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Victim-Induced Criminality

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Science  02 Sep 1966:
Vol. 153, Issue 3740, pp. 1080-1083
DOI: 10.1126/science.153.3740.1080

Abstract

In summary, there are certain issues that need to be dealt with if a coherent system of victim compensation is to be created.

1) Is the victim's entitlement to compensation qualified by his behavior in connection with the crime?

If a Texas tycoon visits a clip joint, flashes a fat roll of bills, and gets hit on the head and rolled, is he entitled to compensation? If a man enters into a liaison with another's wife and gets shot by the husband, should his dependents be compensated? If a woman goes walking alone in a disreputable neighborhood and is assaulted, is she entitled to compensation?

Unless the answer to such questions is a flat "yes," the adjudication of victim compensation as a "right" would be embarkation upon a vast sea of confusion.

On the surface it may seem simpler to bypass the issue of "right" and declare for victim compensation as a matter of social policy—a logical extension of the welfare state approach. But the apparent simplicity may quickly prove illusory, in light of the second issue.

2) Is the victim's entitlement to compensation on the basis of indigency to be qualified by the requirement that an offender be apprehended and his guilt determined by a court?

There are two levels to this problem. First, if a severely injured man reports to police that he has been mugged and robbed and if the police cannot apprehend a suspect, how is the administrator of compensation to know that the man is in fact the victim of a crime? The administrator of compensation must determine whether the episode was a criminal act or an argument—and who started it, and who precipitated the violence. What shall be the role of the witnesses, and of investigators? More important is the second level of the problem: How will law-enforcement of ficials and the courts evaluate the testimony of the victim if compensation of the victim may be at stake?

In the evaluation of proposals for victim compensation, criminologists may need to think very hard about such questions and about the probable effects on the administration of criminal justice.

These are pragmatic problems; there is a third problem which may at this time seem speculative, but is, nevertheless, quite important.

3) To what extent will a particular proposal for victim compensation contribute to a temptation-opportunity pattern in victim behavior? In previous studies it has been pointed out that large numbers of our fellow Americans have tended to acquire casual money-handling habits—generically designated "carelessness"—which contribute to the national growth of criminality. How the victim helps the criminal was sketched in reports of those studies (10).

It was made abundantly clear that human beings in our affluent society cannot be assumed to be prudent or self-protective against the hazards of crime. Even when the "victim" is not overtly acting to commit a crime—as in the case of the property owner who hires an arsonist—he often tempts the offender. Among the victims of burglary—statistically the most prevalent crime in the United States—are a substantial number of Americans who keep cash, jewelry, and other valuables carelessly at home or in hotel rooms to which the burglar has easy access through door or window. Victims of automobile theft—one of the fastest growing classes of crime—include drivers who leave the vehicle or its contents invitingly accessible to thieves. And so on with other classes of crime.

As pointed out in previous studies, when victim behavior follows a temptation-opportunity pattern, it (i) contributes to a "climate of criminal inducements," (ii) adds to the economic resources available to criminal societies, and (iii) detracts from the ability of lawenforcement agencies to suppress the growth of crime.