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Understanding Victimization Risk: Lifestyle Factors & Routine Activities

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  • 1:38 Routine Activities Theory
  • 4:01 Demographics
  • 4:50 Economic Status
  • 5:45 Social Activities
  • 6:41 Substance Abuse
  • 7:37 Community
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

This lesson explores the association between lifestyle and victimization. You'll also learn about some of the routine activities associated with victimization risk.

Lifestyle and Victimization

Have you ever been a victim of crime? Have you worried about being victimized? What will make you more vulnerable to crime than, say, the person sitting next to you?

Crimes can be very random, but there are factors that increase a person's chances of being a victim. One factor is lifestyle choices, or the way individuals choose to behave and live as they carry out routine activities. Lifestyle choices play a formidable role in determining risk level. Riskier lifestyle choices lead to higher victimization risk.

For example, an individual with low risk for victimization will be aware of their surroundings, avoid potentially dangerous situations, like walking alone at night, dressing flashy with expensive jewelry, or leaving doors unlocked to a car or home. An individual with a medium risk for victimization might do all of the things the individual with a low risk does, but is a bit more careless. For example, the medium risk individual might lock their car doors, but walk alone at night out to their car. So while the car is safe, the walk out to it might not be. Finally, an individual with a high risk of victimization would fail to practice most safety precautions and frequently place themselves in vulnerable situations.

There are a large number of factors that contribute to the risk of an individual becoming a victim, and this lesson will discuss a few, but first let's look at the idea of how our routine activities play a role in victimization.

Routine Activities Theory

Our daily and routine activities, also known as our lifestyle, can sometimes put us in a vulnerable position. There is a theory, known as the routine activities theory, that can help us better understand how lifestyle makes us vulnerable to crime. The routine activity theory is a theory of crime based on behavioral patterns of individuals and the situational factors surrounding the crime, such as when it occurred and with whom.

Essentially, routine activities theory states that a crime will occur when three conditions are met:

  • The presence of a potential and motivated offender who is willing and seeking to commit a crime.
  • The presence of vulnerable and suitable targets, either person or property.
  • An absence of capable and willing guardians to protect, supervise or ward off a potential offender.

Lifestyle Choices and Contributing Factors

The good news is that knowing which lifestyle choices will increase your chances to become a victim is really about exercising good common sense. For example, don't walk home alone at night; lock your car and house when not in use; stay aware of your surroundings when in an unfamiliar place; avoid places where crime is known to be high, etc. These are all simple routine choices that can make you less vulnerable to attack.

A risk assessment is one way to determine the level of risk of a particular person becoming a victim of a crime by measuring variables such as lifestyle choices. Interestingly enough, you can also use a risk assessment to determine an offender's likelihood to take and acquire a victim for which to commit their crime. This is known as offender risk assessment. The more vulnerable the victim is and the more willing the offender is to commit the crime, the higher the chance for a crime to occur. For example, you are more likely to be robbed in a dark and deserted alley in an impoverish part of town than in a police station or locked house.

Research has identified five factors of lifestyle that contribute to opportunities for, and likelihood of, victimization. These five contributing factors include demographics, economic status, social activities, substance abuse, and community.

Demographics

Research on victimization rates and demographics has proven to be reliable and consistent. Over the years, numbers have continuously shown that victimization rates are highest among adolescents and young adults, those who have never been married, African Americans, men, and people who live in the inner cities. While this information paints a picture of the type of person to become a victim, it does little in the way of understanding their actual lifestyle activities.

Nevertheless, it is useful information to have included in research on victimization. However, it should not be relied on exclusively. If you are a member of any of the previously stated groups and have a higher risk of becoming a victim, you should look deeper into the subject to find ways to minimize your risk.

Economic Status

Crime seems to flourish in poorer communities, and while no one group of people are immune to crime, it is disproportionately present in lower socioeconomic areas of communities. This trend is believed to be due in part to the fact that there are fewer guardians or instruments of guardianship, such as alarms or police presence, available to the people who live in these areas. Likewise, offenders are typically from lower income areas, making them more prevalent in those areas, thus increasing the potential for a victim to run into an offender.

Unfortunately, this may not be one area of lifestyle choice that you can completely control. However, you can consider where you live, and if you are in a lower income area, be sure to account for increased guardianship and instruments, if possible. Try to use good common sense and be aware of your surroundings when inside that area.

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