How Concentrated is Crime Among Victims? A Systematic Review from 1977 to 2014

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Concentration of crime, Victim, Systematic review, Meta-analysis, Visual binning

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Background: Considerable research shows that crime is concentrated among a few victims. However, no one has systematically compared these studies to determine the level of concentration and its variation across studies. To address this void in our knowledge of repeat victimization, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence that crime is concentrated among victims.

Methods: We distinguished between studies of victimization prevalence, which examine both victims and non-victims, and studies of victimization frequency, which only examine subjects that were victimized once or more. We identified 20 prevalence studies and 20 frequency studies that provided quantitative information sufficient for analysis. We organized data using visual binning and fitted logarithmic curves to the median values of the bins.

Results: We found that crime is concentrated within a small proportion of the subjects in both the prevalence studies and frequency studies, but also that it is more concentrated in the former. When we compared studies of business victimization to studies of household victimization, we found that victimization is more concentrated among households than among businesses in prevalence studies, but that the reverse is true for frequency studies. A comparison between personal and property victimizations shows that the patterns of re-victimizations are similar. Crime is more concentrated in the United States compared to the United Kingdom in prevalence studies, but the opposite is true when frequency studies are examined. Finally, the concentration of victimization changes over time for both the US and the UK, but the nature of that change depends on whether one is examining prevalence or frequency studies.

Conclusions: Not surprisingly, our systemic review supports the notion that a large proportion of victimizations are of a relatively small portion of the population and of a small portion of all those victimized at least once. There is no question that crime is concentrated among a few victims. However, there is also variation in concentration that we also explored.

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Crime Science, v. 6, art. 9