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It has been nearly a decade since Covey and Menard (1988) suggested in Research on Aging a need for age-specific criminal victimization studies to include crimes in addition to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Index Crimes of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson; however, to date, little research has been initiated. The purpose of this research was to attempt to address that need. Specifically, this study was an examination of elderly (age 65 and older) victimization to include the FBI index offenses in addition to other crimes reported to or by the police. The goal was to identify the major crimes against the elderly, the victim demographic characteristics of the elderly, and the relationship, if known, between the elderly victims and their offenders.
The significance of this study was threefold; not only were specific crimes against the elderly identified in general, but also, race and gender-specific crimes were identified for elderly victims. Finally, the relationship between the elderly victim and offender was examined in an attempt to disentangle the underlying social dynamics of elderly victimization.
Crime has always been and continues to be a concern for every society. In the United States during the early 1980s, there was a steady decrease in violent crime. However, from 1983 to 1992, the rate of violence steadily increased, eventually leveling off to a slight decrease by 1994 (Rand, Lynch, and Cantor 1997).
Despite the fact that we are currently living in a time of "decreased" violence, the fear of crime is still a concern in modern society. This fear, and society's reaction to it, is apparent in today's increases of home security alarm systems, neighborhood crime prevention programs, and police presence. Fear is apparent not only in society as a whole but also in the elderly. In fact, fear of crime and criminal victimization is an integral part of the lives of many elderly (Wiltz 1982), which may account for the perception that the elderly are easy targets in a criminal society.
A recent study by Hummert (1993) documented that respondents, both young adults and the elderly, viewed the elderly as vulnerable to crimes against them. Prior to that study, in two separate studies, Yin (1985) and Lebowitz (1975) reported that the elderly were more fearful of crime than were other groups. Despite these findings, and the fact that the elderly are a growing segment of the U.S. population, limited research on the actual crimes that prey upon the elderly has been conducted.
In reality, victimization rates among the elderly have been generally lower than the rates among other age groups for most crimes (Liang and Sengstock 1983; Lindquist and Duke 1982; Ollenberger 1981); nonetheless, within the elderly population, there were common crimes of victimization. Fox and Levin (1991) noted that robbery was one of the most common crimes against the elderly. Akers et al. (1987) determined that vandalism accounted for a noticeable amount of elderly victimization.
Examining the demographics of older victims, Gubrium. (1974) found that among the elderly, males (both White and non-White) were more likely than females to be victimized. Wiltz's (1982) summary of research findings concluded that the Black elderly were more frequently victimized than the White elderly. Plass (1993) extended the literature by maintaining that although a …