The following is from Unraveled: An Evidence-Based Approach to Understanding and Preventing Crime
Violence escalation is defined as a single crime in progress that escalates into violence or escalates into further violence. Violent crime is rare relative to other crimes. However, the identification of violence escalation factors has become considerably more important in light of current active shooter and other mass murder incidents in schools, entertainment venues, workplaces, and houses of worship. While no one has yet identified the relevant factors, several working theories have entered the public discourse. These include violent video games, a quest for notoriety on the part of the perpetrators, untreated mental health issues, and access to guns. By the time of this book’s publication, other working theories may be in play. One concept that has not been considered is the notion that property crimes or other disorder crimes (e.g., gambling and prostitution) lead to violence. The reason for this possibility is the abundance of research showing that property crimes rarely escalate into violent crimes and non-violent criminals rarely become violent. Burglars rarely become murderers. Burglaries rarely result in a murder. Statistically, violence escalation it is not a common phenomenon. And despite the common misperception, burglary is not indicative of rape.[i] [ii] [iii] [iv] [v] [vi] [vii] [viii] [ix] [x] [xi] [xii] [xiii] [xiv] [xv] [xvi] [xvii]
Property crimes are dissimilar to violent crimes. Property crimes, as defined by the FBI, include burglary, theft, auto theft, and arson. Property crimes are not typically used to assess the risk of violent crime at a subject place. If the objective of a crime analysis is to assess the historical risk of violent crimes (retrospective analysis), including property crimes would be inappropriate. Since the crime analysis is based on historical police and/or security records, any property crime that escalated into violence would be counted as a violent crime. Similarly, non-crimes (e.g., found person) and disorder crimes (e.g., criminal mischief) should not be included in a crime analysis of violent crimes. If, however, the objective is to assess future violent crimes (prospective analysis), the use of property crimes is more appropriate; however, its value is limited as the rate of violence escalation is low. For example, one study found that 95.2% of crimes did not experience any change in violence, while 4.0% escalated in violence and 0.8% de-escalated.[xviii] Despite the rarity of the phenomenon itself, the relevance of violence escalation lies in the prevalence of factors that may cause escalation. The list below is not exhaustive; it is based on studies that have identified some factors that may increase the likelihood of escalation:
- Provocation by Victim – Victims may elevate the risk of violence by attitude and behavior. “A careless, naive, or flippant approach to personal safety heightens the chance of being targeted for robbery and, subsequently, felony murder, situational or indiscriminate.”[xix] This factor provides the basis for robbery prevention training in banks and retail environments where employees are often trained to comply with a robber’s demands.
- Provocation by Witness – Similar to provocation by victims, witnesses, such as good Samaritans, can increase the potential for violence. One example is when a domestic argument in a public place is witnessed by a good Samaritan who intervenes and is then assaulted by one person involved in the domestic situation.
- Provocation by Perpetrator – Criminal perpetrators may also increase the risk of violence. This is more common when multiple offenders are involved in the commission of a crime.
- Introduction of a Weapon – Generally, weapon use in crime does not guarantee that actual violence will result. In only a very small portion of crimes does violence erupt or increase when a weapon is introduced into the equation. In fact, more crimes escalate when a weapon was not used in the crime.
- Relationship between Perpetrator and Victim – See the Victim-Offender Relationship section in Chapter 4.
- Interruption by an Effective Guardian – Guardians are discussed in the Routine Activity Theory section of Chapter 6.
While various violence escalation factors may exist, these factors are usually benign as evidenced by the available research regarding the rate of violence escalation. However, place managers could assess the risk of violence escalation by evaluating the factors that may contribute to escalation in their unique environments. For example, retail loss prevention personnel generally know that when investigating a suspected shoplifting in progress, confronting the shoplifter may result in violence (e.g., the shoplifter uses force to evade the loss prevention personnel). Similarly, a police officer will typically wait for back up before intervening in a domestic violence incident because police intervention often does little to de-escalate these types of incidents.
[i] Bender, L., & Lawrence, P. (1993). Is tort law male: Foreseeability analysis and property managers’ liability for third party rapes of residents. Chicago-Kent Law Review, 69(2).
[ii] Catalano, S. M., Victimization during household burglary (2010). Washington, DC; U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
[iv] Eck, J.E., & Weisburd, D. (1995). Crime places in crime theory. In Crime and place (pp. 1-33). Lynne Rienner Publishers.
[v] Glasner, P., Johnson, S. D., & Leitner, M. (2018). A comparative analysis to forecast apartment burglaries in Vienna, Austria, based on repeat and near repeat victimization. Crime Science, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40163-018-0083-7
[vi] Glesner, B. A. (1992). Landlords as cops: Tort, nuisance & forfeiture standards imposing liability on landlords for crime on the premises. Case Western Reserve Law Review, 42, 679.
[vii] Gotham, K. F. (2020). “Place or character” of a business: Environmental criminology and negligent security litigation. Journal of Applied Social Science, 14(1), 71–86. https://doi.org/10.1177/1936724419898882
[viii] Gotham, K. F., & Kennedy, D. B. (2019). Analyzing crime foreseeability: Premises Security Litigation and the case of convenience stores and gas stations. Security Journal, 34(2), 207–230. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41284-019-00218-1
[ix] Hansen, M. H. (1985). Landlord and tenant- Landlord has duty to employ reasonable security measures to avoid foreseeable criminal attacks on tenants. University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review, 8, 735.
[x] Harris, D. A., Pedneault, A., & Knight, R. A. (2013). An exploration of burglary in the criminal histories of sex offenders referred for Civil Commitment. Psychology, Crime & Law, 19(9), 765–781. https://doi.org/10.1080/1068316x.2012.678850
[xi] Indermaur, D. (2010). Reducing the opportunities for violence in robbery and property crime: The perspectives of offenders and victims. In R. Homel (Ed.). The politics and practice of situational crime prevention (133-157). Lynne Reinner Publishers.
[xii] Kennedy, D. B. (1998). Apartment security and litigation: Key issues. Security Journal, 11, 21-28.
[xiii] Martha , C. (2011). Gaining some perspective in tort law: A new take on third-party criminal attack cases. Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper Series.
[xiv] Newcomer, L. S. (2017). Institutional liability for rape on college campuses: Reviewing the options. Ohio State Law Journal, 78, 504.
[xv] Sampson, R. (2002) Acquaintance rape of college students. Washington, D.C. , Washington, D.C. ; U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Problem-Specific Guides Series, No. 17.
[xvi] Sanders, W. M. (1999). Between bystander and insurer: Locating the duty of the Georgia landowner to safeguard against third-party criminal attacks on the premises. Georgia State University Law Review, 15, 1099.
[xvii] Saxer, S. R. (2001). “Am I my brother’s keeper?”: Requiring landowner disclosure of the presence of sex offenders and other criminal activity. Nebraska Law Review, 80, 522.
[xviii] Vellani, K. H. (1998). Management ideas for preventing crime: An analysis of liability, site-specific crime prevention, crime prevention through environmental design, and violence escalation. Sam Houston State University.
[xix] Douglas, J. E., Burgess, A. W., Burgess, A. G., & Ressler, R. K. (2013). Crime classification manual: A standard system for investigating and classifying violent crimes (3rd ed.). John Wiley & Sons.