. "Public Perceptions and Reactions to Violent Offending and Victimization." Understanding and Preventing Violence, Volume 4: Consequences and Control. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1994.
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Understanding and Preventing Violence: Volume 4 - Consequences and Control
offenses against the person appear only infrequently and are largely limited to simple assaults (see those offenses between 11.3 and 11.9) and less injurious robberies. Burglary (which first appears just below 10.0 on the scale) and other forms of property crime (e.g., larceny, fraud, auto theft, fencing, forgery, picking pockets) abound in the region extending from about 2.0 to 10.0. White-collar and corporate crimes (e.g., embezzlement, price fixing, insurance fraud) are generally scattered among the more serious property crimes. However, one such offense (''A legislator takes a bribe of $10,000 from a company to vote for a law favoring the company") falls within the lower range of violent crimes, and another ("A factory knowingly gets rid of its waste water in a way that pollutes the water supply of a city. As a result, 20 people die") ranks seventh among all 204 offenses. Approaching the bottom of the scale (especially below 2.0), several classes of offenses begin to predominate, including public order offenses (e.g., loitering, public drunkenness, trespassing, disturbing the peace), status offenses (e.g., truancy, curfew violation), victimless offenses (homosexuality, prostitution, illegal gambling), and numerous forms of petty theft.
As the NSCS and other studies (e.g., Rossi et al., 1974) clearly demonstrate, violent crimes are quite literally a class unto themselves when it comes to social judgments of the seriousness of offenses. But apart from their sheer heinousness, violent crimes are also distinctive for another reason. Because they involve a social interaction between two or more parties, violent crimes naturally raise certain sociological questions. First, does the relation between the victim and the offender affect the perceived seriousness of a crime? No study has been specifically designed to answer this question, but the large variety of offense descriptions typically included in seriousness studies provides some evidence for an affirmative answer. In their survey of Baltimore residents, Rossi et al. (1974:227) noted the tendency for "crimes involving persons known to the offender to be regarded as less serious than crimes committed against strangers." For example, whereas "forcible rape of a stranger in a park" ranked thirteenth among all offenses, "forcible rape of a neighbor" ranked twenty-first, and "forcible rape of a former spouse" ranked sixty-second. Similarly, "being beaten up by a stranger" was perceived to be more serious then "being beaten up by someone you know" among Warr and Stafford's (1983) respondents (see Table 1). More recently, Warr (1989) found that the existence of a standing social relationship between the victim and the offender (e.g., wife, classmate, girlfriend, child)