V. Victim Resistance and Robbery
In the 1970s and 1980s, the idea of resisting robbers was generally discouraged. It was argued, by some criminologists and many commentators, that resistance was strongly related to injury and increased the likelihood of suffering retaliation at the hands of the robber. Thus, passive behavior in the face of robbery was considered the wisest course of action. Clearly, robbery is not a homogeneous event and therefore suggestion of a single best practice with regard to dealing with a robbery from the perspective of the victim may not be appropriate. For example, robbers may outnumber the victim, may be well armed, and may have a victim cornered. Certainly, in that situation, a lone victim would wisely surrender his or her items and offer no resistance. However, it is clear from the data obtained from police records and self-reported victimizations that many robberies involve unarmed perpetrators. In these cases, resistance might reduce the likelihood of robbery completion or loss of goods, especially if the victim identifies an escape route.
Criminologists that have analyzed data from victimization surveys tend to find that resistance is beneficial in that many robberies are not completed when victims resist physically or verbally. This contrasts with data collected by police because official reports greatly underrepresent attempted robberies, and studies indicate that police reports may be more likely to be taken if a victim is injured. Thus, although there appears to be a positive relationship between injury and resistance in police data, it may be due to the nature of how police decide whether to record or not record the crime. Victimization surveys overcome these obstacles and thus more completely enumerate robbery circumstances while also providing researchers with the ability to tell if victims’ resistance is a consequence of being injured or if it causes injury. The systematic biases in the recording and reporting practices that influence the types of events that appear in official data are not an issue for victimization surveys.
The most recent analyses of victimization survey data from the NCVS make it clear that resistance against robbers is not random but instead reflects choices and consideration of situational cues and risks on the part of the victim. Victims are, for example, more likely to resist against offenders who are unarmed. Outcomes of events indicate that victims use resistance relatively wisely, as illustrated by the fact that resistant victims are less likely to suffer completed crimes. In sum, the wisdom of robbery resistance has swung from sureness that resistance is likely to increase negative consequences for the victim, to a sense that, in many situations, resistance is a wise course of action.