U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Societal Reaction to Crime - A Study of Public Reactions Toward Punishment of Offenders Who Commit Burglary

NCJ Number
M L Rodgers
Date Published
130 pages
Results are reported from a study designed primarily to develop a system of variables and a methodology for measuring public attitudes and behavior toward crime, with particular attention to public preferences for the punishment of burglars.
Findings from the literature review indicate that the commission of a crime per se is not the only factor which affects societal reaction to a given offense. Characteristics of the reactor as well as the offender, along with the characteristics of the victim and the perceived severity of the offense are also factors affecting the overall public reaction to an offense. In an effort to develop further variables associated with public reaction to offenses, notably punishment for burglary, the following issues were examined: (1) the relationship between the crime rate in the respondent's neighborhood and his/her attitudes toward burglars; (2) the relationship between social distance from offenders, fear of victimization, and personal victimization experience and respondents' reactions to burglars; (3) the relationship between respondent characteristics and reactions to burglars; and (4) the extent to which the aforementioned independent variables in isolation or combination account for the variations in respondents' reactions toward burglars. Data were obtained from interviews in 1974 with 319 high-and low-risk-crime-area adults in a midwestern city. Findings showed that respondents with the most formal education and those with the least social distance from offenders tended to react less severely in punishing burglars than did their counterparts. The key variable, place of residency (high-or low-risk crime area), and several other variables (sex, income, occupation, residential stability, and respondent's experience with crime) were not related significantly to attitudes toward burglars and their punishment. The average respondent advocated probation rather than a prison sentence for first-offender burglars. Supplementary statistical analyses, maps, and supplementary research materials are appended. A glossary of crime categories and a bibliography (about 70 references) are provided.


No download available