Crime Victimization Increases for the Elderly-Women and Disabled. Why?


Criminal victimization increases for older Americans, women and the disabled.

Arrests for older Americans and women increase.


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University


We wrote separate articles (summarized below) on arrests and criminal victimizations for three distinct groups; the elderly, women and the disabled. Now we address commonalities for all three.

While the issue of vulnerability brings endless complexities, it’s interesting that crime increased for all three groups while national rates of crime are at historic lows, see Crime in America-Crime Rates.

Concurrently, why have arrests increased for women and older Americans while the overall rates of arrests decreased?

Increased Victimization

Political correctness makes the discussion difficult. Anytime you write about any group, you run into a buzz saw of criticism.


But the prospect of real or perceived vulnerability must be a factor if all three groups are experiencing increased victimization, or victimization that exceeds other groups, or victimization that increases when national rates are down historically.

Criminals will take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, see Crime in America-Prevention. The criminological literature is filled with references to crimes of opportunity where offenders did not leave their house with victimization in mind, only to act if an opportunity presents itself.

Thus wheelchair bounds individuals or those with cognitive disorders can present crimes of opportunity. The fraud and burglary victimization of older Americans is real. Women are now victimized at higher rates than men.


The other consideration is availability. The population of older Americans is growing and retirees are “out and about” in large numbers. Society has made efforts of inclusivity for the disabled, thus they are a welcomed daily part of or lives. Women are indispensable to our economy and culture.

Groups that had limited access to the fullness of American life are now rightly embraced.

Crime is an equal opportunity equation. Crime is an all-inclusive proposition. If there are opportunities with the perception of vulnerability, offenders will strike.


Law enforcement and the larger society have an obligation to recognize the crime problems of the groups mentioned. There are others (i.e., the LGBT community) where statistics are murky, but it’s clear that they have a serious crime problem, see Crime in America-LGBT Community.

Being willing to acknowledge the connection between groups and criminal victimization is the first step.

Every group has its unique issues (i.e., sexism, ageism, discrimination against gays, insensitivity towards the disabled) that bring distinct concerns.

Those of us in law enforcement need to understand vulnerabilities and how everyone can increase prospects for safer lives.

Non-stranger criminality must also be examined. For example, most women are sexually victimized by someone they know. A higher percentage of violence against persons with disabilities (40%) was committed by persons the victims knew well or who were casual acquaintances (32%).

We have to interact with groups and examine non-stranger victimization and other aspects of criminality. Are they aware of the vulnerabilities? What can they do to reduce their victimization? Do they have confidence in law enforcement to report crimes? Why do senior citizens have higher rates of burglary?

We have an obligation to reach out to vulnerable groups, explore their issues, offer advice, and join with them with an emphasis on prevention.

Increased Arrests

Older Americans

From the New York Times, “From 2002 to 2012, the rate fell by 11 percent among those ages 18 to 64, according to federal data analyzed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

But the arrest rate rose by 23 percent for people over 55. It rose even more markedly — by 28 percent — among those over 65, more than 106,000 of whom were arrested in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available.” New York Times.


Since 2010, the female jail population has been the fastest growing correctional population, increasing by an average annual rate of 3.4 percent, see Crime in America-Women Offenders.


It’s difficult to understand and explain the reasons for the growing correctional population for women or the increasing arrests for older Americans beyond the significant growth of baby boomers (now 30 percent of the population) and the inclusion of women in every aspect of American society.

We just said that crime is an equal opportunity equation. Crime is an all-inclusive proposition.

This applies to criminal activity as well. As we embrace and include all members of society, criminal activity is inevitable.

Women are just as capable of criminality as anyone else and that includes crimes of violence, although their rates of arrests are much smaller than men.

The population of older Americans is growing rapidly. It’s impossible for their numbers to dramatically increase without a concurrent rise in criminal activity and arrests.

Data Provided in Previous Articles

Older American Arrests

The arrest rate rose by 23 percent for people over 55. It rose by 28 percent among those over 65,

Victimizations of Older Americans-FBI

Property crimes for those 66 and above are higher than all age groups except those age 21-30.

Those age 66 and above have the highest number of fraud offenses. They also have the largest numbers for embezzlement and counterfeiting/forgery.

Those age 66 and above have the highest raw numbers for burglary and breaking and entering; no other group comes close.

They also have the highest numbers for arson. See Crime in America-Older Americans and Crime.

Victimization of Older Americans-National Crime Survey

From 2003 to 2013 rates of nonfatal violent crime against the elderly increased 27 percent, from 3.4 to 4.4 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 65 or older.

The majority (93 percent) of crimes against the elderly were property crimes, including household burglary, motor vehicle theft and other theft.

From 2003 to 2013, for every violent crime committed against the elderly, 13 property crimes were committed against households headed by an elderly person. Crime in America-Crime and the Elderly

Arrests of Women-Women in the Correctional Population

Since 2010, the female jail population has been the fastest growing correctional population, increasing by an average annual rate of 3.4 percent, see Crime in America-Women Offenders.

Victimization of Women

Women are now victimized at higher rates than men, see Crime in America-Women Victims.

The FBI (in 2014) and the National Crime Survey (in 2015) reports more female than male victims. Traditionally, males have higher rates of violent crime victimization than females.

Victimization of the Disabled

The rate of serious violent crime for persons with disabilities was more than three times the rate for persons without disabilities, see Disabled.


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