cost of crime victim surveys make the
use of crime victim surveys for estimating the territorial distribution
of crime problematic. The British survey has some indirect measures
of territorial risk. It concludes, for example, that persons who park
their cars on the street at night orland live in metropolitan areas
(especially inner cities) orland live in council housing are far more
vulnerable to motor vehicle theft than those who do not (Hough and
Mayhew, 1983:19). The numbers of sample persons in any particular
geographic area is far too small to calculate area probabilities of
victiqlization by crime. These indirect measures, nonetheless, are of
some utility for policy purposes. Provision of off-street or enclosed
parking, for example, can reduce auto theft rates. What we must bear
in mind is that our failure to treat the distribution of crime in space as
problematic, to see organizations as victims, and to treat organized
community life in its public forms of neighborhood and community as
victims may hamstring as well as limit public policy about crime
prevention and control.
All national surveys fail to capitalize on the ways in which the
non-victim population can be an important source of information
about victimization by crime. Generally the nonvictimized population
is queried only about attitudes they have towards crime and the
criminal justice system or about their fear reactions and any consequ-
ences of that fear. The surveys neglect to treat victimization as
problematic for that population in ways that might illuminate public
policy just as they fail to treat thwarted crime as problematic in
surveying victims. This perhaps arises from two conditions of the
survey. One is that our surveys are generally poorly ground in causal
theories about victimization by crime and its policy relevant dimen-
sions. The other is that a cross-section design is a very limited means
to test causal theories or to develop and test policy deductions from
those theories.
A simple example may clarify these observations. Suppose we
assume that victimization by crime can be prevented if the victim
takes certain actions. It is important to determine then who has taken
those actions and to follow such actors over a reasonable period of
time to determine their consequences. The victim survey designed as
a panel survey can be regarded as a quasi-experimental design where
it becomes possible to test both causal theories and the effect of
policy relevant behavior. The current cross-section designs are very
258 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

limited in terms of what they can tell us about such matters.

Longitudinal designs also have the power of telling us a great deal
about how the consequences of crimes are dealt with by victims. The
current NCS design in the USA measures poorly the consequences of
crime and how they are dealt with precisely because there are no
follow-up surveys of the victims to learn of these matters. One would
hardly expect that persons or households who were victimized in the
month preceding the survey would have made a recovery from
insurance, for example. Nor, can we find out about the long- as well
as the short-run consequences of injury. We know nothing about how
crime may cause people to change their place of residence - perhaps
by simply trading one vulnerable location for another - primarily
because we do not follow moving households and persons.
We, moreover, fail to examine the crime event in ways that might
tell us how victims prevent or cause the consequences of their
victimization. Many crimes turn out to be attempted but we know
little about why they were not completed. Our information on what
happened in terms of what the victims did in the situation is not
obtained so that it may be treated in causal sequence. Even more
importantly, we know so very little about how the citizens who were
not victimized might report experiences about how they believe they
escaped it. There is reason to conclude that people are sensitive to
their environment and its criminogenic properties and that many take
actions to avert being victimized when the environment signals
potential victimization. With an expanded conception of what victi-
mization by crime means for a population and what causes it, we may
turn the victim survey into a far more policy relevant instrument than
is now the case.


The foregoing observations deliberately focus on the limitations of

crime surveying for policy. Current surveys, nevertheless, have
enlightened policymakers by sensitizing them to the range and
diversity of victim experiences with crime. Current surveys in their
present form are of limited use, however, for any organized intelli-
gence system dealing with crime and perhaps even less so for the
engineering of crime prevention and control. If we regard victim
surveying as in its infancy and as having a great potential for
developing causal and policy relevant knowledge about victimization
by crime, we can turn victim surveys into policy relevant tools. Yet
Policy Implications of Crime Victim Surveys 259

there is a cautionary tale also. There are limits to what surveys can
tell us. They are but one of a number of intelligence systems that
contribute to making and implementing public policy. With appropri-
ate development, our uniform crime reporting systems may produce
information about victims relevant for crime policies as can victim
surveys. What seems necessary is the progressive development,
elaboration, and interfacing of all current systems of information on
crimes, their victims, and their violators.


1. During the last decade, most western countries either conducted a

victimization surveyor asked a number of questions about victimization
by crime in an omnibus survey. Few countries, however, have institu-
tionalized the victim survey and only three on a national basis. The US
survey began in July 1972 and annual estimates have been made for 1973
and succeeding years (Criminal Victimization in the United States, US
Department of Justice). The Research and Documentation Centre of the
Netherlands Ministry of Justice has sponsored annual surveys since 1974
(The RDC Victim Surveys 1974-1979, The Hague: Ministry of Justice,
1979), though they have been less standardized than that for the US. The
Home Office in England published its first report in 1983 (Mike Hough
and Pat Mayhew, The British Crime Survey: First Report, London:
HMSO, Jan. 1983) for 1981 in what is to be an annual series. The General
Household Survey in Britain earlier carried questions on domestic burg-
lary. Annual national time series of victimization by selected types of
crime thus are available only for the US and the Netherlands.
2. The corresponding figures for injury and amount of property loss are
considerably lower for victims reporting crimes in the European surveys.
3. It follows that the cross-section measures likewise are flawed in that only
the consequences between the interview and the occurrence of the
victimization can be measured. The more recent the occurrence, of
course, the less that will be known about the full consequences, e.g. about
recovery from injury.
4. The cost of victimization surveys raises complex policy issues. Govern-
ment sponsors of crime victimization surveys demand the information be
relevant to public choice matters. The substantive objectives of scientists
and public policymakers have an important bearing on the design of
victimization surveys. Since designs vary considerably in their fixed and
variable costs per unit of information, choices about content, frequency of
administration, and lags in securing and processing information them-
selves become matters of policy about public benefits as return on costs.
5. The US crime survey program originally included surveys of its five largest
cities and 21 of the next larger group of cities. These surveys were
inattentive to territorial distributions of crime within the cities, however.
260 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy


Biderman, Albert D. (1970), "Information, Intelligence, and Enlightened

Public Policy: Functions and Organization of Societal Feedback," Policy
Sciences, vol. I (Summer) 217-230.
Biderman, Albert D., Lynch, James P., and Peterson, James L. (1982),
"Why NCS Diverges from UCR Index Trends," (Washington, DC:
Bureau of Social Science Research, 15 July).
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), (1978), Criminal Victimization in the
United States (annual series 1980 beginning 1978), (Washington, DC: US
Government Printing Office).
Crawford, Elisabeth T., and Biderman, Albert D., (eds), (1969), Social
Scientists and International Affairs (New York: John Wiley).
van Dijk, J.J.M., and Steinmetz, C.H.D. (1980), The RDC Victim Surveys
1974-1979 (The Hague, Netherlands, Ministry of Justice).
Evans, John, and Leger, Gerald (1979), "Canadian Victimization Surveys: a
Discussion Paper," Canadian Journal of Criminology, vol. 21, 16~83.
Hough, Mike, and Mayhew, Pat (1983), The British Crime Survey: First
Report, Home Office Research Report No. 76 (London: HMSO, Jan).
Kobrin, Solomon, and Scheurman, Leo (1981), An Interim Report: Interac-
tion Between Neighborhood Change and Criminal Activity (University of
California Social Science Research Institute).
Miller, Peter V., Groves, Robert M., and Handlin, FeJma J. (1982), "Peoria
Reverse Record Check Study: Initial Data Analysis," (University of
Michigan, Survey Research Center Sept.).
National Criminal Justice Information and Statistics Service (NCJISS),
(1973), Criminal Victimization in the United States (Washington, DC: US
Government Printing Office).
Reiss, Jr, Albert J. (1967), Studies in Crime and Law Enforcement in Major
Metropolitan Areas Field Surveys III, vol. 1, President's Commission on
Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (Washington, DC:
- - , (1982), "How Serious is Serious Crime?," Vanderbilt Law Review, vol.
- - , (1983a), "Crime Control and the Quality of Life," American Behavior-
al Scientist, vol. 27, 43-58.
- - , (1983b), "Problems in Developing Statistical Indicators of Crime" in
"Connaltre la Criminalite: Le Dernier Etat de la Question" (D'Aix-
Marseilles: Presses Universitaires).
Rossi, P. E., Waite, E., and Berk, R. E., (1974), "The Seriousness of
Crimes: Normative Structure and Individual Differences," American
Sociological Review, vol. 39, 224-37.
Schrager, L. A., and Short, Jr, James F. (1980), "How Serious a Crime?:
Perceptions of Organizational and Common Crimes" in Gilbert Geis and
Ezra Stotland (eds), White-Collar Crime: Theory and Research (Beverly
Hills: Calif. Sage).
14 Victims and Policy in
Canada: the Emergence
of the Justice for Victims
of Crime Initiative


In this chapter, I intend to examine facets of the business of making

policy as they were revealed in the comparatively early history of the
Federal Government's Justice for Victims of Crime Initiative. In an
international course held in Canada and devoted to the victims of
crime, it seems eminently appropriate to describe how it was that
victims became politically established in Canada. I shall try to explain
how they have begun to assume a new importance and coherence
within the criminal justice system. My examination will be bent solely
towards the beginnings of what will certainly be a lengthy and
complicated process of organizational change. I shall deal only with
those events that elapsed before the Spring of 1982, neglecting the
recent and important development of the Federal-Provincial Task
Force, departmental and interdepartmental committees and a num-
ber of attendant projects and surveys. That development will be
discussed elsewhere. My concern is with the events that brought
about the political and institutional recognition of the crime victim in
* I am deeply indebted to the staff of the Ministry of the Solicitor General of
Canada for their great kindness and patience in helping me conduct this
research. I am also grateful to Peter Manning, Irvin Waller, Sheila
Arthurs, Francine Bertrand and Linda MacLeod for their comments on
this paper.


E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
262 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

Not only will I dwell exclusively on the first stirrings of a Canadian

politics of victims. I shall also simplify that description, producing a
kind of analytic cartoon which can portray only a few of the more
obvious and interesting features of the process. I was not present
everywhere and at all times and I was not in everyone's confidence.
Further, a short paper must inevitably condense, abstract and neglect
great tracts of material. Yet even a cartoon is capable of illuminating
some of the substantive and formal properties of the history of policy
formation and the victim of crime.
In 1981, I had the good fortune to be invited to become a Visiting
Scholar at the Programs Branch of the Ministry of the Solicitor
General in Ottawa. I had the even greater fortune to be allowed
complete freedom to piece together a case history of policy work. For
some years I had been anxious to undertake an ethnography of
criminal justice policy, but it was only on my arrival in Canada that I
acquired the proper access to people, papers and events. I seized on
the victims initiative because it was current and relatively modest in
scale, being amenable to study by a lone sociologist. It gave me the
opportunity to appreciate how politics are done, the criminal justice
system is negotiated, research is deployed and organizations are
enacted. It permitted me to embark on a form of map-making,
describing a landscape which had hitherto been murky and obscure,
the subject of rumours and surmise. During the summer and early
Autumn of 1981, I played the part of a participant-observer in the
Secretariat of the Ministry. I returned in the summer of 1982 with a
draft report that was to be exposed to the critical commentary of
those whom I had studied. It was an exposure that ensured at least a
minimal phenomenological adequacy. I am now attempting to modify
my analysis and extend it to survey what has happened after the
Spring of 1982.


In December 1981, it was announced at the Federal-Provincial

Conference of Ministers Responsible for Criminal Justice that the
victims of crime suffer from the multiple injuries that are inflicted by
the criminal act and by the work of law enforcement that may succeed
it, that immediate action should be taken to "stimulate and improve
information and support services," and that officials should return
within a year with "specific proposals for further action ... to more
Victims & Policy in Canada 263

effectively assist victims.,,1 That initiative is still unfolding, its life

having been prolonged. It has fissured into a series of working
committees and funded projects which are spreading the idea and
forms of victim assistance across Canada. The initiative is now taking
shape in the deliberations of those committees and in the evolution of
the projects. It is settling on aid to battered and raped women, police
training programs, the recruitment of social service auxiliaries to
complement the police, the development of voluntary schemes to
counsel and console the victim, the cultivation of court-based victim-
witness programs and the fostering of community projects. The
structure and possible consequences of the initiative are unclear even
to its authors. Moreover, as I shall argue, the very structure of a
Can~dian victim policy is a situated accomplishment, reflecting the
position and stocks of knowledge of those who describe it. The
"Justice for Victims of Crime Initiative" is no one thing, standing
unambiguously and objectively before the officials who have worked
on it.
The initiative does not only lack a present constitution. It is the
emergent outcome of a most protracted and serpentine process
whose ends were often uncertain and unseen. During most of its
evolution, it was not evident that an initiative was in the making or
what kind of initiative it might actually prove to be. Indeed, many of
those caught up in the initiative believed themselves to be involved in
quite different projects with different names and objectives. It was
only retrospectively that they realized what they had accomplished.
For the greater part, the victims initiative was not distinguished by a
separate title or identity. It was not an entity at all. Instead, it may be
understood as a number of different histories which were scattered
across the face of Canada and deeply embedded in their own local
contexts. Those histories were available to be grasped belatedly by
willing innovators and transformed into the materials of policy.
The creative work of comparison and synthesis gave form to the
initiative but it was not an entirely separate or simple component of
the process. At one level, it was the result of people stepping back
and imposing definition on a spectacle that was before them. At
another level, those people and their gaze were parts of the spectacle
itself. The willingness of officials to act on materials was an evolving
aspect of those materials. Understanding and entrepreneurship were
themselves emergent. Moreover, and adding further complexity, the
very recruitment, education and deployment of engaged officials
were prompted and shaped by the initiative. Functions, relations and
264 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

identities developed as the politics of victims themselves grew. In this

sense, the initiative framed and cultivated the very sensibilities which
gave it cohesion and significance. It was thus profoundly dialectical,
being a flurry of episodes, acts and interpretations which can be
distinguished only with difficulty.


The initiative was reflexive, constituting itself as it evolved. It

stemmed from talk and writing, being the result of copious committee
meetings and papers. And being so composed, it is best analysed as a
piece of argument which borrowed the forms and practices of
argument. It was founded in words which returned to give it a
character, a logic and a context. Those words were intended to
import inevitability and pattern to a welter of happenings that were
not always originally experienced as inevitable and patterned. It is
the object of policy documents to persuade people that things could
not have been otherwise. As time passed, the initiative was progres-
sively reconstructed and given firmness. It achieved a phenomenolo-
gy which engendered its own solidity, creating a lineage and a trail of
causality behind itself. Indeterminacy and openness were methodical-
ly removed from a past that was once known as free and uncertain.
Those who create action out of argument are able to extend
causality as far back into the past as they care to choose. In this sense,
a victims initiative could have been represented as an extension and
continuation of distant happenings. And the act of reappropriating
those happenings and succumbing to their influence would make that
representation quite proper. The beginnings of any policy may then
be very antique indeed. For example, proposals could have been
depicted as an attempt to restore the remedies of the Golden Age of
Victims,2 a return to that time before the State grew strong and
usurped the place and rights of the personal victims. Some Canadian
agencies did turn to that argument. The Law Reform Commission of
Canada, for instance, used it to develop recommendations about
mediation, reconciliation and compensation. But the two sponsors of
the "Justice for Victims of Crime Initiative," the Ministry of the
Solicitor General and the Department of Justice, elected to refer to
more recent happenings. It is with the work and arguments of that
first Ministry that I shall stay, and my observations should be taken to
allude to the staff of the Solicitor General.
Victims & Policy in Canada 265

When the past can be scanned, sorted and attached to proposals, it

is not always easy to declare when something began. In effect, and a
little arbitrarily, it may be asserted that the Canadian victims
initiative had its origins in a series of events that took place in the
United States. The doings of the American criminal justice system
represent a kind of animated panorama of possibilities, warnings and
influences that are played out before those who care to attend to
them. Ever since penology became established, it has been the
practice of reformers to acquaint themselves with what the Amer-
icans have done. And there is reciprocity, crime and social control
being international preoccupations.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, victims acquired a certain
organizational and political salience in America. They were tended
by different ventures, receiving a variety of forms, roles and symbolic
functions. Victims were not unequivocal in meaning. Thus the Law
Enforcement Assistance Administration and the Bureau of the
Census founded the National Crime Surveys, and victims were
principally social indicators. The Law Enforcement Assistance Admi-
nistration gave birth to a great array of victim-witness assistance
programs, and victims were chiefly reluctant and alienated partici-
pants in court proceedings. The women's movement fostered rape
crisis centers and refuges for battered wives, and victims were women
hurt by men. Projects were established to console the families of
murdered children, give aid to the victims of arson, reconcile victims
and offenders, and administer criminal injuries compensation prog-
rams. The politics, inspiration, purposes, frameworks and organiza-
tion of those projects were diverse, defying complete unification. But
a limited cohesion was secured by the wider social movements that
appeared in the wake of the practical work on victims. In particular,
two master institutions emerged to define and advance unity. One
was the National Organization for Victim Assistance, itself catalysed
and strengthened by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administra-
tion. The other was the World Society of Victimology and its
satellites. Both institutions have been prey to competing claims.
Victimology has been especially torn, wavering uncertainly between
different demands. It has put forward uneven images of the victim
and victimization, sometimes portraying crime as a petty and fleeting
incident, sometimes representing it as traumatising. It has displayed
hesitation about the part played by the victim in the making of crime.
In particular, the idea of "victim-precipitation" has become the
centre of a separate political and ideological dispute: on occasion, it
266 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

has been dismissed as part of the art of "victim-blaming," a brutal

instrument of oppression; on occasion, it has been deployed as if it
were an obvious component of a sensible argument. Victimology has
oscillated between scholarly detachment and passionate engagement.
It does have a marked strain of evangelism which has transformed it
into something other than a conventional academic pursuit. Like
penology and much of criminology before it, it has become a form of
politics in its own right.
The victims movement and victimology are recent and agonistic
enterprises, not quite established in America and unsure of their
future. They are populated by overlapping memberships, leading to a
merging of the movement and the discipline. Their work has given
analytic emphasis, poignancy and political prominence to victims.
Their evolution has turned on a procession of conferences which have
acquired a special significance. That procession has been used to
construct and punctuate history, giving a shape to events and an
impression of motion. More importantly, the meetings have also
served as a kind of rally or communion, an opportunity to celebrate a
sense of shared identity and common purpose, and as a strategy to
dispel uncertainty. Large gatherings can give urgency, solidity,
objectivity and form to ideas, bestowing a suprapersonal authority.
They have been able to move those who attend them, acting as
turning points in their intellectual and existential careers. Some
people have been prompted to experience the conferences as rites de
passage, as occasions to stop and think and remake their lives.
All of the work of the American victims movement, victimology
and their allies need not have shifted Canadian criminal justice
policy. After all, there is much that is done abroad that plays itself
out without manifest effect. To be sure, there were a number of
projects, rape crisis centers and transition houses established in
Canada itself. Some were modelled on examples that were visible
south of the border: the Vancouver Rape Crisis Center emulated a
Scheme in Seattle, and a Mennonite Victim-Offender Reconciliation
Project in Ontario was fashioned after a Mennonite project in
Elmira, New York. Other Canadian programs were not borrowed
from the States or were modelled on English and New Zealand work.
But the absolute number of programs was small, they were scattered
across a huge country, and there was little sign that they were
affecting the work of the Ministry of the Solicitor General. It was
necessary to import the ideas and inspiration of victim assistance into
the Department. That importation drew principally on American
Victims & Policy in Canada 267

initiatives and it was achieved quite concretely by one person in the

very earliest stage.
Movements of thought need practical mediation. Without some
person or group acting as a conduit or sponsor, the politics of victim
assistance, would have stayed outside the frontiers of the Ministry.
Of course, mediation is often obscure and oblique, occurring in a
fragmented fashion and passing through a series of transformations.
Such diffuse influence tends to be the background of all social action.
But the ferrying of ideas can also be very direct and simple. It occurs
with the traffic of people. In a sense, every person represents a
moving synthesis of organizations and experiences, changing and
fusing institutions as he or she goes about. As Strauss observed,
"elelJ1ents in (the) environment (are) literally inside the organization
itself, in the form of workers carrying the outside into the work of the
organization.,,3 When those workers are substantial and powerful,
the importation of an environment may be very consequential
In the formative years of the Secretariat of the Solicitor General,
Irvin Waller acted as the Director General of Research, and he was
to channel the thought of the American victims movement into the
very centre of the Ministry. Waller had worked in Cambridge and
Toronto on men released from prison and the victims of burglary. His
research having touched on victims, others singled him out and
concentrated on his potential identity as a victimologist. He was
progressively drawn into the skein of meetings which formed the
beginnings of victimology. And he was to regard those meetings as
quite vital in lending him intellectual and moral purpose. One
seminar especially, the International Study Institute held at Bellagio
in 1975, induced what he called a crise de conscience, a radical
reformulation of the character of his work. It was the idea of victims
that began to give coherence to his activity, and it was the idea which
he brought with him into the Ministry of the Solicitor General. The
research program of that Department was fashioned into something
of a working extension of Waller's own preoccupations, and victims
were one of its emphases.
There were delays before the publication of the burglary study and
its eventual reception gave prominence to Waller's engagement with
victims. Burglary: The Victim and the Public4 discussed the findings
of a victimization survey which had been conducted in Toronto. Like
all such social surveys, it tended to report discrete, contained
responses which had shed much of their originating context. Events
268 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

were recaptured some time after they had elapsed. They were massed
together and anonymized, emphasizing their generality rather than
their personal urgency. The outcome was the reproduction of one of
victimology's images of crime as a commonplace and predictable
incident which was trivial enough in its effects. The typical burglary
was held to be nonviolent, petty and inconsequential. Waller argued
that it served as a poor foundation and justification for the Canadian
public's fear of crime, a fear which he depicted as autonomous in its
development, meriting its own analysis and treatment.
The book was not well received in some quarters, newspapers
being especially prone to claim that it had belittled the shock and
suffering which victims undergo. For many, the book was made
known through a hostile editorial and their response was to a
reconstructed version of Waller's argument. As Irvin Waller
observed, "The reception given to the book was actually the recep-
tion given to an editorial that distorted not only what was said in the
book, but what had been said in the Globe and Mail's front page
story."s Around that reaction to a reconstituted thesis was to grow a
small politics of outrage. Victims themselves protested to the press.
Waller declared that he had not anticipated the critical reply which
was to be meted out: "press reports, in which burglary victimization
surveys are quoted as showing serious events to be rare, tend to
generate vitriolic letters to the editor from those who have been
traumatized by such events in the past.,,6 The difficulties posed by
that anguished response were complicated by their unexpected
translation into politics. By the time the book was published, Waller
had become established as a senior civil servant advising the Solicitor
General of Canada. His arguments could be construed by some as
indications of the policy of his Department and Minister. Reproofs
were directed at the Solicitor General himself. Most unusually, a
scholarly work had become notorious and Waller made a public
affirmation of his commitment to the relief of victims of crime.
Thereafter, he was recognized by his colleagues and others as wedded
to the politics of victims.
Social action requires human agency. Waller had been instated as a
powerful public official and he became a relay, disseminator and
amplifier of the ideas of victimology and the victims movement. He
was to construct a network of acquaintances which was organized
around the promotion of victims. He was to be involved in the
creation of the World Society of Victimology and he became a
member of the Advisory Committee of the National Organization for
Victims & Policy in Canada 269

Victim Assistance. It was he who acted as the willing response and

agent of synthesis, preparing an environment sympathetic to a victims
It is a constitutional principle in Canada that Parliament makes the
policy which civil servants execute. It is not the task of a Ministry
Secretariat to introduce major innovations in its own name. Rather,
substantial actions must be done as an extension of decisions which
have been politically ratified. In turn, many bureaucratic practices
cannot be themselves. They must be phrased in a moving context of
legitimation. At the beginning, victims had not themselves been
declared an appropriate or approved target for policy work. Any-
thing done wih them or to them demanded authorization within a
framywork of foreign concerns. Thus it was that they were first
presented to the Ministry in an alien guise.
Victims entered the Department as a part of the Peace and Security
Package of 1976, a bundle of measures designed to abolish capital
punishment and allay the public and political anxiety which the
prospect of abolition seemed to cause. The Cabinet, and the Solicitor
General in particular, were confirmed abolitionists but there was no
assurance that Parliament, major law enforcement institutions and
Canadians at large would support them. It was feared that the
Criminal Law Amendment Act Number Two would not pass. A price
was offered for the elimination of hanging, the Peace and Security
Package being a contract with Canadian society. Included within it
were lengthy mandatory sentences for murder, a more stringent
parole system and a host of other practical and symbolic measures.
Ministry staff were encouraged to devise reassuring programs which
would underscore the seriousness of the Government's concern about
violence in Canada. Amongst the proposals urged by Waller was the
mounting of a National Victimization Survey, following the National
Crime Surveys but not replicating them, intended to assess the
effectiveness of crime prevention and other strategies. Victims were
thus to receive an initial definition as the indices of efforts to reduce
violence and public fear.
It was understood that survey techniques could not be transplanted
without modification. In time, the administration of national survey
was to be delayed until pilot projects had established how the
peculiar problems and qualities of Canada could be accommodated.
Victims then became an issue in the resolution of methodological
questions about the measurement of the effects of crime prevention
techniques. And that gloss was itself to evolve as staff acquired
270 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

practical and theoretical competence. Surveying victims was to

constitute an acknowledged part of the Department's division of
labor. Staff were appointed to the task. As they worked, so their
experience and knowledge grew. They were to seek out ideas about
victims, acquiring foreign information which necessarily incorporated
the assumptions, histories and interests of its authors. Those assump-
tions had never centered solely on the special problems of survey
methodology. They ranged widely and carried the Canadians with
them. Sometimes inadvertently, experts at the Ministry fell heir to
the accumulated preoccupations of the Law Enforcement Assistance
Administration, the American victims movement and victimology.
Those preoccupations became the causes and past of the Canadian
evolution of a victim's politics. More, they also became a critical foil
for the production of countering ideas. The Canadians invested more
and more of themselves, becoming engrossed and bending their will
towards the solution of increasingly broad problems of crime victims.
It came to be argued that a national survey should be devoted to the
elucidation of a span of questions, crime prevention being but one.
Indeed, it was eventually thought wasteful and improper to confine
such a potent instrument to one narrow activity alone. The effect was
to implant in the Programs Branch of the Secretariat a small group of
people entrusted with the exploration of victimization, a group which
began to build on its mandate, acquired authority and advanced
independently and in critical response to the achievements of others.
It became the recognized repository of departmental competence in a
novel area, and its ideas were to shape early policy proposals. Victims
came to permeate the lives of its members. It was a group that was to
be transformed into a relatively contained community with the
motives, experiences and stocks of knowledge to move victims
onwards. It could and did become independent of victims' prime
mover, Irvin Waller. Waller commented "the way the Canadian
survey developed was very different from what I intended - largely
because my energies in the Ministry were diverted elsewhere.,,7 The
group actually became the principal engine of a victims politics inside
the Ministry. When Irvin Waller resigned from the Ministry in 1980,
victims continued to be nursed as an object of possible policy. A
structure had been established which was to endure. But it was also a
structure that was institutionally constrained. After all, it is not the
allotted task of the Programs Branch to make policy. That is the job
claimed by the Policy Branch. The victims initiative has been
described by officials as a "bottom-up" enterprise which had its
Victims & Policy in Canada 271

origins in places outside the Cabinet, the Minister's office and the
Policy Branch. Its birth in the Programs Branch was to inject some
problems of mandate, territory and role. There was limited disagree-
ment about competence and provenance, a disagreement which
touched on the authority of different groups to make policy. In
particular, there was awkwardness surrounding the office of the
Director General of Research, an academic who had entered the
Department to effect change. Waller was to resign because of the
frustration he had encountered in his attempts to alter policy: "I left
because I did not feel governments were concerned enough about
programs to prevent crime or programs that would help victims of
crime recover from the experiences.,,8 In return, there was some
sentiment that research and policy-making were and should be
independent spheres of enterprise. His was a recurrent problem,
encounted elsewhere. In Washington, for example:

The social scientist's demand for elite accessibility, though said to

be inspired by noble purpose, tends to set the social scientist apart
from other employees of the federal government. He sees himself
as an advising expert instead of as an employee. The social
scientist takes himself seriously as an appointed official playing a
political role in a way that most federal workers do not. The
federal bureaucracy finding that the social scientist has come to
Washington to "set the world on fire", tends to think that a
presumptuous intention, unmindful of the flame that also burns in
the heart of staff administrator. 9

In time, the tension about origins and ownership was to become a

little pronounced. In time, too, new groups were to lay claim to
victims, contending with the Ministry about the names, classifications
and meanings of victimization. Towards the end of the 1970s, just
when the social circle of officials had begun to develop, there were
other movements starting to stir in and about Ottawa. Chief amongst
them was the emergence of a separate politics of the battered and
raped woman. Operating with precarious resources and on the
margins of the State, rape crisis centres and transition houses were to
construct a discrete imagery and dialectic of victimization. Some were
to resist the terminology that was beginning to be applied by the
Ministry, and most sought to retain control over that which they had
started. Never certain, the Canadian victim was to be the subject of
definitional contest and ambiguity. There were appearing a number
272 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

of classificatory claims and counterclaims about the proper treat-

ment, identification and future of those who had been raped, robbed,
beaten, assaulted and battered. In time, the female victim was to
serve simultaneously as a spur and as a brake on the promotion of a
general victims initiative. I shall return to her later.



The Ministry of the Solicitor General exists in a massively complex

environment of jurisdictions, agencies and governments. Canada is a
federal system, and its criminal justice work has been parceled out
between two federal ministries and ten provincial governments. The
negotiation and renegotiation of territorial claims is a continuing
pursuit, affecting the construction of all policy. Indeed, any policy
may be read as an assertion of a claim, charting an area in which an
institution would operate. Such negotiation bears particularly on the
process of resolving a corporate identity and habitat for the Ministry.
The advancement of policy requires a protected space which is
relatively free of others' interference and control. As the Department
responsible for the federal police, the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police, the Ministry has a secure terrain which is its own. And the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police are regarded as the premier Cana-
dian force, playing an exemplary and pioneering part in the trans-
formation of policy. By extension, the Ministry has acquired a
mandate to explore very general problems and methods of police
work, advancing itself into the Canadian criminal justice system.
In the beginning, constitutional propriety and institutional man-
date combined to provide two major lenses for the examination of
future action. Officials let it be known that there would be support for
police forces which sought to promote crime prevention by working
with victims. Aid was given to projects in Edmonton, Calgary,
Restigouche and London, Ontario, buttressing Victim Service Units
and schemes using volunteers as social service auxiliaries. Victims
were not defined uniformly by those projects. In some, they appeared
as those who had suffered from burglary and robbery, and work
revolved around the return of stolen property and the provision of
advice about the progress of court cases. In some, victims were
women. Domestic disputes were thought to be particularly vexatious
by the police: they were turbulent, uncertain in outcome, morally and
practically ambiguous, and dangerous to the officer. It was about the
Victims & Policy in Canada 273

resolution of those disputes that the London and Restigouche

programs had emerged, attracting appreciable funding and attention
from the Department.
The Ministry had signified to itself and others that it had become
engaged with the problems of victims, although it had adopted a
necessarily narrow focus. It solicited applications for assistance and it
established a new system of relevance for determining its work and
priorities. Information was now gathered, received and explored
which had once been defined as unimportant. There was a novel
openness. Much of the police-based crime prevention effort that
turned on victims identified the archetypal victim as a battered
woman, and the local importance of women and victimization was
amp.lified in consequence. In time, when other demands were made
that the Ministry should respond to the social problem of violence
against women, it could be claimed that such work was already in
train. In 1980, especially, the Speech from the Throne touched on
violence to women and pledged the Government to its diminution.
Attached to a declared policy and awarded a new legitimacy,
Ministry-sponsored initiatives on preventive policing could be trans-
forme~ yet again to become a part of the enterprise to end battering
and rape. Events thereby flowed into one another, changing their
name and parentage as they evolved.
The confluence of women and victims was uneasy. There was
considerable ambiguity about the status of the battered and raped
woman as a victim of crime. She had been the object of a separate
political history, fostered by feminist organizations inside and outside
Ottawa, and she had come to represent special truths about the lot of
women in Canadian society. For some, the abused woman condensed
and dramatized a moral lesson, pointing to the manner in which men
treated women. She was held to be onto logically distinct, not to be
confounded with a miscellaneous crowd of those who had been
robbed, cheated, burgled and beaten. Moreover, she was the subject
of proprietorial claims, having been given substance and form by
institutions which were anxious to retain directional and definitional
control over her. There was even widespread resistance to the use of
the term "crime victim," it being argued that "victim" conveys an
unpalatable passivity and that "crime" is one of the lesser disting-
uishing themes in violence to women. The hurt woman had not come
to the fore in a context of a crime but as an instance of patriarchy.
What was chiefly significant about women is that those who
claimed to speak for them formed the sole lobby in the environment
of an emerging victims initiative. No other group could be heard
274 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

outside the boundaries of the Government and the State. They

constituted the only audible voice which could be mentioned when
reference had to be made to authorities and publics external to the
bureaucratic world. At the stage of proposing policy, they were to
become rhetorically powerful, giving independence, urgency and
legitimacy to what could otherwise have been defined as the private
domestic interest of the Ministry and its agencies. After all, policy
documents are pre-eminently political artifacts and they rely on a
standard array of arguments that range beyond the needs, wishes and
intentions of officials alone. An architecture which is based on the
pronouncements of consequential bodies outside bureaucracy. If
there is no wider clamour, proposals may fail for want of political
adequacy. Of course, consequence, objectivity, urgency and clamour
are themselves emergent features of a developing policy process.
They are pragmatic constructions, taking their character and rela-
tions from the work that seeks them out and eventually engulfs them.
The importance of women was magnified and staged by institutions
housed in the immediate environment of the Ministry itself. Status of
Women Canada, especially, is an organization entrusted with the
monitoring of policies which are on the move in Ottawa. It is required
to remind other Departments and agencies of the commitment given
in 1975 that Government policy would accommodate the special
interests of women. Placed inside Ottawa, it relayed, echoed and
focused the arguments of women's organizations. There emerged a
polyphony of voices which gave salience to the problem of violence
against women. Its culmination was the declaration in April 1980 of a
Government commitment to confront violence against women, a
declaration which was to serve as an instruction to the Ministry of the
Solicitor General next year. The declaration was not intended to
result in the clumping together of women with all other crime victims,
and the victims initiative was to be regarded by some feminists as an
unhappy compromising of their concerns. But Status of Women
Canada and its client organizations cannot make or implement policy
themselves. They must exhort others to action. And their exhortation
may lead to the making of syntheses and compounds which fall
outside their practical command. Very frequently, they are destined
to observe their accomplishments being superintended and organized
by others. In the instance of victims, Rape Crisis Centres and
Transition Houses had established the maltreated woman as a
political figure. But the chief function of that woman was to goad a
more general movement of policy, a movement in which she lost
Victims & Policy in Canada 275

some of her distinctiveness. Moreover, it was a movement that her

sponsors had not intended and had not always desired.
There is one other important collection of institutions encircling
the Ministry and which affected the building of the first phases of a
victims initiative. Lodged in a federal system of government, being
given but a part of the total work of law enforcement, the Ministry's
staff are continually preoccupied with the problems and etiquette of
federal-provincial relations. Those relations dominate all politics.
Indeed, at the time when the initiative was under construction, the
very standing and future of the Canadian state were uncertain and
contested. Actions taken by a federal department were liable to
reverberate throughout the labyrinth of federal-provincial politics,
acqujring meanings and consequences which were larger and more
complex than any originally envisaged. They had to be handled
fastidiously. Those who shepherd policies through Ottawa and into
the world beyond must be diplomats. Their work is likely to become
laden with an abundance of meanings for different organizations. By
extension, even the humblest enterprise can be managed as an
opportunity to celebrate wider unities and connections, its surround-
ing politics allowing it to become portentous.
In October 1979, Federal and Provincial Ministers responsible for
criminal justice met for the very first time in a formal conference.
Their meeting was itself significant, representing as it did the coming
together of the principal elements of a somewhat fragmentary
system. It could be extolled as a momentous occasion, and anything
said within its confines could borrow some of that importance.
Unheralded, the Ontario Provincial Secretary for Justice, Gordon
Walker, spoke at length about the unrecognized and unsatisfied
needs of crime victims. Walker was Minister of Correctional Services
and his commitment to victims was shaped by the practical contingen-
cies of his office. It was a commitment that had welled up out of a
discrete provincial history of decarceration and the dismantling of
State machinery. It was entangled with Walker's professed reluctance
to allow the inmates of prisons to remain idle and supported by
others: prisoners should be made to work and their labor should
compensate those whom they had injured. Collectively and abstract-
ly, that labor would be community service. Individually, it would
focus on restitution and reconciliation. The commitment underscored
an eagerness to devolve tasks from the bureaucratic center to the
private sector and the community. It sought to promote compassion
in a wider context of austerity and the decline of the State in Ontario.
276 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

It reflected the imperative to engineer peaceful relations between the

released or would-be inmate and his or her victim. Much of Gordon
Walker's program thus hinged on Community Service and Victim-
Offender Reconciliation Projects, projects that addressed some of
the problems triggered by provincial decarceration. It was to be
adopted by Mennonites and others who found in reconciliation an
affirmation of their Christianity.
Gordon Walker had spoken on the same theme before other
audiences, but he represented a powerful province in a special forum
and at a time of constitutional fragility. Moreover, he spoke before
federal officials who were seeking to nurse an initiative into being.
The speech had not been expected but it was embraced by the federal
Solicitor General who responded with a reply drafted by Irvin
Waller. An assurance was made that "we hope to provide informa-
tion on more effective ways of assisting crime victims and helping
them protect themselves ... I would like my research division to
increase its efforts to provide knowledge on the plight of crime
victims without increasing the budget. ,,10 The speech thus provided
an auspicious moment. It was to be generously quoted in later federal
documents as a compelling authority to proceed. It was evidence that
an initiative would not be regarded as a federal incursion into
provincial terrain. It lent objectivity and a public life to an enterprise
that was still very parochial. It offered an occasion for conspicuous
collaboration with a province. In all these senses, the significance of
Gordon Walker's speech was profound. The warmth of its reception
surprised officials from Ontario.
The politics of victims in Ontario and the dramatization of violence
to women were constituents of an emerging landscape cultivated by
federal officials. Staff at the Ministry developed an interpretative
context and an accompanying meaning for phenomena and processes
that bore on the initiative. Importantly, too, they fostered those
phenomena and processes themselves, placing them, recording them
and giving them a vitality which might otherwise have been lost. There
was a creative interplay between the Ministry and the world around it,
an interplay which stabilised objects, connected them and awarded
them causality. In Weick's phrase, that world became an "enacted
environment" constructed to constrain and further the initiative: "the
outcomes of organizing are reasonable interpretations of a slice of
experience; these slices are treated as being amenable as well as
prescriptive for future activities. ,,11 The initiative gave birth to itself in
conditions which it had coaxed into life. It had not engendered all
Victims & Policy in Canada 277

those conditions itself, but their phenomenology was shaped by the

pragmatic contingencies of policy-development. Simultaneously, the
initiative remained the offshoot of those same conditions.
Until a very late phase, it was quite possible that all this activity
and tessellation would have been without consequence. The initiative
was incorporeal little more than the unplanned hope of a few. It
represented a piecemeal piling-up of materials for some indefinite
future use. It was not yet clear in 1980 that they had attained such a
mass or gravity that they could be transformed into a presentable
argument. Indeed, Irvin Waller resigned from the Ministry in July,
announcing '''there's been very little interest in trying to deal with the
harm done by crime,' despite the fact that it wouldn't cost much to
shmy a little concern for victims". 12 There were competing priorities
and interests, victims being but one rather minor pursuit. Those who
urged action onwards were lodged in a particular branch of the
Ministry, the Programs Branch, and they were not empowered to
dwell directly on the business of policy formation. In time, to be sure,
they might have interested the Minister and the staff of the Policy
Branch in the prospect of a victims initiative. But it transpired that
there was actually to be very little time. The federal Government was
to restrict spending on new initiatives in 1981 and a victims initiative
might well have aborted with delay.
What gave form and urgency to victims was the concatenation of
four events. The first was the inauguration in 1981 of a catalytic
environment for the manufacture of policy proposals. The new Policy
and Expenditure Management System 13 enjoined departments to
submit statements of their future plans for scrutiny by a committee of
Cabinet. All new initiatives were to be cataloged, costed and justified
in a new document, the Strategic Overview, and failure to include an
item would be penalized by its omission from the budgetary process.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General had prepared a series of
planning documents in the past. But the Policy and Expenditure
Management System enforced a formality and reflexivity which were
a little novel. The Ministry's Secretariat were required to "stop and
think," to stand back and consider the import of what they had done
and what they might accomplish in time to come. They had to give a
retrospective and prospective interpretation of their activity. The
requirements of the Strategic Overview made staff impose signi-
ficance, intentionality and a public character on what had hitherto
been somewhat formless. There was a systematic search for actions
which might be initiatives in the making. The Programs Branch
278 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

convened to discuss its work and it was at that meeting that there was
a discovery of the sheer volume of projects that could be assembled
together under the title of "victims assistance." The little histories
began to converge, lending themselves to amalgamation. They were
made attractive by their very lack of structure. So incoherent were
they that they presented themselves as ideal candidates for recon-
stitution as a new initiative and as part of the Strategic Overview. In a
phrase that is freighted with meaning in Ottawa, they were "timely,"
in a state of readiness to be developed when development was
demanded. During a period when old ventures were ending their
lives and there were few nascent projects, victims became very
There was no immediate adoption of victims in the first effective
Strategic Overview of the Ministry of the Solicitor General. Instead,
there had to be some negotiation and expansion of the list of
initiatives before they were inserted. It was the Policy Branch that
drafted the Overview, and the Branch had some forebodings about
the economies that were about to be urged by Government on itself.
Further, the Branch had only a modest stake in victims as bureaucra-
tic property. In the main, victims had been the preserve of the
Programs Branch and they had remained within its control. The
initial draft of the 1981 Strategic Overview was stark and brief, and it
excluded victims. Its enlargement came about at the insistence of the
Minister, the Programs Branch which had endorsed victims, and the
Ministry of State for Social Development which supervised one
cluster of Ministries within the Policy and Expenditure Management
System. The social structure of the redrafting process was then the
third of the linked events. By early 1981, the theme of violence to
women had been embodied in Government policy. By that time, too,
the emergent initiative had generated a field of activity and a
population of significant others who were implicated in its career. A
network had been born around a common interest in the victims of
crime. The Strategic Overview was perused by officials at the
Ministry of State for Social Development who were part of that
network, mindful of the Speech from the Throne of 1980 and aware
of the latent politics of victims. The evolving initiative had created a
social organization about itself, an organization which then folded
back and coaxed its further progress.
The new system of budgetary planning and regulation, the political
plasticity of victims, and the unfolding network combined to produce
the fourth event. In 1981, it seemed apparent that the new talk of
Victims & Policy in Canada 279
austerity and the sheer novelty of the Policy and Expenditure
Management System had conspired to create only a very meagre
stock of new proposals. An orderly search was made for a series of
modest, nonrecurrent initiatives. One suggestion was that there
should be a rapid development of victims as the subject of a new
venture. Thus it came about that "Justice for Victims of Crime
Initiative" was conceived. In the course of a number of months, the
diverse ingredients of the little histories were pieced together and
transformed into proposals that were paraded in Ottawa, before the
criminal justice ministries of the provincial governments, and submit-
ted to Cabinet.
The developing initiative mapped a geography of relations and
org<}nizations which would be affected by its appearance and could
hinder its growth. It was necessary to secure the approval and
contribution of those other bodies. Without them, the complicated
work of launching a new measure could never be done. That process
of ratification may be likened to a ritualistic acquisition of property
rights in an enterprise, encouraging powerful institutions to feel
proprietorial and responsible towards a vulnerable project. The
initiative was left deliberately unfinished so that the ritual might be
carried out. Victims were displayed before one committee after
another in succession. Each committee had its own constituencies
and preoccupations, and each made a distinctive mark. Proposals
have had to be argued in a manner that pleased the committees,
representing a special form of the significant gesture and fashioned in
anticipation of the likely response which others might make. Indeed,
the very registration of an effective response is politically important,
permitting an organization to identify a project as an accepted part of
its sphere of interest. Just as the Sleeping Beauty was offered to the
fairies to avoid injury and win a blessing, so the initiative itself has
been on show. Several years in the making, it is now open to quite
major change as it becomes exposed to the gatekeepers and masters
of the Canadian criminal justice system. It has been subjected to
demands and arguments that its original authors could never have
predicted. Indeed, it has been in the process of gaining a new set of
authors. It is an irony that the cost of achieving potency is a loss of
complete command by the parents of an initiative. Events begin to
acquire autonomy, seeming to possess a distinctive logic and becom-
ing susceptible to the will of others. As it becomes exposed to the
Federal-Provincial Task Force and a sequence of committees, so the
initiative has come into the open to become a public object.
280 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy



It would be unwise to universalize the limited forms of the early

stages of the victims initiative. There is little warrant to assume that
they may be generalized to the other work of the Department of the
Solicitor General, other initiatives in Ottawa or the formation of
policy in countries outside Canada. Only transformation of the
peculiar and special problems of victims into the standardised work
materials of the Ottawa departments can provide some reassurance
that there is a larger grammar of policy development. There are those
whose business it is to change proposals into an acceptable structure,
and their procedures are routine enough. An account of the implica-
tions of those procedures may then transcend the particular qnqlities
of one case.
My list of analytic conclusions will be brief. It is intended merely to
point to the more interesting properties of the process of policy
Firstly, and most obviously, policy-making should be considered
the result of the doings of identifiable people: it is performed by them
as they develop perspectives on themselves, each other, their lives,
their collective work and policy as an object. In one sense, the
"Justice for Victims of Crime" initiative is the collaborative product
of perhaps a dozen people; Their experience, will, motivation and
relations gave it shape. It has become a part of their biography, just
as its own history flowed out of their actions. Without them, there
would have been no initiative or an initiative that was different,
although it can never be established what would have happened in
their absence. Conversely, and as important, an emerging policy will
place people and describe their connections with one another. It will
create a field of activity and a cast of actors, itself being the action.
Staff were recruited to promote the various segments of the initiative.
Their work built a social structure. In this manner, initiatives create a
social world which creates them in their turn.
So construed, policy-making may be described as a spiralling
pattern of individual and collective experiences which carry people
along. The paths which they may take are not always predictable,
appearing not of actions, problems and knowledge that are yet to
come. In turn, any prolonged period of bureaucratic activity is likely
to be split up into separate tasks and phases, each of which is capable
of becoming a discrete set of experiences on its own. It may fissure.
Victims & Policy in Canada 281

Any stage may become the basis of a little odyssey which takes
people into special areas and before distinctive problems. When
much is going on, there is always the chance that these little episodes
will branch away from the shared experience of the everyday world of
the office, leading to distinct processes of learning that cannot always
be communicated to those who have not passed through them. Thus
those who worked on the survey were transformed in ways they had
not expected. So too was Irvin Waller when he became attached to
victims. Each segment of policy-making may then take its own
somewhat eccentric course, affecting proposals in its own way and
offering some problems of reconciliation with other approaches. In
an orderly progression, based on meetings and collaboration, policy
formation can thereby resemble a succession of periods of fission and
fusion in which the different activities part and meet and part again.
But there will never be a complete synthesis. There will always be
interpretations and arguments that are not accepted, and there will
always be the tendency of policies to acquire an alien character in the
eyes of those who build them.
Interestingly, once it has been established, the core of a world can
persist for some time after the ending of the functional life of a
particular initiative. Acquaintances formed and connections made
may be sustained and renewed, manufacturing what some in Canada
call the "criminal justice community." The network of people
working on victims was fathered by another group that had been
formed in 1979, the Implementation Work Group on Justice
Statistics. 14 Perspectives on victims were moulded by an earlier
knowledge and style of co-operation, a social circle having been
re-animated. In its turn, the social world of victims politics may be
expected to appear again in a new incarnation as some other project
takes shape. This process of reincarnation infuses the special prob-
lems of a particular policy with the joint competence and shared
understanding of a social world. Ways of doing things arise and do
not have to be relearned. An informal division of labor emerges
around the most general skills of officials. Interestingly, that division
of labor tends not to be situated, encouraging matters such as victims
to receive a standard mediation and construction. The criminal
justice community has its own friendships, skills and autonomy which
are greater than the short life of anyone policy.
Thirdly, emerging policy continually examines the limits of possi-
ble action, defining new opportunities for work and new readings of
organization and mandate. Organizations exist in the practical inter-
282 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

pretations, experience and acts of their members. As Brown

observed, "formal organizations are essentially processes of organiz-
ing enacted by persons. ,,15 As organizing progresses, so its possibili-
ties are known, claimed and created. An institution is no fixed,
independent object. It is reproduced by people who give it a past and
a future as they proceed. It is a busy process of discovery.
Let me illustrate. The ministry of the Solicitor General was
founded in 1966, having been separated from its parent organization,
the Ministry of Justice. Its Secretariat was formed in 1972. It is still
energetically establishing what it is and what it might become. Every
new policy illustrates and organizes those problems of function and
identity. It is in the evolution of the victims initiative that the Ministry
documents and invents itself. New things are being done and the
Ministry is changing with them. A turning of the criminal justice
system towards victims is a major venture: it has begun to redefine
the "system" and its component agencies. Moreover, it has led to the
drawing of new boundaries around the Department, re-aligning it
and its fellow organizations and allocating new territory for future
exploration. Thus, new patterns of co-operation between federal
Departments and provincial Government have arisen, leading to a
partial erosion of the privacy of different spheres of formal social
control. The Department of the Solicitor General has now ventured
beyond the supervision of police and penitentiaries into a new
conception of the population of the criminal justice system. Victims
are beginning to receive tentative definition as a legitimate consti-
tuency and participant in their own right, a group with a voice to be
heard. The political environment of justice has thereby changed.
Just as policies define organizations, so organizations define poli-
cies. The Ministry of the Solicitor General refracted the politics of
victims, acting as a web of perspectives and opportunities. Victims
were necessarily described by their relations with the police, not with
the courts or the social services which were the administrative
responsibility of other organizations. Victims were defined by their
involvement in crime. It was only when other bodies became attached
to the initiative that courts, judges, attorneys and allied groups lent
their organizational interpretations to victim assistance projects.
Victims had to assume a peculiar guise before they could become a
proper object of attention within the terrain dominated by the
Solicitor General. Their form was given by the institutional focus of
mandate and territory. As interesting, that form was to change in the
context of specific problems and as history of the initiative brought
Victims & Policy in Canada 283

the Ministry before other bodies. The victims initiative embodies the
consequences of federal-provincial relations in Canada, an emergent
Canadian women's movement and other major and minor happen-
ings. It may b~ decoded as a working expression of the Ministry's
political relations.
Fourthly, and quite evidently, policy is multivocal, signifying
different things as it appears in the careers and surroundings of those
who contribute to its making. How it is managed reflects the manner
in which it is grasped as it passes through the lives of different people,
changes them and is changed in return. For some, the initiative has
been a massive involvement and a subtantial course of identity. For
some, it has been but a fleeting episode which touched very little.
Policies are not simple and unchanging: their meaning, implications
and functions may be subject to confusion and disagreement. There
may, indeed, be no consensus that people are working on the "same"
thing at all. Victims were variously taken to be social indicators,
problems in applied methodology, hurt women, the complications of
police work, the indirect target of a politics of decarceration, an
opportunity to display compassion, a symbol of the unity of the
Canadian state and much else. Purposes and plans changed as those
meanings arose and declined. The very naming of victims was a part
of their politics, forging the direction which they might take.
By extension, policy may be expected to pass through a number of
settings which award it very different significance. It changes as it
moves, and there may be contests between those who man the
various stages of the process. After all, there may be antipathy to the
way in which one's successor mishandles an entity that one has
managed oneself. The transition from research to policy is an
instance. To those in research posts, policy tends to be loose and
diffuse, a rough canopy which may be called by many names. What a
certain initiative is called reflects the exigencies of the policy process,
a process that is a little removed from research itself. Thus the
Programs Branch of the Solicitor General examined the problems of
victims long before the Policy Branch had become identified with the
issue. It will probably continue to do so after the Policy Branch has
moved on to other work. Whether the general theme of work is
described as crime prevention, police-community relations or victims
assistance, research tends to be slow, continuous and incremental.
The Policy Branch, by contrast, pilots specific initiatives through the
system of committees and procedures which punctuate the process of
ratification in Ottawa. It works on entities which are rather more
284 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

precisely demarcated, which enjoy a shorter and more coherent life,

and which have a neat beginning, middle and end. The trappings of
those entities are characteristically dictated by the demands of
political audiences outside the early social world of an initiative and
foreign to the circles which revolve around research. They are
designed to win allies and divert enemies, not to express the fruits of
scientific reason. So defined, an initiative will be seen as a distinct
bundle of political operations within a limited time span. The Justice
for Victims of Crime Initiative is just such a bundle at present.
Fifthly, policy-making takes place within symbolic and practical
frameworks that are immediate to the bureaucratic cosmos and
frequently invisible to outsiders. In Canada, especially, any emergent
initiative is given context and authority by those policies which have
already been approved by Parliament and Cabinet. It can never be
itself until the proper time and it will be other than itself when that
time has gone. Policy usually parades as something else. Those who
formulate it must display a considerable skill at decoding and
encoding the rhetorical potential of the environment of politics
around them. They must further be prepared to deposit a trail of
useful happenings and pronouncements which may be seized later
when the time is right. It is never quite clear which items of that
symbolic furniture will actually be employed and how they will
become serviceable. Although argument can arrange much, there is a
stake in the preservation of ambiguity and the generation of rhetoric-
al plenty.
In turn, the emergent, changeful and rhetorical character of the
bureaucratic world has brought it about that there must be a constant
projection of the present into an indefinite future in order to ascertain
the likely bearing of current happenings. The projected present takes
form only in the context of the potential futures which create it and
which it carries inside itself. Traces may sometimes be deposited now
in the hope that they will be helpful later, and past, present and
future bounce backwards and forwards in an infinite speculative
It must be appreciated that the presentation of an argument in a
politically and temporally appropriate guise tends to have very real
consequences. It is not as if that guise were merely the outward
appearance of an unchangeable core. Appearances direct efforts in
particular directions, opening some opportunities and closing others.
Thus the intial entrance of victims as social indicators in crime
Victims & Policy in Canada 285

prevention work had been prompted by political contingency but it

did bring about a concentration on special facets of victimization,
illuminate a limited span of problems, and give rise to a peculiar
network of acquaintances and organizations. It made a difference. So
too did the emphasis upon programs that were based on the police.
Preventive policing did frame perspectives on the phenomena of
crime and its victims. Rhetorical contexts change the drift of policy-
Policies must also be recognized as the routine work material of
people in meetings, structured by the march of committees and
conferences that make up the bureaucratic timetables of Ottawa.
They can never attain substance unless they have been approved in
the proper manner by the proper bodies in the correct sequence and
at the correct time. In all this, the extraordinary becomes ordinary,
part of a common flow of standard operations. But that temporal
structuring also confers additional and important properties on the
processes that receive its mark. One vital effect is to offer form to
initiatives: a timetable and its constituent meetings can plot out a
past, present and future. Any set of proposals will then acquire a
predictable life of known duration and with regular stages of develop-
ment. Further, it will receive a causality and a teleology, a string of
imperative actions which must be done before ratification takes
place. Those prerequisites become the bureaucratically potent causes
of activity. They dictate how arguments should be presented, how
things should follow one another, and how they should be related to
other events and processes. Thus the Ministry of the Solicitor
General is obliged to submit its proposals for approval by its sister
Ministry, the Department of Justice, at regular meetings of the Joint
Justice Committee. Eventually, any major enterprise of the Ministry
must be tailored to please the other Department, and the pleasing
will take place at routine intervals in the bureaucratic year. Similarly,
major new proposals will be inspected by the Ministry of State for
Social Development which superintends and co-ordinates the work of
different departments in the social envelope. That Ministry must also
be pleased at particular points of the year and in particular ways. No
incursion into the criminal justice system can occur without Provin-
cial concurrence, and there are regular meetings of Federal and
Provincial Ministers and Deputy Ministers. In this fashion, audiences
and meetings stretch ahead into the future, demanding responsive
action in the preparation of arguments and documents. They pre-
286 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

scribe what must be done when. By extension, they prescribe many of

the forms and much of the causal texture of policy development.
As part of that work, initiatives tend to become increasingly
political as they pass through committees. They may have been
grounded in research, and research may offer an ultimate authority
and resource, but most argument is directed at audiences whose
judgements are an extrusion of the political process. Very few direct
references to research may be encountered in policy documents.
Those who are to be persuaded are political organizations in and
about the environment of Ottawa. The discourse that is liable to sway
them turns on questions of ownership, recognition, territory and
interest. It is in this sense that I have likened proposals to significant
gestures which incorporate reactions to the possible responses of
powerful others. The very incorporation of a reaction is a genuflec-
tion before power, an acknowledgement of the importance of others,
and it is independently significant. In Canada, an argument will
typically advance from one body to another in a ceremony of respect,
and the consequences are transparent. Canadian reforms of the
criminal justice system are forced to remain incomplete and indeter-
minate until they have been perused. They are flawed to placate
critics, the Persian rugs of the political world. In turn, a developed
initiative will be molded by those people and organizations that have
been lined up in the consultation process. Very often those who
absent themselves from that procession and those who were not
invited cannot leave their brand. Programs and policies are mirrors of
the process of political review, reflecting the obeisances that have
been made to constituencies that are delineated by the possible future
course of an initiative. Here, too, the dialectical reading of past,
present and future plays a role. The predictions of a population of
critics and inspectors will influence the course of a policy, introduce it
to particular groups, and so fix what is said about it and the significant
others who will examine it in yet more stages. Of course, predictions
may go awry: involved outsiders may declare themselves uninvolved
and the uninvited may, like the Bad Fairy, curse a project. But the
absence of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs from the
deliberations of committees has led to the exclusion of natives from
targetted groups of victims. The presence of Status of Women
Canada has awarded women prominence.
Above all, policy-making must be understood as a creature of
words. It is propelled by speech and writing. Indeed, there is little
else but talk and documents in the history of the framing of an
Victims & Policy in Canada 287

initiative. Ottawa itself has been nicely described as a "paper

world,,,16 its society and affairs taking shape in the composition of
papers, the holding of meetings and making of speeches. It is a
reflexive world, continuously objectifying itself for its own gaze,
translating its reflections into yet more words, and so holding a
looking glass before itself. All policy-making being argument, it is
mediated by the forms of argumentation. It is quite proper to refer to
the process as dialectical, akin to formal rhetorical reasoning.
Causality itself has become an effect of argument. For most practical
purposes, when argument is presented, influence, connection, direc-
tion, structure and purpose are to be regarded as rhetorical artifacts.
Whether something is depicted as an instance of a particular categ-
ory,. the effect of a certain cause or a case to be contrasted with
another pheomenon, is a product of talk, and talk can create worlds.
What constrains the flow of creativity is the limits imposed by
plausibility, bureaucratic good form and the recipes of the standard
policy document.
Decarceration offers an instance. The Ministry of the Solicitor
General has espoused the decarceration of Canadian penitentiaries as
Gntario has pursued the emptying of prisons. But its staff have not
chosen to weld victims and de institutionalization into a single theme
as their colleagues in Ontario have done. Such a connection could
have been traced and injected into the arguments about the victims
initiative. It would have been quite cogent as a thesis. But they have
decided not to make such a connection and they have not exploited
the potential causality which it represented. They have preferred not
to present themselves and their actions as driven by the logic of
decarceration. In this manner, they are at liberty to select causality,
social structure and environment. In rhetoric, causes are those things
which are interpreted as causal. Structures are patterns which are so
portrayed. And, indeed, if people refuse to acknowledge the efficacy
of a cause, it will lose much of its power. As Alan Gewirth once
remarked, social laws are odd because people may always choose not
to obey them. The bureaucratic world has its own very special
constitutive logic and no assumptions can be made about cause and
effect unless that logic is applied. It will not do to represent officials
as constrained by the coercion of popular movements or the econo-
mies of austerity. Constraints are embraced or rejected. They do not
work in some unmediated system of traction, action and reaction.
They are creatively deployed.
288 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy


Outsiders seem to know rather little about the formation of criminal

justice policy. They are able to turn to very few sociological
descriptions of how policies are constructed, presented and applied.
And those few descriptions tend to be phenomenologically meagre,
being devised to address problems which are often alien to the
concerns and milieux of officials and politicians. To be sure, policy is
analytically inexhaustible and it does not always lend itself to
phenomenologically competent explanation. But most available de-
scription seems unable to capture the logic-in-use of the policy
process, relying instead on an imputed and speculative causality
which inserts foreign intelligence, contexts, problems and goals in the
place of those which are familiar to officials and used by them in their
daily work. Thus rephrased, policy-making has become somewhat
dwarfed and displaced. In effect, it is as if there had been a tacit
agreement to reduce the social world of the policy process to the
analytic status of a small Black Box. Entities are variously presented
as inputs and outputs but what might bring about a change from one
to the other is not really disclosed. Further, there has been an
apparent lack of curiosity about whether items called inputs really
serve as inputs, what an input is, how it could be recognized, how it is
selected, how it is received and how transformed.
In the process of analysis, policy-making has lost some of its more
disturbingly perplexing qualities. Indeed, it never actually attained
them. It has become the virtual dependent or appendage of existing
models of the State and society, taking its form and functions from
their argument and denied a capacity to challenge its assigned
position. Like the Omega Minus particle, it has been given its
substance and contours by inferential reasoning based on the better
known structures which are taken to surround it. It does its work in a
forced division of labor, .acquiring those features and mechanisms
which are necessary to produce particular effects. It cannot and has
not been designed to possess its own emergent logic and properties. It
has been my ambition to argue that the causality, structure, purposes
and evolution of policy are sufficiently unusual and complicated to
deserve their own special description. There must be a suspension of
conventional sociological reasoning and its replacement by an appre-
ciative stance that attempts to understand what officials themselves
claim that they are doing.
Victims & Policy in Canada 289


1. Federal-Provincial Conferences of Ministers Responsible for Correc-

tions, Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement, and of Attorneys-General;
Communique Ottawa, Ontario, 9 Dec. 1981) p. 3.
2. See Schafer, S., The Victim and His Criminal (New York: 1968, Random
3. A Strauss; "interorganizational Negotiation," Urban Life, vol. 11, no. 3
(Oct. 1982) p. 352.
4. I. Waller and N. Okihiro; Burglary: the Victim and the Public (University
of Toronto Press, 1978).
5. Letter, 22 Feb. 1983.
6. I. Waller; "Victimization Studies as Guides to Action; Some Cautions
and Suggestions," unpublished paper, 15 Aug. 1979.
7. Letter, 22 Feb. 1983.
8. The Gazette, Montreal, 1 Dec. 1982.
9. I. Horowitz and J. Katz; Social Science and Public Policy in the United
States (New York: Praeger, 1975) p. 154.
10. The words "without increasing the budget" were added by the Solicitor
General himself.
11. K. Weick, The Social Psychology of Organizing (Mass.: Addison-
Wesley, 1979) p. 47.
12. The Globe and Mail, 5 July 1980.
13. See Guide to the Policy and Expenditure Management System (Ottawa:
Ministry of Supply and Services Canada, 1980).
14. See Towards the Establishment of the Canadian Centre for Justice
Statistics, Report of the Implementation Work Group (Toronto: Provin-
cial Secretariat for Justice, 1981).
15. R. Brown, "Bureaucracy as Praxis", Administrative Science Quarterly,
vol. 23, no. 3 (Sept. 1978) p. 371.
16. R. Gwyn, The Northern Magus: Pierre Trudeau and the Canadians
(Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1980) p. 97.
15 Community Control,
Criminal Justice and
Victim Services


Beginning in the mid-1960s, and especially since 1970, America has

rediscovered the crime victim. Arguing that victims encounter a
society that neglects their victimization, and a criminal justice system
that imposes a second victimization, champions of crime victims have
promoted policies designed to redress victim needs, and to restore
victims to their full status in the criminal process.
Among the major victim initiatives has been a series of services
provided nationwide. They address victim needs, both in and out of
the criminal process. They try to lessen the burden of victimization,
and launch victims back toward normal lives as quickly as possible.
Most of these kinds of programs have operated for at least ten years.
Since in that time they should have matured into full efficiency,
researchers have now been evaluating their results.
Although few detailed, empirical studies exist, much evidence has
been amassed, nevertheless, to assess victim-service programs. Much
of the evaluation to date, however, has focused rather narrowly
(although certainly important) on the programs' immediate, practical
outcomes. We have paid little attention to the plans' broader,
political implications. That is, the plans' advantages and disadvan-
tages have been analysed, but not the politics of their creation and
operation, and more importantly, not the programs' political role in
the criminal justice system and broader society.
Evaluation should not simply assess whether we spend enough money
for victim needs. Nor should we merely evaluate program outcomes

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
Community Control, Criminal Justice 291

narrowly without considering victims' broader interests. Thus, this

paper will discuss the "micro-politics" and "macro-politics" of victim
services. The micro-political analysis will examine the plans, their
goals, operations, and outcomes based on the narrowest, official or
(in the case of independent programs) private definition of program
objectives. The macro-political analysis will examine the programs'
broader (and often unstated) roles and objectives vis-a-vis the overall
criminal justice and political systems.
Firstly, we will examine the various kinds of victim-service prog-
rams, including their objectives, resources, and relationships.
Secondly, we will evaluate the programs' political influences and
outcomes. On the micro-level, the victim's perspective will be
emphasized. On the macro-level, the perspectives of others, closely
link~d to victim services, will also be considered. For this bi-Ievel
evaluation, we will frequently use victim compensation as a repre-
sentative victim program. Thirdly, we will assess the implications of
the micro- and macro-political analysis for victims, victim services,
criminal justice, and the broader political system. And fourthly, we
will suggest various criteria and strategies for evaluating victim
services, for designing programs that are effective yet sensitive to
political goals and constraints, and for promoting greater community
control of criminal justice generally.


The definition of victim programs varies, but the following eight types
cover the range of services:

(1) Victim compensation exists in half the American states, and

provides victims with government payments to restore the losses
incurred from victimization. These are government programs,
funded primarily by state tax dollars, most of which exist as
separate agencies, and which seek a close, working relationship
with the rest of the criminal justice process (Elias, 1983c).
(2) Offender restitution exists theoretically in virtually every Amer-
ican jurisdiction, but its actual use has been limited largely to
those judges who embrace restitution in their sentencing philoso-
phy. A few, more formal programs have been established in
some states (Galaway, 1977). This approach makes offenders pay
victims to reimburse them for lost property or physical damages.
292 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

Restitution is a government program, usually integral to the

criminal justice process, and usually requires no additional
spending. The more formal programs are tied to corrections
departments, and are usually funded by the national government
(Elias, 1983c).
(3) Victim-witness programs assist victims in the criminal process,
providing information about the courts, alerts for court appear-
ances, and conveniences. They help victims through the criminal
process and try to enhance their participation and commitment.
Most programs are housed in police departments or prosecutor's
offices, and are financed by the national government (Baluss,
(4) Social-service referrals direct victims to both public and private
agencies for physical, psychological, and living problems result-
ing from the victimization. The agencies include the welfare
department, hospitals, mental-health clinics, and victim-
compensation boards. Most programs operate independently
from the criminal process, and are located either separately or in
hospitals. They are run by groups such as medical personnel,
religious organizations, or volunteer agencies. Their financing
combines private and government sources (Friedman, 1976).
(5) Crisis intervention emphasizes emergency services for victims,
particularly victims of violent crimes. These programs specialize
in satisfying victims' immediate physical and psychological needs.
They exist in many forms, and frequently emphasize particular
groups of victims (such as children, or women, or the elderly).
Although these plans work very closely with medical facilities,
they are independent of the criminal justice system, and are often
funded privately. Frequently, they are operated by special in-
terest organizations such as women's groups (Dussich, 1981;
Chesney and Schneider, 1981; Oberg and Pence, 1981).
(6) Victim advOcacy is provided through relatively rare programs
that go beyond providing victim services narrowly in the criminal
process, and beyond attending to victims' physical and psycholo-
gical needs. Advocacy tries to give victims more control and
input into criminal cases, and promote victim legislation. The
host organizations for advocacy include offices both inside and
outside the criminal justice system, but often they seek integra-
tion into law enforcement and the courts. These programs are
funded both privately and by government (Commission on
Community Control, Criminal Justice 293

Victim Witness Assistance, n.d.: Schneider and Schneider,

(7) Mediation, sometimes associated with neighborhood justice,
seeks to remove criminal disputes from the courts, and relocate
them in more informal settings. These programs try to resolve
cases by mutual agreement between the conflicting parties, in a
less threatening environment. By definition, this service is lo-
cated outside the formal criminal process, and operated by some
private organization, such as a church or voluntary group. These
plans are also funded both privately and by government (Davis,
(8) Crime reduction programs try to reduce crime, particularly for
yictims thought to be susceptible to victimization. Victims partici-
pate in individual and group programs emphasizing cooperation
with law enforcement, the use of various protective devices, and
the reformation of personal habits. These plans are frequently
integral to the criminal process, particularly to police depart-
ments, although some programs are created independently in the
community. The police programs are funded by the government,
while community groups often support themselves (National
Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, 1973).

Although the aforementioned services all attempt to address victim

needs, they have many differences. The programs' objectives vary
between improving the victim's role in the criminal process, and
improving the victim's well-being apart from law enforcement.
Secondly, the plans vary between being inspired by government and
being created spontaneously by private organizations. Thirdly, the
programs differ in their connection and relationship with the criminal
justice process. And finally, since the programs vary in their funding
sources, differences exist in their financial independence from gov-
ernment. These provide important differences for evaluating the
programs' effectiveness.


We can evaluate victim services in many ways, but we will stress three
major approaches. Firstly, "process" evaluation assesses whether a
particular program is implemented according to its intended guide-
294 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

lines. Secondly, "impact" evaluation assesses whether the program's

implementation produces a change in the desired direction (Nach-
mais, 1979). And thirdly, "political" evaluation assesses the prog-
ram's role in the political system. We will emphasize the final
approach, partly because it has been ignored, and partly because
politics will ultimately define a program's level of success, and for
whose needs.
Since evaluating all victim programs exceeds this paper's scope, we
will focus upon victim compensation as a representative service. Its
evaluation will help us identify some characteristics of victim services
that should be avoided by those who are genuinely interested in
pursuing victim needs.

Micro-Level Analysis

Initially, we must evaluate the practical effects of victim programs,

including the programs' implementation, operation, and outcomes.
But, unlike most assessments of victim services, we must go beyond
narrow (albeit important) goal-oriented evaluations, and examine the
political influences that help shape the programs. This will allow us to
better understand and analyse each program's outcomes.

Program Creation

Government creates many victim services, and thus we should expect

the normal politics of formulating and legislating public policy. But,
the politics of creating victim services go considerately beyond this
common sense notion. The establishment of victim-compensation
programs provides a good illustration.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, creating compensation plans (and
victim services, in general) was very popular with policymakers.
Providing for victims (like motherhood and apple pie) is a difficult
issue to oppose. Consequently, the political manoeuvring associated
with such programs was atypical. In New York, for example,
legislators strongly competed for the privilege of sponsoring the
state's compensation program. In fact, over fifty legislators cospon-
sored the legislation, which may be a record. To be able to sponsor
the program and return to their constituency to publicize the plan as
Community Control, Criminal Justice 295

their inspiration was very valuable for building public opinion and
electoral support.
But, does this imply a strong commitment to victims, and to the
compensation program? This can be measured in several ways, but
program funding levels may reveal the most. In fact, the flurry of
sponsorship and support did not prevent many of the same legislators
from voting against program appropriations, or for funding so low as
to preordain the plan's failure (Edelhertz and Geis, 1974). In fact, the
programs in Louisiana and Tennessee actually disbanded for lack of
financial support. The political reality of victim services (such as
victim compensation) indicates that official support might be only a
half-hearted, opportunistic commitment to victims and their needs.
We must recognize this if we ever hope to devise effective, alternative

Program Resources and Visibility

The government's initial financial support for many victim services

has often been minimal. But, has the funding improved once the
programs were firmly established?
Taking again the victim compensation example, financial records
indicate that appropriations have not increased steadily. Where (in a
few programs) funding has continued to rise, the increases have been
minimal, and no where near that needed for the program to serve
most victims. Again, in New York, the plan (one of the largest)
serves less than 1% of the state's violent crime victims (Crime Victims
Compensation Board, 1978), and no victims of other crimes. Other
victim services follow the same pattern: severely underfunded,
short-term grants, declining support, and eventual failure (Dussich,
Funding also helps determine the visibility of many victim services
(Vaughn and Hofrichter, 1980). Although victim-compensation prog-
rams, for example, received much publicity when first established,
and periodic new doses of attention thereafter, the programs were
not necessarily accessible to victims. In fact, as the New Jersey and
New York programs illustrate, general visibility did not make specific
application information available to victims (Elias, 1983c). Although
some programs have increased the application information conveyed
to victims, most efforts have failed (Crime Victims Compensation
296 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

Board, 1978; Elias, 1983c). A similar gap between creating services

and making them accessible to victims also exists for other victim
Why would policymakers create programs, and then not actively
encourage victims to participate? It could be because they lack a real
commitment to victims and their problems, but it also could be
because even minimally using the programs would quickly deplete
their funding, and perhaps force additional appropriations. Politics
exist in virtually every funding decision made by government, as
policymakers try to juggle competing demands for resources. But,
politics intervene in a special way when policymakers do not strongly
support the programs in the first place. Victim services seem to be
such programs.

Program Operation

Long ago, we learned that politics and administration cannot be

divorced. What characterizes the management of organizations
generally applies no less to victim programs: political considerations
significantly affect decision-making and outcomes. While some
(Rich, 1981) have begun to recognize this for victim services, much
more can be said.
A major political influence on administration occurs when agencies
reflect official, instead of client, needs. This affects official behavior
internally, and its relationship to outside influences. For victim
services, officials may be pursuing private needs over victim needs,
and may be more concerned with their decision's effects on external
political actors (such as legislators) than on victims.
For example, while some research has identified "advocates"
among compensation board officials in New York and New Jersey,
most were better identified as "neutrals." That is, while a few
administrators actively advocated victim rights and needs in their
work, most worried more about themselves, their colleagues, and the
political officials to whom they answered (Elias, 1983c). Consequent-
ly, they tolerated working in victim programs which only barely reach
their intended recipients. We cannot totally blame administrative
inaction, since political checks and funding limitations are restrictive.
But, it illustrates how official needs dominate victim needs, neverthe-
Community Control, Criminal Justice 297

Victim-witness programs, often reputed to "use" victims for

pursuing criminal cases the prosecutor deems important (Ash, 1972;
Dubow and Becker, 1976), face a similar problem. Beyond recogniz-
ing how officials use victims, we must understand the political
motivations behind these actions. Law enforcement rhetoric to the
contrary, we have little evidence that uncooperative victims cause
cases to be discontinued. In fact, in most jurisdictions, many victims
want to participate, but never get the chance (Elias, 1983c; McDo-
nald, 1976). Actually, the prosecution promotes more discontinued
cases, and often intentionally. Prosecutors need not pursue against all
suspects (Reiss, 1974; Ziegenhagen and Benyi, 1981). Instead, they
pursue only cases they think they can win, since they are evaluated
politically on their conviction record. A victim's value to the prosecu-
tion usually extends only to what he or she can add to that conviction
Besides, victims and their representatives are clearly intruders or
outsiders to the courtroom "workgroups" (including prosecutors,
defenders, and judges) that often dominate the criminal process
(Davis and Dill, 1978; Eisenstein and Jacob, 1977). That these
characteristics might reflect structural problems and not the personal
shortcomings of prosecutors and other official actors, does little to
reduce the victim's resulting exploitation and unmet needs (DuBow
and Becker, 1976).

Program Outcomes

Perhaps the most important criteria by which to judge victim services

lies in the programs' impact. Most plans seek relatively narrow
objectives. A truly effective program, however, must satisfy victim
needs. Some researchers and practitioners have evaluated the short-
term outcomes of victim services (Dussich, 1981; Friedman, 1976;
Rich, 1981; Schneider and Schneider, 1981; Ziegenhagen and Benyi,
1981), and thus we can analyse their findings and draw some of our
own conclusions. From these conclusions, we can speculate about
which programs best serve victim needs, and about how to capture
their characteristics in future programs.

(1) Victim compensation. The most apparent goal of these plans,

restoring victims through financial payments, is not being met for
298 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

most victims. For many reasons, only very few victims receive
assistance, and when given, it is often insufficient, and with much
delay and inconvenience (Doerner, 1978; Elias, 1983c).
(2) Offender restitution. Although few programs have had some
success (Galaway, 1977), restitution has been mostly unused and
ineffective. Many judges refuse to use it in sentencing, and when
they do, the assailant is usually not apprehended or financially
insolvent (Schneider and Schneider, 1981). For what it is worth
to the victim, even programs that successfully arrange restitution
payments usually fail to provide the victim-offender interaction
upon which this service is philosophically based (Gattuso Hol-
man, 1976; McKnight, 1981).
(3) Victim-Witness programs. These programs seem to prefer official
over victim needs. Most have not significantly enhanced victim
involvement in cases, nor the satisfaction derived therefrom
(Heinz and Kerstetter, 1981). Some have enhanced the victim's
overall participation and control in criminal proceedings.
(4) Social-service referrals. Although these programs make numer-
ous referrals, many providing victims with genuine assistance, the
plans have numerous difficulties (Schneider and Schneider,
1981). Firstly, many victims cannot be found since most do not
pursue their cases, yet suffer from victimization's after-effects
nevertheless. Victims avoid seeking assistance unless their need
is unbearable, because they feel the criminal process cannot meet
their needs, or because they distrust law enforcers. For referral
agencies outside the criminal process, many victims are similarly
deterred, perceiving such programs as yet additional examples of
insensitive, aggravating, and unresponsive bureaucracies.
Secondly, these agencies often find their referrals ineffective
because many social services do not address victim needs, or do
not accept victim cases (Friedman, 1976).
(5) Crisis intervention. Organizations handling emergency needs of
selected victims seem comparatively successful in their work.
But, in an absolute sense, they still cannot serve the immediate
needs of most victims. Many victims are unaware of these
services, and if and when they find out, the emergency has often
(6) Victim advocacy. Some successes for promoting victims' broader
rights have occurred, especially when programs exist indepen-
dently from the criminal-justice system (Dussich, 1976). But, the
failures are many. First, relatively few programs exist in the first
Community Control, Criminal Justice 299

place. Second, the status of victims rights has changed little, and
the criminal prosecution still emphasizes social interests, and not
victim interests. Third, victims have not gained any clear control,
or basis for consistent participation, in the criminal process
(Schneider and Schneider, 1981). Victims and their advocates are
still considered unwanted outsiders by many justice personnel
(Ziegenhagen and Benyi, 1981).
(7) Mediation. Some of these programs have been very successful
(Danzig, 1974), yet theoretically their potential goes consider-
ably beyond their current use (Christie, 1978). So few of these
plans operate that they have not provided much relief for victims.
Victims welcome such alternatives, however, even when they
have not specifically experienced such programs (Elias, 1983c).
(8) Crime reduction. While these programs claim to build a sense of
community and reduce crime (particularly for past victims), they
may do neither (Schneider and Schneider, 1981). In theory, for
example, these programs should be contributing to crime reduc-
tion by promoting citizen assistance to police, increased reporting
of criminal cases, and crime-prevention devices (Dussich, 1981).
While some of these changes may have occurred, they have not
affected the crime rate, except occasionally to displace it else-
where (Elias, 1981).

These thumbnail evaluations of victim services may seem unduly

harsh, and perhaps they overlook some important successes and
favorable trends. Overall, however, while these services might be
important to those few victims who use them, most victims' needs are
not met, or even addressed. These programs may not be completely
incapable of meeting victims' problems. With more financing, for
example, their efforts could be much more successful. Nevertheless,
even some of the most ardent supporters of victim services have been
discouraged by their overall ineffectiveness. With new cutbacks in
government funding, the programs' effect seems even more jeopar-
From the victim's perspective, some programs help much more
than others. A few researchers have characterized the most effective
programs. One view, for example, suggests that victim services be
run by private, quasi-public, or non-profit groups which include
broader programs, beyond mere referrals, as well as education,
prevention, advocacy and participation (Friedman, 1976). Another
argues for independent programs that emphasize outreach and
300 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

advocacy, and which seek private support (Rich, 1981). Still another
claims that the greater the state control of these services, the less the
victim control (Ziegenhagen and Benyi, 1981). These views indicate
that programs should be independent of governmental control, such
as service-referral groups, crisis-intervention centers, victim-
advocacy organizations, mediation plans, and community-initiated,
crime-control programs.
While these programs would reduce official control, they might
also lack financial support. Nevertheless, their independence helps
ensure that victim needs dominate. Such programs should probably
accept government financing when available, as long as it does not
restrict the program's operations. And, alternative resources might
be available. For example, one study of rape crisis centers has listed
at least twelve other sources besides government grants (O'Sullivan,


This micro-level analysis of victim services questions whether these

programs really satisfy their objectives, as narrowly defined, to any
significant degree. While the programs may satisfy official needs, they
help few victims. Certain political factors contribute significantly to
these plans' ineffectiveness. Officials do not seem very committed to
assisting victims, since victim needs seem much less important than
their own. Moreover, administrative structures and incentives in
criminal justice do not promote official sensitivity toward victims.
Consequently, from a micro-political perspective, the meager impact
of these programs is not surprising.
But, the political implications of victim services transcend merely
the political influencing their creation and operation. The plans have
a broader role than usually imagined. What political functions do
victim services perform that exceed merely our concern for victims?

Macro-Level Analysis

A macro-level analysis will assess the broader role vIctim-service

programs play in the overall political system. Can we identify
additional purposes for victim programs beyond the narrow objec-
tives examined already? To do so, we must consider how we define
Community Control, Criminal Justice 301

victims when creating such programs, and the philosophical basis for
establishing victim services. We must consider more broadly whether
victim programs serve needs even higher than those of victims and
program administrators. We must examine whether such programs
seek crime control, or rather broader social control. Finally, we must
evaluate whether victim programs actually achieve these broader,
political purposes. For this analysis, we must consider official pers-
pectives much more than before.

Defining Victims

It longer controversial to suggest that those who dominate the

society impose their definitions of crime and criminals (Clinard and
Quinney, 1967; Reiman, 1979). We conceptualize crime selectively
and politically. Since what we regard as criminal also defines whom
we consider crime victims, we conceptualize victimization selectively
and politically, as well.
What determines whether we designate some harms as criminal
victimizations, and not others? The concept "victim" may symbolize
the official definition of social harms or social problems (Quinney,
1972). Victims may include those people whose harm can be recog-
nized without threatening the existing power structure. For example,
officially identifying as victims people harmed by state violence, war,
poverty, inequality, or criminal "corrections," would be threatening
because it might trace the harm to the political system. Likewise,
criminals are those officially identified as perpetrators of social harm,
but that definition excludes many other kinds of threats and wrong-
doers that we could define as crime and criminals (Reiman, 1979).
Again, officially identifying as criminals people and institutions such
as the police, the military, economic structures, business entities, or
the criminal-justice process, might also threaten the prevailing sys-
tem. Consequently, defining victims and criminals must be done
narrowly and selectively.
Victim-compensation programs again illustrate how such defini-
tions affect victim services. Compensation plans define eligible
victims very narrowly (Lamborn, 1976). One must meet all these
requirements: state citizenship, violent crime victimization, rapid
cooperation with board and law-enforcement officials, no past or
present relationship with the offender, innocence of contributing to
the crime, and inability to collect payments elsewhere. In addition,
302 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

almost all programs require the claimant to satisfy a "financial means

test" that verifies, essentially, that the victim would qualify for public
welfare. There is no rationale for most of these restrictions yet if not
satisfied, one does not qualify as a victim as far as compensation
programs are concerned. The same holds for other victim services, at
least those dominated by government. In victim-witness programs,
for example, one usually does not qualify for the official status of
victim unless he/she help satisfy official needs, particularly by helping
in selected prosecutions.
To begin with, these direct and indirect definitions of victims
suggest that we might be ignoring wrongdoing that could be defined
as crime, and thus ignoring people who suffer and who could be
defined as victims (Reiman, 1979). Secondly, although already
limited generally, the "official" list of victims shrinks even further for
victim-service programs since they vastly reduce the categories of
victims eligible for service. Thirdly, we might question the kinds of
people eliminated, as compared to those who are served. We seem
favorably biased towards those who co-operate with criminal justice,
who do not know the offender, whose needs can be delayed, and who
generate organized groups support (Rich, 1981). Others are often
eliminated by "blaming victims" for their characteristics or circumst-
ances. Should victims be penalized for not co-operating with a
criminal process that consistently fails to meet their needs, and which
subjects them to a second victimization? Should the offender's family
members be denied coverage for that accident of birth? Do many
victims really "provoke" the crime against them? Why do compensa-
tion programs require such rapid applications, when they often take
more than two years to process?
The definitions of victims that characterize victim services reflect
more than narrow administrative needs. The low visibility of such
programs, based on insufficient application information, derives not
merely from inadequate resources, but also apparently from an
official desire to limit the number of victims who apply, find
themselves ineligible, and then alienated (if not angered) as a result.


In addition to how we define victims, we must examine the general

philosophy we pursue toward potential recipients of various services.
For example, the "means test" used by compensation programs
Community Control, Criminal Justice 303

replicates the criteria used by existing welfare agencies. Treating

compensation as welfare reflects the programs' broader role.
First, it prevents compensation from being a right, available to all
victims. Instead, compensation becomes a narrowly circumscribed
privilege. The victim remains a second-class citizen in criminal justice
and government. Second, a welfare philosophy assigns victims to a
marginal and stigmatized status in society, reflected in our dispara-
ging national consciousness about public welfare and its recipients.
Furthermore, it suggests that our approach to victimization mimics
our approach to poverty: we will provide some remedial programs,
but we will not address the problem fundamentally.

Symbolic Goals

We must distinguish between symbolic and tangible politics when

assessing public policy. An important difference exists between
programs designed for some concrete impact or tangible change, and
policies created more for their psyschological or political appeal,
(Edelman, 1967). Are victim services, at least government plans,
primarily symbolic in their intent or effect, and lacking in any
significant, tangible impact?
Using our victim-compensation example, it has been ten years
since the first suggestion that such programs might be no more than
"political placebos" (Chappell, 1972). Others have argued that the
plans were created primarily for their psychological effects, (Miers,
1980) or for their political advantages (Elias, 1983b). To assess these
claims, we must examine the existing evaluations of compensation
programs. Since this requires us to consider the programs' other
objectives, we can also learn the additional functions that victim
services seem to perform.
Beyond paying victims, compensation programs also purport to
help control crime, and to improve attitudes and co-operation among
citizens (including victims) toward criminal justice, victim compensa-
tion, and government. These goals intersect since improved attitudes
would presumably produce more co-operation which would, in turn,
help law enforcers prevent crime. But, since research indicates that
most victims fail to qualify for compensation, that only about one in
three eligible get compensation, and that when received, victims
often consider it inadequate (Elias, 1983c), compensation cannot be
achieving the aforementioned goals, if in fact they are being achieved
304 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

at all. If the goals are met, could it be from the program's symbolic
effect, and not its substance (or lack thereof)?
Victim compensation has no apparent effect on the first objective:
crime control. The programs have neither reduced the crime rate, nor
improved clearance and conviction rates (Doerner, 1976; Doerner,
1978b; Silverman and Doerner, 1979). But, what about improving
attitudes and co-operation ?
To begin with, compensation has not produced a greater level of
crime reporting nor willingness to prosecute nor more favorable
attitudes - all important signs that people have not become more
co-operative (Doerner, 1978a; Doerner, 1980). An analysis of New
York and New Jersey crime victims shows that most victims en-
countering compensation programs do not have better attitudes nor a
greater willingness to co-operate than those not making a compensa-
tion claim. In fact, claimants have significantly worse attitudes than
non-claimants, even when controlling for victim characteristics and
previous victimization and post-victimization experiences. This
occurs even though some claimants are compensated, and some of
them are pleased with their award. Administrative obstacles, and not
merely the lack of an award (or an insufficient one), also produce
dissatisfaction (Elias, 1984a).
Compensation plans have not developed good attitudes and coopera-
tion among victims, and have not overcome the negative experience
most victims suffer from their victimization and their treatment in the
criminal process. Disenchantment among claimants seems to come
from their high expectations about getting an award, only to consis-
tently find themselves either ineligible or unsuccessful. And, this does
not even count those who may have discovered enough about the
eligibility requirements before making a claim, and decided it was
futile (Elias, 1984a).
The programs seem to produce an unanticipated consequence:
greater discontent with government and criminal justice than if the
plans had never existed. But, that negative consequence affects very
few people. It alienates only dissatisfied (usually uncompensated or
inadequately compensated) victim claimants. On the other hand,
satisfied claimants support the programs, government, and criminal
justice. And, most people - those not victimized in the first place -
applaud the apparent concern for victims embodied in compensation
programs. This provides a good illustration of symbolic politics: the
public appreciates the program and hopes it will never need it, when
in fact, should the program ever be needed, for most people it will
not effectively be there (Elias, 1984a)!
Community Control, Criminal Justice 305

Social Control

Shaping public opinion. The symbolism of victim compensation goes

further. The now long-term call to address victim needs, and to
reorient the criminal process away from the offender and toward the
victim, has been closely associated with a "law and order" approach
to law enforcement (Dussich, 1981). Get-tough criminal policies have
combined with an apparent concern for the victim (Curtis, 1976;
Curtis, 1977). Adopting what many have viewed as repressive
measures for handling crime will however meet some resistance in a
self-proclaimed democratic system, unless these measures have con-
siderable public support. Promoting victim-service programs, such as
compensation plans, shows policymakers' apparent concern for the
general public as potential victims, and apparently in return, the
public supports high spending and tremendously strengthened police
In this case, merely the "symbol" of concern about victims ensured
public support. Proving that such programs actually provide substan-
tial, or even minor, results has been unnecessary. The general public
(except those actually experiencing the criminal process) has credited
criminal-justice officials with being concerned about victims. Yet
most rank-and-file law enforcers still fail to provide victims with
application information for compensation, and do not tell victims
about the programs, even in states that have had the programs for
over fifteen years (Elias, 1983c).
Why do we believe we must strengthen our police forces? Has our
new preparedness reduced crime? If not, then what other functions
do police forces perform? Some suggest that government cares less
about reducing crime (and might even be content to maintain it at
certain levels (Reiman, 1979», and much more about social control
(Krisberg, 1975; Quinney, 1980; Wright, 1973). While this might be
true, and while victim services might have helped enhance police
forces, victim programs may play an additional and more direct role
in social control.
Controlling the poor? Crime affects some peope and some com-
munities more than others. Especially for our more serious (violent)
crime, the poor and minorities suffer greater victimization, and in
fact, commit more of these crimes themselves. These people often
live in a degrading and desperate atmosphere (rarely of their own
making), labeled some years ago as the "subculture of violence"
(Wolfgang and Ferracuti, 1967). In this setting, it seems almost a
matter of chance as to who will strike first, and consequently, who
306 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

will become the "criminal" and who will become the "victim" for any
given criminal transaction. Many victims have previously committed
crimes, and many criminals have previously been victimized (Buder,
1977; Elias, 1983c). The situation is dangerous, explosive, and
unpredictable (Elias, 1983b).
The poor and minorities, therefore, need victim services the most,
and some means to control the rampant crime and violence in their
communities. In the late 1960s, however, when the first signs of
victim assistance arose, street crime was not the only disorder
plaguing lower-class neighborhoods. There was great turmoil over
civil-rights violations and the frustrations of dead-end poverty. Riots
and massive disruptions occurred, and law enforcers were even less
prepared for these outbreaks than for normal street crime.
We sought to soothe not only the discontent arising from criminal
violence in the ghetto, but also the much more profound and
threatening discontent against the state and the society, in general.
Rather than addressing the sources of crime and poverty, however,
the response (particularly if one examines Law Enforcement Assist-
ance Administration spending from the late 1960s through the
mid-1970s) seemed to mix toughness and pacification. "Toughness"
arose from court decisions giving freer reign to the police, and from
vastly strengthened police departments, although the new hardware
and technology (such as helicopters, mini-tanks, riot and surveillance
equipment) seemed much more appropriate for controlling mass
disturbances than individual crimes. "Pacification" came through
police-community programs, but again, these programs seemed more
designed to calm tensions than to control crime (Center for Research
on Criminal Justice, 1982; Elias, 1981). Victim assistance (including
victim compensation) might be understood as a part of this appease-
ment, and not only as a criminal-justice policy, but also as a
social-control policy (Elias, 1983b).
Compensation as welfare. In this context, the role of compensation
plans as welfare programs acquires even greater significance. Amer-
ican welfare programs may have served much more to appease a
portion of the population psychologically than to effectively redistri-
bute wealth, attack poverty, or even serve as a security blanket for
the poor. Our welfare rolls have risen (because more money has been
provided and eligibility requirements lessened) in direct proportion to
periodical outbreaks of massive discontent by the poor ever since the
1930s. When the disturbances have subsided, the welfare rolls
consistently declined (because less money has been provided and
Community Control, Criminal Justice 307

eligibility requirements tightened). Thus, we seem to use public

welfare as a social-control mechanism (Piven and Cloward, 1971).
The criminal-justice system may perform the same function. The
same kind of ebb and flow in the prison population, corresponding to
periods of social calm and discontent, has occurred, for example,
even beyond any detectable changes in actual crime (Quinney, 1980).
And, victim services such as victim compensation may provide an
even better example of a social-control policy.
Compensation plans are not merely criminal-justice policies; they
are also welfare policies. The plans potentially promote social control
because poor people (who also live in the highest crime areas)
comprise part of the general public that has most applauded this
apparent show of concern for victims. It may not be coincidental that
these programs arose in the late 1960s precisely when welfare rolls
expanded to cope (if we believe the previous argument) with urban
discontent. It also may not be accidental that most arose within a few
years of that crisis period or not at all, occurred predominantly in
states whose cities were disrupted, and have been plagued by
tentative and insufficient budgetary support ever since urban discon-
tent declined in the early to mid-1970s (despite continuing violent-
crime victimization).
Other parallels between victim compensation and public welfare
exist as well. Both programs help some claimants, but many less than
they should. Only about one-half of those eligible for public welfare
receive it (Ryan, 1976), while victim compensation does even worse.
Both programs exclude people who arguably should qualify. Both
provide inadequate awards to those they do pay. Both programs fail
to address the fundamental sources of the problem they claim to be
combating. That is, welfare programs do not genuinely seek to
eliminate proverty, and compensation plans do not genuinely seek to
eliminate crime or victim losses. Both programs apply band-aids to
the symptoms of poverty and crime, respectively, without addressing
or counteracting their sources (Rich, 1981). Some suggest that we do
not have the solutions to poverty and crime, but while we might not
have all the answers, in fact, we are well aware of many causes and
remedies. We refuse to act because to do so would challenge
American mainstream institutions (Reiman, 1979).
Perhaps the interests and preferences of those who dominate
public policy also limit us. But, we need not interpret this as
purposeful intrigue. Instead, it might be the by-product of the
"mobilization of bias" in politics, or the set of predominant values,
308 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

beliefs, rituals, and institutional procedures that operate systemati-

cally and consistently to benefit certain persons and groups at the
expense of others (Bachrach and Baratz, 1970; Schattschneider,
1960). Those favored persons and groups perhaps have less incentives
to seriously reduce (at least violent) crime and eliminate poverty
(since they are rarely its victims), and may in fact, have very strong
and material reasons for not doing so.
We may be socialized into either consciously or unconsciously
accepting a status quo that favors bureaucratic convenience and
privileged interests. We should not be surprised that we have no
apparently genuine and substantive anti-crime and anti-poverty
programs in America. And, victim services, such as victim compensa-
tion, do not appear to be very genuine and substantive victim and
anti-crime programs either.

Program Outcomes

Since earlier in our micro-analysis, we examined the outcomes of

victim services, we must now evaluate the programs' wider effects,
considering their other goals, and their broader political functions.
Like victim compensation, most other government-sponsored vic-
tim services seek more than merely restoring the victim in some way.
They also seek some kind of control. In particular, victim-witness
programs seek to control victims in the criminal process. Victims
often seem to be channeled into the process for official needs, rather
than victim needs (Elias, 1981).
Victim services also seem to ignore the value of serious crime
control for preventing victims in the first place. While official rhetoric
consistently emphasizes its concern for reducing crime, the policies
actually promoted are ineffective. The programs have little effect on
reducing crime. Again, one might question the real commitment of
public officials and law enforcers to eliminating crime, or even
reducing it (Reiman, 1979). In fact, government-inspired victim
services, as currently constituted, might actually increase crime by
promoting discredited policies that only encourage crime, and do not
effectively combat it. Furthermore, the victim orientation of these
programs may abdicate responsibility for addressing the sources of
crime, since they emphasize a false contest (between offenders and
victims) of rights (not needs) and promote complacency toward
crime, now that some post-victimization relief appears available
Community Control, Criminal Justice 309

(Currie, 1978a; Curtis, 1976; Curtis, 1977). In sum, one wonders

whether victim services seek social control, or crime control, or any
kind of substantial assistance to victims at all.


A macro-level analysis of victim services allows us to view them from

a broader, political perspective. Whether intentional or not, these
programs, particularly government-run ones, question the official
commitment to victim needs, and suggest other, broader political
functions. Government programs define the kinds of victimization
and yictims eligible for services narrowly, and preserve the status
quo, regardless of how it may promote crime. The philosophy of
victim programs comes from the welfare tradition (with all its
negative connotations), and fails to enhance victim rights. The
programs largely lack substance, particularly for the many unserved
victims, yet the public seems symbolically satisfied that something is
being done for crime victims.
Victim services correspond to enhanced police forces (even though
strengthened law enforcement has not reduced crime) and more to
controlling social discontent than crime. We can add many victim
services to our current public-welfare agencies as organizations that
"manage" crime and poverty (through symbolic and tangible induce-
ments), rather than eliminate their sources. Although some impor-
tant differences among government-sponsored victim services exist,
most either narrowly control victims or broadly control discontent
rather than control crime or meet victim needs.


Not all victim programs are the same. Among the differences already
compared, the most important seems to be whether or not they
originate and operate within government; that is, within the criminal-
justice system. Most evaluations of victim services suggest that they
should be independent, non-profit organizations that promote victim
interests without becoming institutionalized into the formal criminal
justice process. This favors programs such as service-referral agen-
cies, crisis-intervention centers, victim-advocacy groups, mediation
plans, and community controlled crime prevention. In the language
310 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

of citizen participation theory, grass roots citizen "activism" works

more effectively than government-mandated citizen "involvement"
(Boyte, 1980).
As for government programs, should we continue to support them?
They provide relatively few benefits, often manipulate the victim,
and promote social control more than victim needs. Yet, some
programs may have redeeming value nevertheless. Despite their
negative, or at least not very useful, characteristics, victim compensa-
tion and offender restitution probably should be continued, but vastly
expanded. While they fall far short of their promise, these programs
do at least help a few victims, and could be structured and funded to
help many more. But, we should harbor no illusions about the
political functions of these programs. Recognizing their broader
political purposes and effects begins what might be efforts for
genuine reform. That reform should never be merely raising funding
to cover the current level of criminal losses, but must be directed
more broadly and insistently towards significantly reducing crime in
the first place.
0'1 the other hand, government-based victim-witness programs
and crime prevention programs should be avoided. Official victim-
witness plans offer little hope of favoring victim needs over official
needs. Court-oriented services can, however, be performed by
independent organizations, preferably associated with victim-
advocacy centers. Such programs can be effective if tied to neighbor-
hood cohesiveness and community involvement (Currie, 1982b;
Shapiro and Gutierrez, 1982).
We should also reject government-sponsored crime prevention
programs. They do not reduce crime, they emphasize citizen involve-
ment only after the crime, and their approach to crime prevention
goes no further than promoting new gadgets, hardware, suspicious-
ness, and restricted freedoms. They do not reduce our fear of crime,
and in fact might increase it. They reflect police biases and middle
and upper class interests, instead of lower class needs. They consis-
tently fail to examine the real and major sources of crime (such as
poverty, unemployment, social dislocation, rampant competition,
gun availability, overcriminalization, and so on), and fail to question
how we define crime in the first place, with its tendency to exclude
much middle and upper class wrongdoing (Reiman, 1979).
When occasionally police-community relations improve, it is only
on police terms, and often both sides become disillusioned and
distrustful. The plans fail to produce genuine citizen control of law
Community Control, Criminal Justice 311

enforcement, and only help police control the communities they

serve. Police officers seem caught between those who genuinely care
about victims and crime, and those who apparently do not. Unfortu-
nately, the police and their programs more often reflect the biases
and interests of the latter than the former (Center for Research in
Criminal Justice, 1982).

Community Control

Promoting community-based and community controlled crime pre-

vention groups, can more positively meet victim needs, increase
citizen activism, and more clearly address the sources of crime and
pov'erty in the first place. These kinds of programs should be
autonomous from the police. They should be organized community
efforts that seek an independent and challenging, if not conflictual
(Christie, 1978), relationship with law enforcement, recognizing that
criminal justice efforts do not necessarily reduce crime or serve
victims' best interests. Programs should reject outworn, official
criminal justice stereotypes about crime and criminals, and seek
fundamental changes, not merely an adjustment or acceptance of
official policies. The real and major sources of crime should be
emphasized as well as how our present, distorted definitions of crime
serve to "weed out the wealthy" (Reiman, 1979).
We must seek greater citizen control at all criminal justice levels,
not merely over the police. Citizens could become more involved in
observing courts; influencing, monitoring and evaluating work, poli-
cies, appointments, and budgets; and influencing criminal law defini-
tions. Citizens might consider withholding their support and parti-
cipation in an organized way until the criminal justice system and the
broader political system become more responsive to citizen and
victim needs.
Community programs must take both a long-term and a short-term
perspective. The "burglar alarm mentality" which relies on short-
sighted and individualistic protective measures, must be rejected.
Making a significant dent in the crime problem requires fundamental
changes not only in criminal justice, but also in the broader society.
Taking a longer-term pespective and challenging old solutions will
require informed, committed leadership from experts in both citizen
participation and criminal justice, as well as programs of community
education that counteract our current, fatalistic, and misinformed
312 From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

criminal justice mentality (Bonfield, 1974; Wilson, 1975). We also

need rational strategies that avoid subordination to law-enforcement
officials and priorities, and a multi-issue approach that recognizes the
interrelationship of crime and other social problems. In fact, crime
could be a rallying issue for a much broader community organization.
This would emphasize a more decentralized law enforcement, poss-
ibly creating alternative justice institutions (Brady, 1981).
In the meantime, we obviously need short-run protective mea-
sures. But, they should be placed in the context of broader commun-
ity education and longer-term criminal justice and social change. We
must avoid individualized responses such as guns, guard dogs, booby
traps, and mutual suspicion. Instead, we need a much more commun-
ity-oriented strategy toward crime control, based on organizing
community members and their environment. This approach would
also avoid the vigilantism that has afflicted some citizen programs in
the past.
The community-control approach to reducing crime also could be
the broader foundation upon which other, more specific victim
services and agencies would be based (Friedman, 1976). It could
support independent victim witness and advocacy centers, crisis-
intervention and social-service referral agencies, and community
mediation, which might lead to a more decentralized, neighborhood-
based justice (Danzig and Lowy, 1975; Dussich, 1981; Merry, 1979;
Nader, 1980; Spence, 1978).
In another sense, this strategy could unite the "victim movement"
with the "citizens movement" (Boyte, 1980), and help us recognize
that the crime problem, and the needs of victims, relate to broader
social problems, all of which might be more subject to change
through community-based organizations challenging the status quo.
This would give a new and much broader meaning to the concept of
"popular justice" (Elias, 1984b, 1985).
In sum, we must decide whether the political and criminal justice
systems really work for the victims' and the public's best interests,
and if not, what kinds of strategies we can design to counteract this
tendency. The community approach would significantly transform
our current reliance on official perspectives and solutions for coping
with crime, for victim needs, and even other social ills. These needs
will not be met until citizens, including victims, develop a base of
control and power, and use it. While we must continue using some
government services, we must also understand their political in-
fluences, and more importantly, their broader political functions. We
Community Control, Criminal Justice 313

must not promote the needs of victims by enhancing our police

forces, cracking down on offenders, and limiting our freedom and
control. Instead, our approach should be firmly rooted in progressive
solutions to social ills, and in the democratic traditions of citizens
participation and popular rule (Elias, 1982a).


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Epilogue: on the Rights of
David Weisstub

What does it mean to be a victim? To be human is, inevitably, to be a

victim in some sense, and equally to have the capacity and un-
doubtedly the certitude of the strong manipulating the weak. Instinc-
tively we think of the victim as the widows and orphans of the old
testament, Christian martyrs, the sacrificial lambs of Crusades and
inquisitions, and finally, in the twentieth century, of nuclear holo-
caust and genocide. It is difficult, however, to see how it is possible to
contain the victimization phenomenon and to produce out of it a
legitimate social science or a set of discrete philosophical premises.
To say that everyone who is human is both a victim and a victimizer is
similar to saying that in every human being there is both the capacity
for love and hate.
In fact, the victim enters history as early as the Garden of Eden.
For, as soon as there is paradise lost and man assumes a self-
conscious identity, the possibility of pain and suffering comes to the
fore, which distinguishes the human victim from a wounded animal.
Being a victim, though, we soon come to realize, is not a simple
matter, for being vulnerable can be the complicated result of
seductive, provocative behavior which have been known since Eve
and the Serpent. Indeed, the language of victimization is a loaded
vocabulary, a coded message which (depending upon the circumst-
ances) signifiies who we perceive to be victim as opposed to aggres-
sor, the way in which we choose to symbolize good and evil, and
finally, the political and ethical values according to which we fashion
our victimology maps.
Victimology, as a specialized language of social science, has in the
twentieth century focused our attention on groups of victims, which
we have arguably been able to measure and analyse as objects of

E.A. Fattah (ed.), From Crime Policy to Victim Policy

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmi 1986
318 Epilogue

impersonal scientific interest. But, if history is any lesson to the social

sciences, we can, approaching the twenty-first century, acknowledge
one of our most important tasks as social scientists to be the
exploration of why at certain points in time, we have chosen to study
certain groups as opposed to others. This, in turn, should aid us in
uncovering the value systems which direct our methodologies and the
persuasive rhetorics of our policy options. Victimology, thus, should
not be regarded as a separate, abstracted science with a specific set of
attributes from criminology or sociologies which investigate other
institutions or groups. If any claim can be made, it should be that
victimology is as broad as the study of humans in conflict with one
another, and that the designation of certain humans and their
institutions as victims is, prima facie, deeply entangled with socio-
political and ethical determinations which, themselves, must be
clarified in order to illuminate our discourses on victimology.
There are many forces in contemporary culture, as was the case in
preceding centuries, which force us to identify with, or reject,
victims. After all, there are victims of government policy, the
Church, family life, value transformations, business management,
and the decisions of labor unions. In every sector of political,
economic, familial, and emotional life, there is a victim/aggressor
dialectic with persons or institutions perceived to be aggressors. We
are not even safe in saying that it is a predictable response of socially
sensitive or progressive individuals to identify with the plight of
victims. For, to determine who is a victim is a value-laden process. To
define a person as a victim represents, more often than not, a
conclusion rather than a process of reasoning. It is to say, in ordinary
parlance, that this victimized person has been unjustly treated, and
that his human or economic power has been weakened. But does this
mean to say that victims are without power and that their position is
necessarily weaker than that of their aggressors; or that they them-
selves have not victimized; or that they choose, because of an
enhanced moral position, due to their victimization, not to victimize
others? We cannot be safe in assuming any of the above.
Anyone who has experienced political or emotional conflict knows
the extent to which victimization, even more than beauty, is in the
eye of the beholder. From family court cases to labor strikes, the
public and the media have, in the age of the global village, become
preoccupied with filling our lives with the sounds and sights of
victimization. It is our steady diet of daily news, preaching and
polemics, and the bellwether of both our optimisms and depressions.
Epilogue 319

For every person or institution accused, there is a ready victim, often

pre-fashioned by media rhetoric, motivated, in turn, by political or
economic groupings based on self-interest. If it can be shown that
victimization is part and parcel of our daily name-callings (in which
we have become specialists), perhaps the best study that we can do of
this so-called science is to determine the conditions under which it
rose up as a cottage industry of research and university education,
and why it continues to confuse us about the limit or range of its focus
and the scientific integrity of the premises of its discourse.
Do we need a moral theory about the criteria for identifying a
person as a victim in order to develop a meaningful theory of
victimology? If political judgements motivate our identification with
or rejection of victims, cross-cultural comparisons of who is victi-
mized will only underscore the obvious or exacerbate the quandaries
of ethical and political relativism in which we already find ourselves in
liberal democracies. Because most of us do not believe, given our
relativistic ethos, that we can reach a consensus about the ethical
criteria which will plainly isolate victims from non-victims, we should,
in the interest of practicality, expect less of ourselves theoretically, in
order to make some headway in caring for and analysing the
problems of victims; in so doing, we might reach at least a rough
consensus about justified categories of victims. The fact that victimol-
ogy might be in a crisis with respect to protecting itself as pure social
science, or as a separate enterprise within the social sciences, should
be no cause for us to abandon the study of victims. We should not be
forced into a position of casting out the baby with the bath water.
But, we should take as much care with our vocabulary and our
concepts as possible lest victimology be lost to the rarefied spheres of
either high abstraction - that is, typologies which are immeasurable
or non-applicable in real cases - or political rhetoric, over which we
have no greater control than we do over the wind.
There must be a reason why these difficulties of specification and
definition have not managed, until now, to alienate us from the topic.
And here, it may be profitable to begin our reflections on the state of
victimology with the plain talk of our times. This may help us in
realizing the extent to which our feelings of victimization and our
identification with certain kinds of victims may be different in form,
or substance, from those of other eras. We are currently in a period
of economic crisis, of retrenchment and conservativism. Broadly
speaking, political power, trans nationally , has moved in the past few
years towards conservative posturing and away from the liberalism
320 Epilogue

that we now identify with the post-war boom that extended until the
late 1970s. The 1960s, particularly, was a period in North America
which stimulated a growth industry of liberationist ideologies, which
asked for, and then adamantly demanded, greater rights for vulner-
able citizens, welfare recipients, prisoners, mental patients, racial
minorities, and most recently, women and children. We can say that,
for a number of decades, getting oneself defined as a victim was to
use code language for placing economic and ethical pressures on the
bureaucratic system, in order to insist on greater access to informa-
tion-power and political decision-making. This was not the era of
charity, but of political confrontation and liberation. The victim came
to be treated as a "subject" rather than an "object" of our merciful
attention, and was therefore capable of liberating his or her own
energies through well-organized self-interest.
In a period of surplus profits, where governments, public institu-
tions, and individuals shared in the mythos of unending progress, the
system could tolerate a burgeoning ideology of liberating victims.
There was the expectation that the system could bear the pressures,
and that as victims turned into self-supporting, better-regulated, and
confident citizens, the society at large would be better protected than
it was when the disenfranchised experienced victimization without
redress. There were, of course, exceptions to this, which came from
many diverse elements in the political spectrum. Some observers may
have recoiled from dealing with certain categories of individuals as
victims, feeling that the naming process itself could only serve to
aggravate the patterns of social discord at issue. Reactionaries could
be counted upon to argue that, as we all are born separate but equal,
when tragedy occurs at the social level, it is the victims who likely
cause their own misfortune, through ineptitude. Among the social
scientists there were subgroups who professed, through research, that
some victims were more deserving, so to speak, of their troubles,
than were others. This point of view was expressed in some of the
rape studies of the 1960s which revealed some highly controversial
data about the psychological relationship between the rapist and his
victim. By and large, however, the monolith of victimization sensitiv-
ity was thorough-going until what I shall describe here as the current
With the predictable benefit of hindsight, commentators are now
prepared summarily to dismiss what is sometimes referred to as the
knee-jerk liberalism of the 1960s and the 1970s. The media and public
sentiment are now in the process of reversing the logic of victimiza-
Epilogue 321

tion. There is an impatience with talking about sub-groups within

society as victims when there is a preponderance of evidence that,
among these hitherto designated groups, there are disproportionately
large numbers of criminals, sexual deviants, manipulators of welfare
benefits, the accident prone, and handicapped persons who persist in
bleeding the welfare purse. In a period of limited resources, during
which we must make hard choices about the distribution of benefits to
the many groups who are objectively in need, we must establish
functional priorities based on a social policy which is pragmatically
viable while preserving the root values of our liberal democracies.
This is no mean challenge: the instabilities that we are now
experiencing, both in economic and in political terms, have led to a
crisi~ of faith in our capacity to make meaningful decisions. Policy-
makers, given the existing pressures, are often reactive and prone to
making decisions which placate a public impatient with prior liberal-
ism. It is here we must exercise considerable caution, for we are in
jeopardy of losing some of the meaningful care for the weaker
members of society, care which gave credibility to our desire to
accord certain deserving members of society, who through limited
responsibility or no fault of their own, could not, without our aid,
rehabilitate their positions. Nonetheless, in order to meet the press-
ures of the age on the one hand, and contain our moral sensibility on
the other, we must be prepared now to differentiate the deserving
from the undeserving. This is a responsibility from which the current
economic and moral-political crisis allows us no escape.
What has emerged in the 1980s is the concept of "society as
victim." It is perceived that an imbalance has occurred between our
increasing care for victimizers and our decreasing attention to their
victims, who in an enlarged picture become society itself. The
argument is that society has paid too high a price to look after
aggressors, even if they are victims themselves of deeper social
injustices; that we should abandon our liberal interpretations of the
earlier liberal age of who were and were not victims and demand
justice for our new categories of victims - those forgotten by the
criminal justice system, or unattended to by our system of social
supports for victims of crime. To some extent, this reactive logic
exposes the fact that we have never warmed to our troubled
categories of victims, wherever they have been found in history.
Lepers and paupers, mental patients and drug addicts, I am certain,
have never attracted our interest as next-door neighbors. When social
conscience has allowed it, we have forgiven the propensities of
322 Epilogue

victims to do criminal acts out of the bowels of their misfortune; but

when conditions have disallowed it, history has chosen to be punitive,
that is, to blame victims, so-called, for their misfortunes. This is not
to say that we have not been consistent in blaming and punishing
aggressors. But this, once again, returns us to the key issue of our
analysis - and that is, defining the criteria according to which we
justify our designations of victims and aggressors.
The same piece of behavior can be interpreted as aggressive or as
victimizing. To this end, we have been very adept, in this century, at
offering psychological and sociological explanations for deviant and
criminal behavior. There are parodies rampant in popular literature
about the criminals who are denounced in the courtroom and then
placed into the arms of their awaiting social workers, psychologists,
and victimologists whose salaries and self-esteem as professional
healers only increase with the degree of nastiness and resistance of
their criminal wards. The untreatable and resistant criminal is
redefined, in the extreme form of the rhetorics of the caring
professions, to be an indicia of the treatability of our social fabric,
which itself is responsible for both crime and madness. Both the right
and the left of the political spectrum seem to have joined hands
latterly in condemning the midway liberalist solutions and are
demanding, in the 1980s, that we absolve ourselves of false idealism
and panaceas, that we get down to the hard business of blaming the
true aggressors and attending to the appropriate group of victims. In
this hard-nosed view, needless to say, there is little agreement about
who is a justified victim and who is an unjustified aggressor. This is so
because victimization is, at its heart, a matter of political judgement.
To acknowledge that the process of designating persons as victims
is a political one is not to suggest that our reasons and policies with
respect to the aforementioned hard choices cannot be justified. It
does mean, however, that the art or science of designating victims is a
value choice. Once we have made the choice, and understand why we
have made it - that is, once we have clarified the social value inputs,
the economic conditions and public pressures - only then can we
meaningfully measure victim and aggressor attitudes, criminal law
sanctions, and civil law remedies.

advocacy, victim, 292-3,298-9 Bertrand, Francine, 261n

America, see USA Biderman, Albert D., 83,85,87,91,108,
Anttila, Inkeri, and conventional crimes, 246,251; and AlbertJ. Reiss, Jr, 66,
5; on victim policy, 237-45 102;etal., 74,76,81, 84, 87,96,99, 119,
Antunes,G.E.,etal., 176 180; see also Crawford, Elizabeth T.,
Aristotle, 198 and Albert D. Biderman
Arthurs, Sheila, 261n Bieck, William H., 71
Aquinas, S1. Thomas, see St. Thomas Biles, David, see Braithwaite, John and
Aquinas David Biles
Ash,M., 297 Black, DonaldJ. and Albert J. Reiss, Jr,
Austin, John, 203 75
Australia, burglary rate in, 129 Block, Richard, 129
Blumstein, Alfred, and Gary C. Koch,
BCS, see British Crime Survey, the 54
BJS (Bureau of Justice Statistics), 55,72, B!ildal, Kare, 25
74,249 Bottomley,A. K., andC. Coleman, 210
BSSR (Bureau of Social Science Boyte,H., 312
Research), 74,81,84 Bradburn, Norman M., see Sudman,
Bachrach, P. and M. Baratz, 308 Seymour, and Norman M. Bradburn
Bailar, Barbara A., 100; etal, 101, 102, Brady,J., 312
104 Braithwaite, John, and David Biles, 147
Bailey, Leroy, etal., 101-2 Britain, Great, victim services in, 11-12,
Baltimore, 90,100--1,103,109 223; in seventeenth century, 36; crime
Baluss, M., 292 statistics in, 57,69; victimization
Balvig,F., 27 surveys in, 96,210, 247; see also
Banfield, E., 312 England; Scotland; Wales
Baratz, M.,see Bachrach, P., and M. British Columbia, 46
Baratz British Crime Survey, the (BCS), 38,62,
Bard,M., 38 117-31,140,144,147
Batawia, 26 Brown, S. D. andM. Yantzi, 220
Baumer, T. L. and D. R. Rosenbaum, Buchenwald, 26
174 Buder,L., 306
Becker, T. M., see Dubow, Fred, andT. Bureau of Justice Statistics, see BJS
M.Becker Bureau of Social Science Research, see
Bellagio, 267 BSSR
Bentham, Jeremy, 203 burglary, risk of, 141-2; victims of,
Benyi, J.,see Ziegenhagen, E., andJ. 211-16, 220; NCS and, 251
Benyi Burns, P., 223
Berger, P., 37-8; andT. Luckman, 49 Bushery, John M., see Woltman, HenryF.

324 Index

CICB (Criminal Injuries Compensation Conklin, J. E., and effects of

Board), 223--7, 230 victimization, 10-11; on fear of crime,
Cadek, Glenn, see Woltman, Henry F. 178--9,185
and Glenn Cadek Cooley, c., 44
Cahalan, Don, 102 Cormack, R. M., 67
Calgary, 272 Corrado, Raymond, etal., 143,147
Canada, fear of crime in, 6; and Justice Cowan, Charles D., 107
for Victims of Crime Initiative, 40-2, Crawford, Elizabeth T. and Albert D.
46,261,263--4,279-80,284; victim Biderman, 251
movements in, 41-7,261-88; crime crime, responses to, 156-65; fear of,
statistics in, 53--76, 129,247; 167-86
recollection of victimization in, 86; Crime Commission, the (US), 167
victimization surveys in, 117,122 crime control, funding for, 4; see also
Cannavale, Jr, FrankJ., 55 crime prevention; criminal policy
Cannell, Charles F., etal., 97,101 crime prevention, funding for, 4
capture-recapture statistical models, 67; crime rates, 32,66-76,293,299; see also
see also statistics, nature of statistics, nature of
Carothers, A. D., 67 Crime Victims Compensation Board,
Cantor, David, see Cohen, Lawrence E. 29~
and David Cantor Criminal Injuries Compensation Board,
Carter, RonaldL. and Kim Q. Hill, 147 seeCICB
Castellano, Thomas C., see Sampson, criminal justice, victims and, 191-232;
RobertI. and Thomas C. Castellano and victim services, 290-313
Catlin, Gary and Susan Murray, 86,100 criminal policy, and 'law and order'
Center for Research on Criminal Justice, movements, 2-3; and punishment, 4;
306,311 and victim policy, 237-45; see also
Chappell, D., 303 offender
Chesney, S. and C. Schneider, 292 crisis intervention, 292,298
Chicago, 172 Crossley, 33
Chinkin, C. and R. Griffiths, 216 Current Population Survey, 77n
Christie, Nils, and victim groups, 6; on Currie, E., 309-10
the concept of victim, 17-29; on Curtis, L. , 305, 309
concentration camp guards, 26; and
mediation programs, 299, 311; Limits to Dahl, Tove Stang, 17n
Pain, 29, 242 Danzig, R., 299; andM. Lowy, 312
Christie, Vigdis, 17n Davis, R., 293; andF. Dill, 297
Cicero, 198 Dayton, 83,106
Clarke, R. V. G. andM. J. Hough, 210 Denmark, 241
Clausen,AageR., 102 Department of National Defence
Cleveland, 144 (Canada), 41
Clinard,M. andR. Quinney, 301 deviance, and definition of crime, 31-9
Cloward, R., see Piven, F. and R. Dewey,J., 31
Cloward Dijk,Jan van, and fear of injury, 6; Mike
Cohen, Lawrence E. and Marcus Felson, Hough and, 117n; on response to
135-9, 149; and David Cantor, 141-2;et crime, 156-65; and Karl Steinmetz,117,
al.,141 125,247
Coleman, C., see Bottomley, A. K. andC. Dill, F. see Davis, R. and F. Dill
Coleman Dodge, Richard W., 90,92,107; and
Commission on Victim Witness Harold R. Lentzner, 101; see also Yost,
Assistance, 292-3 Linda R. and Richard W. Dodge
community, the, as a moral territory, Doerner, W. G., 298,304; andS. P. Lab,
35-7; see also social control 225; see also Silverman, S. and W. G.
Community service programs, 3 Doerner
compensation, 291,297-8,304,306-8; Douglas, J., 37
see also CICB Dubow, Fred, 178; and Theodore M. ,
Index 325

Becker, 297 J. Laub, 175

Duff, Peter, 210 Gattuso Holman, N., 298
Durant, H., 35 Geis, G., see Edelhertz, H. and G. Geis
Durkheim, Emile, 178-9,185 Germany, 37,96,244
Dussich, J., 292,295,297-9,305,312 Gewirth, Alan, 287
Gottfredson, Michael R., 139
Edelhertz, H. and G. Geis, 295 Graham, Dorcas, 104
Edelman, M. 303 Gray, Percy G., 91
Edmonton, 100,272 Green, C., 172, 180-2
education, as factor in victimization Griffiths, R.,seeChinkin, C. and R.
definition, 95-6,119-21 Griffiths
Eisenstein, J. and H. Jacob, 297 Groves, Robert M., 97-9
El-Khorazaty, M. N. etal., 67 Gutierrez, L., see Shapiro, C. and L.
Elias, Robert, and 'law and order' Gutierrez
movements, 2-4; and victim services,
4,11-12,290-313 HBM (Health-Belief Model), 182-3
Elmila, 266 Hague, The, 159,163
England, victim services in, 11-12,266; Harris Poll, 168-9
violent victimization in, 117-31; Health-Belief Model, see HBM
lifestyle/victimization correlations in, Heinz, A. and W. Kerstetter, 298
143; see also Britain, Great Hill, Kim Q. , see Carter, Ronald L. and
Ennis, Philip, 83 KimQ. Hill
Evans, John and Gerald Leger, 247 Himelfarb,Alex, 177n
Hindelang, MichaeIJ., 107,146; and
Travis Hirschi and Joseph G. Weis,
FBI (Federal Bureau ofInvestigation),
77n, 123;etal., Victims of Personal
77n, 169,247
Crime: an Empirical Foundation for a
Falck, Sturla, 17n
Theory of Personal Victimization,
Farnworth, Margaret, see Thornberry,
Terence P. and Margaret Farnworth
Hirschi, Travis, see Hindelang, Michael J.
Fattah, Ezzat A., on victim movements,
and Travis Hirschi and Joseph G. Weis
1-14; Nils Christie and, 17n
Hofrichter, R.,see Vaughn, J. and R.
Feinberg, S. E., 67
Felson, Marcus, see Cohen, Lawrence E.
Holmes, W., 203
and Marcus Felson Hough, J. M., see Clarke, R. V. G. and J.
Ferracuti, F., see Wolfgang, Marvin E. M.Hough
andF. Ferracuti
Hough, Mike, and offender/victim
Ferri,E., 203
stereotyping, 8; on BCS, 117-31,144,
Finland, 241-2
147; and Pat Mayhew, 62,117,129,147,
Foucault, Michel, 200
Fowler, F. J.,JrandT. W. Mangione,
Howley,J., 211-12,214-5,220
Friedman, D., 292,297-9,312
Iceland, 241
Furstenberg, F. N., Jr 171,180-1
interviewer effects, on victimization
Fyfe, James, 70 surveys, 100-2

Galaway,B., 291,298 Jacob, H., see Eisenstein, J. and H. Jacob

Gallup Poll, 33,168,170 John Howard Society, 44
Gandhi, Mahatma, 194-5 Justice for Victims of Crime Initiative
Gaquin,D., 169 the, 40-2,46,261,263-4,279-80,284
Garofalo, James, and offender/victim
stereo-typing, 8; on lifestyle/ Kalish, Carol B., 83,106
victimization correlation, 135-52; Katosh, John P., see Traugott, Michael
and perceptions of crime, 150; and W. and John P. Katosh
fear of crime, 174, 177; and Kelly, D., 211,214-15,220
326 Index

Kerstetter, W., see Heinz, A. and W. Maxfield, Michael G., see Skogan,
Kerstetter Wesley, G. and Michael G. Maxfield;
Klecka, William R. and Alfred Lewis, D. A. and M. Maxfield
Tuchfarber, 99; see also Tuchfarber, Mayhew, Pat, see Hough, Mike and Pat
Alfred and William R. Klecka Mayhew
Knudten,R.D.,etal., 214 measurement, difficulties of, 81-95
Kobrin, Solomon and Leo Scheurman, mediation, 293,299
256 Mendelsohn, H., etal., 177,182-3
Koch, Gary c., see Blumstein, Alfred and Merry,S., 312
Garyc. Koch Miers, D., 224,303
Krasnich, M. R.,seeThorvaldson, S. A. Milgram,S., 26
and M. R. Krasnick Miller, Peter V. et al., 247
Krisberg, B., 305 Monthly Vital Statistics Report, 77n
Lab, S. P., see Doerner, W. G. andS. P. Moses, 202
Lab multiple record systems, 67; see also
Lamborn, L., 301 statistics, nature of
Langworthy, Robert, see Sherman, Murray, Susan, see Catlin, Gary and
Lawrence and Robert Langworthy Susan Murray
Laub, J. see Garofalo, James and J. Laub
Lavrakas,PauIJ., 80n, 172-3, 177, 181-3 N AS (National Academy of Sciences)
Law Enforcement Assistance Panel, 58
Administration, 265,270,306 NCHS (National Center for Health
Leger, Gerald, see Evans, John and Statistics), 77n
Gerald Leger NCJISS (National Criminal Justice
Lehnen, Robert G. and AlbertJ. Reiss, Information and Statistical Service),
Jr, 110 58
Lentzner, Harold R. , see Dodge, Richard NCS (National Crime Survey),
W. and Harold R. Lentzner . development of, 56,58; application of,
Lewis, D. A., 178; and G. Salem, 176; 64-5; nature of, 72-6; and recall, 85, 87;
and M. Maxfield, 177 design of, 92-4, 96-8, 247,252-3,258;
lifestyles, and victimization, 135-52 data in, 103-4, 106-10; scope of, 117-18;
London, 90,109 and 'education' effects, 119;
London (Ontario), 272-3 comparisons with, 129-31; and lifestyle
Louisiana, 295 models, 141,143,145-6; and crime
Lowy, M., see Danzig, R. and M. Lowy reports, 248-50; and commercial
Luckman, T. see Berger, P. and T. burglary, 251 ; and victims, 265
Luckman Nachmais,D., 294
Nader,L., 312
MRA (Marriage Registration Area), 77n National Commission on Criminal Justice
McCabe, S. and F. Sutcliffe, 211 Standards and Goals, 293
McDermott, M. Joan, 146 National Crime Survey, see NCS
McDonald, W., 297 National Criminal1ustice Information
McIntyre,J., 10 and Statistical Service, see NCJISS
McKnight, D., 298 National District Attorneys Association,
MacLeod, Linda, 261n 223
Maguire, Mike, 210-12,214,220 National Opinion Polls (National Opinion
Maitland, Frederic William, 204 Research Center), 33, 170
Mangione, T. W.,seeFowler, F. J.,Jrand National Organization for Victim
T. W. Mangione Assistance, 265, 268-9
Manning, Peter, 261n National Research Council, 98
Mansfield, Lord, 203 Neter, John, and Joseph Waksberg, 91,
Mawby,R., 211 93
Index 327

Netherlands, the, crime statistics in, 57, rape, victims of, 211-16; see also Rape
157-8,247; victimization surveys in, Crisis Centres; sexual assault
117,125,129, 164; housing in, 160 Rape Crisis Centres, 223,266,274,300
New Jersey, 295-6,304 Reiman, J., 301-2,305,307-8,310--11
New York, 294-6,304 Reiss, AlbertJ., Jr, on crime statistics,
New Zealand, 266' 53-76,246-59; on telescoping, 93-4; on
Newark, 169 victimization surveys, 96, 99, 109-10,
Newfoundland, 46 248-9,251,256; and prosecution
Nordic Council, the, 241 policies, 297; see also Biderman, Albert
Norway, 26,241 D. and Albert J. Reiss, Jr; Black,
DonaldJ. andAlbertJ. Reiss, Jr
Restigouche, 272-3
Oberg, S., and E. Pence, 292 Rich, R., 269-7,300,302,307
offenders, criminal process and, 2; Rich,R.,andS.Salasin, 11
ostracization of, 8; studies of, 146-71; Riger,S., 176
and restitution, 291-2, 298 risk, exposure to, 139-40; perceptions
Ogg,D., 36 of, 171-7
Okihtro, N.,see Waller, Irvin and N. Rock, Paul, and victim-aid
Okihiro organizations, 3; and victim
Olaussen,L.P.,27 stigmatization, 7; on society and the
Ontario, 266,275-6,287 victim, 31-47; and victim movements,
opportunity theory, 183-4 261-88
O'Sullivan, E., 300 Rogers, Theresa F., 98-9
Otis, D. L., etal, 67 Roncek,DennisW., 144-5
Ottawa, 46,271,274-5,279-80,283, Roper, 33
286-7 Rosenbaum, D. R.,seeBaumer, T. L.,
Owens III, Maurice E. B.,see Penick, andD. R. Rosenbaum
Bettye E. K. Eidson and Maurice E. B. Rosenstock, Irwin, 182
Owens III Royal Candian Mounted Police, 272
Royal Commission on Criminal
Pence, E., see Oberg, S. and E. Pence Procedure (1981), 211
Penick, Bettye E. K. Eidson and Maurice Ryan, W., 307
E. B. OwnesIII, 58,118
Piven, F., and R. Cloward, 307 Sachsenhausen, 26
Plato, 198 St. Thomas Aquinas, 199
Plowman, G. 34 Salasin, S., see R. Rich and S. Salasin
police agencies, 57,59-65,68-9, Salem, G., see Lewis, D. A. and G. Salem
76n-77n, 81, 92, 94; see also Royal Sampson, Robert J., and Thomas C.
Canadian Mounted Police Castellano, 145
Pollock, Sir Frederick, 204 San Diego, 144
Pollock, K. H., 67 San Francisco, 107
polls, public opinion, 169, 174-5; see also San Jose, 83,85-6,89,103,106,108-9
Gallup Poll; Harris Poll; National Schafft, Anglika, 17n
Opinion Poll Schattschneider, E., 308
Portland, 93-4 Scheurman, Leo, see Kobrin, Solomon
public opinion, 33-5 and Leo Scheurman
Schneider, Anne L., 93-4,96, 108
Schneider, A. and P. Schneider, 293,
Quarterly Household Survey (US Census 297-9
Bureau), 89,92,105 Schneider, C., see Chesney, S. and C.
Quebec, 46 Schneider
Quinney, R., 301,305, 307; see also Scheider, P., see Schneider, A. and P.
Clinard, M. and R. Quinney Schneider
328 Index

Schrager, L. A. and James F. Short, Jr, Task Force on Victim of Crime, 44

248 Taub,R.P.,etal., 177
Schwind, Hans-Dieter, et al. , 106 telephone surveys, 97-8,100
Scotland, 117,215; see also Britain, Tennessee, 295
Great Thornberry, Terence P. and Margaret
Seattle, 266 Franworth, 146
Seber,G.A.F., 67 Thorvaldson, S. A. and M. R. Krasnick,
sexual assault, victims of, 220; 223
classifications of, 247 Tombs, J., see Moody, S. and J. Tombs
Shapiro, c., and L. Gutierrez, 310 Traugott, Michael W., and John P.
Shapland, Joanna, and victims' needs, 3, Katosh, 102
8; and victim services, 11-12,218-32; Tuchfarber, Alfred, and William R.
and criminal justice system, 210-16 Klecka, 99, 106--7; see also Kleck,
Sherman, Lawrence, and Robert William R. and Alfred Tuchfarber
Langworthy, 70 Turner, Anthony G., 90,94,99,103,
Short, JamesF. Jr.,see Schrager, L. A. 106--9
and James F. Short,Jr Tyler,T.R., 177,173
Silverman, S., and W. G. Doerner, 304
Simon, Marlene B., 80n U CR (Uniform Crime Reporting),
Singer,S.I., 162 53-76,77n
Skogan, WesleyG.,andfearofcrime, 6, US Census Bureau, 97,99-101, 107-9,
167-86; and recollection of 168-70, 177; see also Quarterly
victimization, 10; on views of crime, 32; Household Survey
on methodology of victimization USA (United States of America), victim
surveys, 80-110, 118; and reporting of services in, 3,12; fear of crime in, 6;
crimes, 108, 122; and Michael G. effects of victimization in, 11; criminal
~axfield,151,173,175-7,182 justice in, 12-13; concepts of, 39-40;
Smith,SusanJ., 139,143-4 crime statistics in, 53-76, 104, 160;
Sobel, Michael E., 140 victimization surveys in, 96, 117,135,
social control, 3,290-313 248; lifestyles in, 138; see also NCS
social services, and victim care, 8-9, Uniform Crime Reports, 247
Sparks, Richard, 118,121; etal., 85, 90, VSCP (Vital Statistics Cooperative
96,107,109,119 Program), 77n
Spence,J., 312 ·Vancouver, 100,125,143,266
statistics, nature of, 53-76; and Vaughn, J. and R. Hofrichter, 295
victimization surveys, 81-95 victim, concept of, 17-29; identification
Statistics Canada, 99-100 with, 160-1; in criminal justice system,
Status of Women Canada, 43,274,286 191-232; support schemes, 223;
Steer, D., 211 services, 290-313; definition of, 301-2;
Steinmetz, Karl, 117n, 147; see also Dijk, rights of, 317-22; see also victim
Jan van, and Karl Steinmetz movements; victimization
Stephan, Egon, 83,96 victim movements, dangers of, 1-14, in
Stinchcombe, A. L. et al. , 174 Canada, 41-7, 261-88
Strauss, A., 267 Victim-Offender Reconciliation Project
Stuttgart, 83 (Ontario), 266
Sudman, Seymour and Norman M. victim policy, 237-45
Bradburn, 91,95 victimization, psychological effects of,
Survey Research Center (U niversity of 9-11,253-4; fears of, 27,32; and crime
Michigan), 97 statistics, 54-6; police agency data
Sutcliffe, F., see McCabe, S. andF. systems, 57, 76n-77n; surveys of,
Sutcliffe 80-110,117-31,246--59; lifestyles and,
Sveri, Knut, 147 135-52; theories of, 191-216
Sweden, 241-2 Vietnam War, 26
Index 329
Waksberg, Joseph, see Neter, John and Wolfgang, Marvin E., 162;etal., 146;
Joseph Waksberg and F. Ferracuti, 305
Wales, 117-31; see also Britain, Great Woltman, Henry F. and John M.
Walker, Gordon, 275--6 Bushery, 99; and Glenn Cadek, 108-9
Waller, Irvin, 44, 261n, 267-8, 270, 277, women, legal status of, 199--200; as
281; and N. Okihiro, Burglary: the victims, 201; and Canadian government
Victim and the Public, 267 policy, 274; and crisis intervention
Walzer,M., 37 services, 292
Washington, DC, 83,87,90,92,94,109, Wood,D.S., 117
271 World Society of Victimology, 265, 268
Weick,K., 276 World War II, 138
Weis, Joseph G., see Hindelang, Michael Wright, E., 305
J. and Travis Hirschi and Joseph G.
Weiss,CaroIM., 102 Yantzi, M. , see Brown, S. D. andM.
Weisstub, David N., on victims and Yantzi
criminal justice system, 191-210; on Yost, Linda R. and Richard W. Dodge,
vicams' rights, 317-22 90,92,103,107
welfare state, see social services Young, VernettaD., 146
'Wergeld', 1
Willmore, Jon, 210
Wilson,J.Q., 176,312
witnesses, and victim-witness programs, Ziegenhagen, E. and J. Benyi, 297,
292-3,297-8 299--300