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Victim Surveys at Century's End (From Caring for Crime Victims, P 41-53, 1999, Jan J.M. van Dijk, Ron G.H. van Kaam, et al., eds. -- See NCJ-180797)

NCJ Number
Wesley G. Skogan
Date Published
13 pages
This review of victim surveys at century's end focuses on explanations for decreasing crime rates in the United States, the importance of the concept of repeat victimization for criminological theory and research, the relationship between citizens and the state as a focus for victimization research, and the role of crime in the modern transitions toward development and democratization.
By several measures, there are many fewer crime victims in the United States than just a few years ago. Crime in the United States has been declining sharply on a national basis since 1994. Criminologists first want to confirm that crime rates are actually decreasing; and if it is true, to determine why. Daily violence is most adequately measured by victimization surveys. Significantly, these surveys also indicate that crime is down in the United States. The challenge for criminologists is to identify the offender, victim, and situational factors that have shifted sufficiently to explain dramatic declines in the rate at which they have intersected. If declining crime rates are among the most important American events of the decade, the concept of repeat victimization may be the most important criminological insight of the decade. This concept recognizes that one criminal victimization can be quickly followed by another at a much higher rate than chance factors can explain. This suggests that prevention efforts should focus on groups and locations where victimization has occurred in order to prevent repeat victimizations. Finally, victimization research must contribute to an understanding of the fundamental transformations that are remaking the world. The two most prominent transition processes of our time are that of developing nations toward Western models of industrial and postindustrial society and the movement of authoritarian societies toward democratizing ones. Surveys have documented that compared to industrial societies, developing nations are plagued by higher levels of violence, personal theft, robbery, and sexual assault. Studies to date have paved the way for increasing the scope of victimization research to encompass larger questions about the relationship between citizens and the state. One of the most common crimes revealed by International Crime Survey research in developing nations is official corruption. 36 references