“Crime is a violation of societal rules of behavior as interpreted and expressed by a criminal legal code created by people holding social and political power. Individuals who violate these rules are subject to sanctions by state authority, social stigma, and loss of status.” (Siegel, pg 18) As a society we are subjected to people who will victimize and those who will be victimized. Criminologists have studied for many years on why this happens and what can be done to lower these rates of crime. They have defined some theories that are helping us to better understand why these crimes happen to certain people and why these particular crimes continue to happen.
One theory is that people often put themselves in a position where they are “asking” to be victimized. One would elaborate by giving an example as such a woman dressed risqué, or a man who is involved in an activist group. This is known as victim precipitation theory. Under this theory there are two categories. There can be active precipitation or passive precipitation. Active precipitation crimes occur when the victim starts the initiation, such as previously stated when a women dresses risqué, or if you start a fight and/ or threaten someone.
These actions can possibly lead to further confrontations that will most likely end badly. In passive precipitation, a person who becomes victimized is often one who does not throw themselves willingly into a situation that could potentially go in a bad direction. They often are people in the work place or school setting who get an upper hand or are promoted. Many times this will encourage the attacker to strike or cause harm. As previously stated sometimes the victim will be involved in a group that or has a presence that threatens the attackers reputation, status, or economic well-being.
Another theory is the Lifestyle theory. This is when a person chooses to live in a lifestyle that exposes them to a higher potential crime scene. An example would be someone who hangs around teenage males, going to public places alone at night, and even living in an urban area with high crime rates. Often times these victims have high risk lifestyles already, which allows them to become a target.
People who are already involved in crime and those who drink and/or take drugs are included in this category. Those who participate in or seek out risky situations are in greater danger than they often imagine. Including themselves in these situations invites other deviant individuals into their life and their surroundings. An example of this behavior would be a young person who hangs out with individuals who constantly are stealing from others. This situation puts this individual at an extremely high risk of following in these footsteps that will eventually lead to further destruction.
Routine activities theory is another that is studied by criminologists. This theory involves the idea that the more habitual your everyday tasks are may put you in higher risk for being victimized. Imagine your life as a college student, where you wake up go to the same classes day to day and eat in the same areas, take the same route to school and back home again.
You park in the same spot so you don’t have to remember every time you come to school where in the gigantic parking lot you actually did park. You also go to the same hang out places and drink in the same bars on the weekends. In this situation you are giving someone the option to know exactly how you live from sun up to sun down which in turn allows them to follow you and make you a victim.
This is not the only way you can have routine activities. Many don’t think about the purchases they make which may include new electronics or expensive jewelry or even valuable clothing, on a regular basis. More often than not friends or coworkers see this behavior which in turn will allow someone to become victimized because of their possessions.
Under all these theories there are ways to not be involved in these climbing numbers and crimes. To some they may be obvious changes, to others not so easy to change their homes or their thought process if this is all they know. Making a list of things not to do could go on forever so here are a few pointers and examples on what to do. Go to places in the day light and if you go drinking or hang out in public place make sure to always have people around and have at least one other person to walk home with.
Children who are growing up in an urban community try to be involved with others who are positive and be involved in afterschool activities that include sports or learning or helping others. For those who like routine, take a new way to work, take note on where you parked so it won’t be challenging to find later, try a new lunch spot and even try meeting new people to befriend. All of these actions will allow you to become less of a target for victimization. Even though you decide to take better steps, sometimes you still fall to these victimizations under none of your control.
With these theories we tell people how to not become part of the victim population and when it happens people will point the finger saying “we told you so”, and blame them instead of looking at the whole picture. As in precipitation theory, wanting to look cute and going out on your birthday is not an automatic invitation to being victimized. Yes it increases the risks but if proper actions are taken you can cut that risk.
People as a whole are looking for explanation on why these trends happen and pointing fingers and playing the “they were asking for it” game isn’t helping lower these types of crimes. Giving better awareness to people who are more likely to become victims and giving guidance especially to young children in high risk neighborhoods and situations may help break the cycle. These theories are definitely helping us in the right direction, but they are not complete, and hopefully in the future we will look at and take action on ways to stop these crimes, instead of only studying patterns on what is causing them to happen.