Magazine article Security Management

The Violent Crime Gender Gap

Magazine article Security Management

The Violent Crime Gender Gap

Article excerpt

IN RECENT YEARS, TWO NATIONAL crime patterns seem to be converging to create a disturbing trend in which American women may be increasingly at risk of attack by strangers. The first pattern is that violent crime victimization rates for women are rising while rates for men are falling; the second pattern shows that crimes by strangers against women are also on the rise. The trend is of serious concern not only to the women it affects but also to those individuals who have a duty to protect them.

Numerous lawsuits have been brought by crime victims against third parties whose supposed negligence in premises security contributed to the occurrence of an attack. Hotels and residential apartments have become hot spots for cases involving accusations of inadequate security.(1) Workplace crime, particularly in parking facilities, is also a developing concern.

In the past, men have been victimized more frequently than women. From 1979 to 1987, men were nearly twice as likely as women to be subjected to violent crime, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice. The difference between men's and women's victimization rates slowly decreased between 1973 and 1987. In most violent crime categories, the rates per 100,000 men declined while the rates for women either remained constant or declined less than those for men.(2)

Similarly, crimes committed by strangers as opposed to crimes committed by people acquainted with their victims increased from 17 percent of all murders in 1963 to 32 percent of all murders in 1975, according to national crime data.

No clear trend can be determined from the fluctuating stranger versus nonstranger rates since 1975, but it is reasonable to assume that women, because of changing life-styles, are increasingly susceptible to crimes perpetrated by strangers.

Women are spending more time in public places or alone where they are more susceptible to attack. A greater number of women are active in the work force. More women attend college. More women live alone. Almost 35 percent of business travelers nowadays are women, and they account for nearly six million business trips each year.(3)

As the social roles of women begin to parallel the social roles of men, their victimization patterns also tend to become similar. Women, however, are uniquely vulnerable to such crimes as rape and are more likely to be injured if robbed.(4) Their vulnerability calls for a serious consideration of security measures in place to protect them.

As America's courts have increasingly pointed out, a special relationship often exists between innkeeper-guest, landlord-tenant, employer-employee, and business owner-invitee. Where a crime against a guest, for example, can reasonably be foreseen, the innkeeper has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent that crime from occurring.

Hotels and motels. Hotel and motel guests are vulnerable to crime for a number of reasons. Because they are generally strangers to the facility, guests have no way of knowing if people they encounter on the premises belong there. Guests often carry cash, may tend to imbibe if on vacation, and generally expect their host--the innkeeper--to be looking after them.

Women share all of these vulnerabilities, and they are also targets of sexual aggression. In addition, women are often less able to defend themselves than men.

In response to these factors, any existing emergency systems and security measures should be explained to women when they check in. Women should be escorted to their rooms if they so desire. Obviously, any hotel employee who may be placed in the position of escorting female guests should have been properly screened prior to hiring. Front desk staff must pay particular attention not to announce room numbers and names of guests, male or female. Emergency numbers should be posted on all telephones.

If practical, consideration should be given to the method by which female guests are assigned rooms. …

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