VII. Robbery and Correlates
Consideration of age, sex, and race patterns in robbery offending and robbery victimization is an important part of understanding the phenomenon of robbery. Official police data and victimization surveys are the two data sources that provide the clearest pictures of robbery. Both indicate that, for the most part, offenders tend to be males under the age of 30, and there is an overrepresentation of African Americans. UCR arrest data from 2006 indicate that 56% of arrestees were black, but the NCVS data, which rely on victim self-reports of their perception of the offender’s race, indicated that, of offenders who could be identified, only 37% were reported as black. This discrepancy is likely due to several factors including differential police coverage and arrest patterns across racial groups and neighborhoods. Nevertheless, both data sources indicate an overrepresentation of African Americans involved in robbery. This is likely due to the fact that robbers frequently come from economically disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, which in many U.S. cities tend to have high proportions of black and other minority residents.
With respect to sex and age of offenders, the two data sources tend toward close agreement. Males comprised 85% of perceived perpetrators in the 2006 NCVS victimization survey data and about 89% of the offenders arrested for robbery as recorded by the UCR during 2006 (FBI, 2006). Victims interviewed for the NCVS in 2006 reported that approximately 2 out of 3 offenders were under the age of 30. The UCR confirms this pattern with arrest data, which indicated in 2006 that 3 out of every 4 arrestees were under the age of 30. Clearly, those committing robbery tend to be more youthful and overwhelmingly male.
With respect to victim characteristics, youthful victims between the ages of 16 and 24 suffer the greatest robbery rate, according to victimization survey data. Blacks suffered a robbery rate of 3.8 per 1,000 as compared to the white rate of 2.8 robberies per 1,000. Males also have the highest rate of robbery victimization at 3.9 per 1,000 compared with the female rate of 2.0 per 1,000 in the 2006 NCVS data. As was noted previously in this entry, the robbery rates have fallen dramatically in the decade and a half since 1990. In particular, black male robbery victimization has declined extensively. For example, black male robbery rates in 1996 were 16.7 per 1,000 and dropped to 4.8 per 1,000 by 2006, which is a more than 70% decline in victimization rates.
Some speculation exists regarding the frequent choice of female victims in robbery. Perhaps females are quicker to acquiesce at the hands of a robber when compared with males, who may be more likely to bend to societal pressure and respond to the coercive threat with a macho resistant response.
Female participation as a perpetrator in robbery appears to be relatively rare. What research has been conducted in this area indicates that female robbers have a greater preference for working in teams, with lone female robbers being exceptions. The teams of robbers tend to be mixed in gender, and some have argued that robbery’s hyper-masculine requirement of the domination of others are not easily carried off convincingly by a lone female perpetrator. Miller’s (1998) seminal work on female robbers also indicated that a significant proportion of robberies by females involve prostitute–john relations, where the victim is particularly vulnerable and unlikely to report the victimization that is suffered, since the underlying activity of seeking a prostitute was illegal.
The data clearly indicate that robbery is not randomly distributed among the population in terms of offenders and victims. Rather, it appears that robbery is disproportionately concentrated among the youthful and male as both victims and offenders. Blacks are similarly overrepresented with regard to victimization in robbery and as perpetrators, although there has been a dramatic decrease in terms of victimization and somewhat of a decrease in terms of offending since the 1990s. Finally, in terms of the geographic location of robberies, they are events that tend to be concentrated in poorer urban neighborhoods.