Victimology: High-Risk Crime Victims Resemble Crime Perpetrators

What would be some of the reasons that profiles of typically high-risk crime victims so closely resemble profiles of crime perpetrators?

Some of the reasons that profiles of typically high-risk crime victims so closely resemble profiles of crime perpetrators have lots to do with the environment.  Every person has been brought up in and now spends time in some type of environment.  The concept of the environment is quite broad, hence, I will try to explain it the best I can.

When someone gets victimized in the high-risk bracket (murder, robbery, etc.) it is often because of the environment that has brought them up.  Parents for example can have a tremendous influence on how their child develops.  Karr-Morse & Wiley (2000) show this concept quite well by delivering scientific proof within their literary piece titled: Tracing the Roots of Violence.  Perhaps part of how juveniles become offenders is determined by their sensory experience in their beginning days, months, and years, which according to the aforementioned authors,

“is essential to teach developing brain cells their jobs and that there is a short and early critical period for connecting the retina to the visual cortex this, beyond which the opportunity is forever lost” (pg.37).

In layman’s terms it is the what you experience is what you become approach. Moreover, the first 2 to 3 years are critical in the development of a child.  This is when the child’s brain rapidly develops and needs positive experiences to learn positive behavior.

Lack of proper care leaves kids being born into a bad home, hence more prone to violent and criminal behavior down the line (Karr-Morse & Wiley, 2000).  Do these kids have a choice to commit a crime? They sure do, however the inability to distinguish right from wrong is often more than the choice itself, but rather a complex physiological and psychological state of uncertainty which can be driven by sheer impulse (Karr-Morse & Wiley, 2000).

What happens here is that the profile of a high-risk victim becomes quite similar to the one of the victimizer, i.e.

abused child who grows up to be a gang member; who in turn robs people and does gang initiations, which involve the murder of an innocent bystander, or who grows up to be an abusive father or mother and continues the trend of bringing up children; the same way he/she has been brought up.

In this example the plight of the adolescent victim became his own fear, hence it became something he or she would have to overcome, or become the aggressor of, so the fear can subside.

The present environment has lots to do with the two profiles being quite similar.  A person living in a rundown, crime ridden neighborhood is in a high-risk category for crime being committed against them by their neighbor, kids from the street corner, and so on.  The need for survival (for example) may be a common bond between the victim and the perpetrator, however the  victim gets her money through hard work and a sense of responsibility, but the perpetrator, involved in illicit activities (often involving drugs, theft, robbery, carjacking, etc.), gets the money by putting a loaded gun to the victim’s head.  That is the environment issue that is so ever-present.

In all, many issues are the focus of the environment.  Where you live (geographically/demographically), who you “hang” with, your financial success or lack of, how you have been raised, and other factors heavily contribute to the environment that is you.


Karr-Morse, R. & Wiley, M. S. (2000). Tracing the roots of violence. In R. Weisheit & R. Culbertson (Eds.), Juvenile Delinquency: A Justice Perspective (pp. 35-54). Illinois: Waveland Press.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

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