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There are many different types of
crime that exist and are committed by a diverse cohort of offenders. These
crimes can be grouped into five major categories: violent crime, property
crime, white-collar crime, organised crime, and consensual/victimless crime (Barkan
& Saylor, 2013). Violent crime is a concern as the
offense generally has significant adverse impacts on the victims and those
related to them (Victim Assist Queensland, 2017). Although violent crime
constitutes a minor proportion of all crimes committed, fear of becoming a
victim of violent crime is instigated by the over-reporting and
sensationalisation by mass media (Makkai & Prenzler, 2014). Consequently,
the fear of being victimised by violent crime has become quite widespread in
the general population (Ross
& Hanley, 2012).

Violent crime is regarded as the most
serious crime of all crimes as it generally results in physical
injury/violation, and in many cases, emotional and/or psychological trauma to
the victims and those related, and has stipulated fear amongst society. According
to Cartwright (2014), violent crime is conceived as crimes against the person
and involves “…negligent, intentional or reckless acts which result in harm…”
(physical or non-physical). Violent crime consists of offenses such as:
homicide, assault, sexual assault, kidnapping/abduction, robbery (particularly
armed) and domestic violence (Cartwright, 2014). The fear stimulated by
criminal violence places pressure on the criminal justice system to better
their mechanisms for control and prevention of violent crimes, in order to
satiate the needs of society for a sense of security. Violent crimes which
involve the imposition of physical harm can have short-term and long-term
consequences ranging from minor injuries that will heal to sever injuries that
lead to disabilities that reduce quality of life, and in some cases, death. According
to the 1993 Crime and Safety Survey and the Crime Victim Survey (as cited in Australian
Bureau of Statistics, 1997), approximately 30% of victims sustained injuries during
assault and about 5% of assault victims had injuries severe enough to be
hospitalised, respectively.

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Looking beyond public security and
safety, implications of violent crimes also places other aspects of public
health at stake. Whether infliction of physical harm had occurred or not, many
victims suffer from psychological and/or emotional trauma to some extent (National
Research Council, 1994). Some victims may be able to live in conjunction with
this over time while others spend their life battling these traumas. Experience
of criminal violence can result in various emotional and/or physical reactions
to trauma such as outbursts of anger or feeling irritable, feeling empty or
numb, sudden sweating or heart palpitations, and being easily startled by noise
and unexpected touch (Victim Assist Queensland, 2017). This not only results in
some victims requiring medical assistance and medications, it may also decrease
their quality of life as well as limit availability of resources to other
patients (not victims of criminal violence). Thus, violent crime presents as very
much a health and safety concern to the general population.

However, violent crimes constitute
approximately 20% of all reported crimes in Australia, with the most serious
criminal violence accounting for a very small proportion of these crimes (Makkai
& Prenzler, 2014). This demonstrates that the level of fear towards
criminal violence is not proportionate with the probable risk of victimisation.

The “indirect terrorising effect of violent crime” as termed by Kraus (1979)
can be attributed to over-reporting by the media. The media is selective in the
crimes they report in order to pique the interest of viewers as their main
purpose is to make profit (Wood, 2014). Thus, they tend to report crimes that
impact a greater number of people, involve conflict, and are or emotionally
close to the audience (Wood, 2014). These characteristics make violent crime
the ideal for reporting. Continual reporting of violent crimes can mislead the
audience to believe that criminal violence is rampant and risk of victimisation
is high. Mass media are not as likely to report crimes such as property and
white-collar crime which constitutes approximately 80% of all reported crimes
in Australia (Makkai & Prenzler, 2014), and in actuality, can be more
serious than violent crimes as it can result in economic loss, injury and death
in very serious cases (Barkan & Saylor, 2013). Such crimes do not interest
as wide a group as violent crime as usually only a small group of people would
be affected by property and white-collar crimes.

Therefore, violent crime is a concern
to society as it poses both safety and health issues which stipulates fear and
unease in the general population. However, violent crime is not the most
frequently occurring type of crime (that is reported). The volume of distress of
being victimised is not equivalent to the rates of criminal violence in
comparison to property and white-collar crime which make up majority of all
reported crimes in Australia. Much of the fear is stipulated by media
selectively reporting violent crimes and presenting a biased and misinformed
view that serious criminal violence is a regular occurrence.

A victim can be defined as a person
or organisation who is negatively and/or adversely impacted by an act of
another (i.e. suffered a loss or decrease in wellbeing) (Hayes & O’Connell,
2014). Victims of violent crime are usually people who have been subjected to
acts that have resulted in physical injury/violation or non-physical harm such
as threats (Cartwright, 2014). Studies have shown that the risk of violent
crime victimisation is much greater is certain demographics depending on the
type of violent crime (i.e. homicide, sexual assault etc.) and is based on
various characteristics such as age, gender, socioeconomic status and location
just to name a few (Cartwright, 2014).

            In general,
offenders and victims of majority of fatal and non-fatal violent crimes are
usually unemployed and single young males, whereas females are more at risk of
sexual and domestic violence. For example, the National Homicide Monitoring
Program found that the highest rate of victimisation for males was 3.5 per
100,000 for ages 20-24, but the rate of homicide victimisation for females is
only 1.7 per 100,000 and at an older age bracket of 35-39 (Cartwright, 2014).

Contrastingly, even though the rate of sexual assault in 2012 was 80 per
100,000, the highest victimisation rates for males was 93.8 per 100,000 males
(aged 10-14) compared to that of females at a rate of 564.9 per 100,000 females
(aged 15-19) (Cartwright, 2014). This data indicates the staggering difference
in victimisation by gender depends on whether the type of violent crime was
more sexually or physically orientated. Although there is still uncertainty in
the reason for this large gender difference in victims of violent crime, many
have theorised this to be associated with sociological factors such as gender
roles (Barkan & Saylor, 2013). To this day, many families continue to raise
their sons to be aggressive and assertive and their daughters to be gentle and
submissive (Barkan & Saylor, 2013). Instigating such gender roles is highly
likely to bring about conflict between males leading to violence, as well as
females being unable to stand up for or protect themselves and thus increasing
the risk of them being victims of sexual violence.

studies show that the risk of victimisation peaks during the teens and early
twenties and declines thereafter (Perkins, C., 1997). To those under
25-years-old, puberty may be a stimulator for risk-taking behaviour especially
if surrounded by peers who are offenders as peer relationship are important to
those in this age group (Barkan & Saylor, 2013). The decline in offending
and victimisation can be attributed to increase in attachment to conventional
society such as being employed and having a partner and children (Barkan &
Saylor, 2013). This acts as a deterrent from crime, and thus less
victimisation, as much more is at stake if an individual commits crime such as
strain on marital relationship and a bad role model for children.

status also appears to be correlated with the increased risk of violent crime
(Cartwright, 2014). Research has shown that those of lower socioeconomic status
are more likely to commit, and thus be victims of, violent crime than people
who are considered to be wealthy (Barkan & Saylor, 2013). Reasons for this
have been associated to the effects of socioeconomic disadvantage such as
homelessness, unemployment, relationship status and poverty, which can bring
about emotions like frustration, anger, and economic need (Australian Bureau of
Statistics, 2013). These factors can potentially increase an individual’s inclination
to resort to violence as a means of release or for benefits such as money.

Additionally, the correlation between lower socioeconomic status and increased
victimisation of violent crime supports the concept of crime hot spots. Put
simply, areas associated with higher rates of crime are usually, as termed by
Stark (as cited in Barkan & Saylor, 2013), “not upper-income

            Thus, it is
fair to say that majority of violent crimes involve male offenders and male
victims of the younger demographic. This trend has been associated with the
difference in the upbringing of males and females, and how these gender roles
to some extent have an impact on an individual’s propensity to use violence. Furthermore,
rate of victimisation decreases after the early-twenties due to greater
attachment to social norms, thus acting as a deterrent from committing crime as
such behaviour is looked down upon. Hence, it is evident from looking at these
few individual characteristics that victims of violent crime are not evenly
distributed throughout society.

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