The relationship between victimization and criminality has been widely cited in recent years. Early thinking and public perceptions about crime intuitively presumed that criminals were distinct from their victims. Crime control policies resulted which promoted the physical separation of victims from predatory offenders through "target hardening" and "defensible space." Such distinctions, however, ignored the empirical evidence on the considerable overlap between offender and victim profiles and distorted the reality of events in which persons are labelled as victims or victimizers based only on the consequences of the event. Given the homogeneous relation between victim and offender, theories of crime that treat victimization and offending as independent behaviors may have inherently weaker explanatory power.
Recent evidence has suggested that the experience of being victimized increases the propensity for offending. Being a victim of crime has been shown to contribute to violent juvenile crime, adult criminality, and adult violence toward family members, including wives and children. Singer found that self-reported victimization is a significant predictor of the seriousness of an adult career and that being shot or stabbed is the best predictor of serious violence. Among juveniles, victimization appears to discriminate chronically violent offenders from general urban youth. In a comparison of victims and offenders, it appears that they may have homogeneous characteristics and that the characteristics of victimization are also associated with the correlates of offending.
Given the similarities between victims and offenders, Reiss pointed to social, situational, and environmental explanations of both victimization and crime. Prior research has suggested that victims and offenders tend to have similar social, structural, and demographic characteristics, including age, sex, race, and income level. The survey conducted by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence found that "[t]he victims of assaultive violence in the cities generally have the same characteristics as the offenders: victimization rates are generally highest for males, youths, poor persons, and blacks." Fifteen years later, the 1983 Report to the Nation on Crime and Justice found that in victimization surveys "men, blacks, and young people face the greatest risk of violent crime by strangers."
Jeffery Fagan, Elizabeth S. Piper & Yu-Teh Cheng,
Contributions of Victimization to Delinquency in Inner Cities,
J. Crim. L. & Criminology
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