POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


CRIMINOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF OFFENDERS GUILTY OF ROBBERY

Zvonimir Dujmovic, Ljiljana Mikšaj-Todorovic

L. INTRODUCTION

To be able to fight against crime in a region in an organized and effective manner, the institutions of social control, especially the police, need to have at their disposal the accurate information about the actual situation, the crime trends and the structure of criminal activities. An analysis of the situation and trends in regard to crime incidence in a region should be the starting point in preparation of programs for various actions for prevention and suppression of crime, as well as in structuring of governmental agencies, their personnel and methods of work. Although the official statistics can provide a valid picture of dimensions of a criminality problem, they can give us only a poor insight into the dynamics of the criminal case and the relationships between the characteristics of the attacked object/victim and the characteristics of the perpetrator. Therefore, it is equally important to analyze the objective and subjective characteristics of the person-situation complex. The criminal act of robbery is of special importance for criminological studies, since it indicates the trends of both, criminal acts against the property and acts of criminal violence. Cook (1983) has pointed out that robbery is one of the seven traditional criminality indexes of the FBI.

1.1. The proportional relation between robbery and the total crime incidence around the world

According to the UN statistics (United Nations, 1995; United Nations Office at Vienna, 1993) the incidence of robbery within the periods 1975-1980 and 1986-1990 represented 5% of the total world incidence of crime known to the police, and 6% within the period 1980-1986. However, here should be added that although the incidence of robbery within the total mass of crime incidence during the period 1986-1990 has dropped for 1%, the real number of criminal acts of robbery within the same period shows an increase of 63% in relation to the period 1980- 1986 (United Nations, 1995:1). This change in trends results from the significant increase of the criminal acts of theft and the proportional changes of any crime incidence statistics are strongly conditioned by the change of theft rate.

1.2. Robbery and violent theft in some countries of Central and Eastern Europe

The value of any single source of crime incidence statistics is rather limited. No single source can give us a comprehensive and sufficient information about the crime situation and trends. Therefore we need to combine and compare the information from various sources. Statistical information should be supplemented by various polls. which would help determine the dark area of criminality and victim's willingness to report the criminal act to the police. Here should be added that the value of criminal statistics largely depend on possibility to compare the information concerning different time periods and regions. Particularly significant and useful are the analyses of the phenomenology of criminal acts of robbery. Robbery includes a wide range of criminal acts, from violent thefts of various articles of clothing from children in front of the school to the armed bank, post office or money transport robberies.

In this introduction to our paper we can only present the table showing the incidence of robbery in the 12 countries of Central and Eastern Europe on the basis of the International Crime Statistics of Interpol. The rate of robbery incidence per 100.000 inhabitants goes from 6,82 (Macedonia) to 125,98 (Russian Federation), while the percentage of robbery cases solved at the end of the year ranges from 36,70% (Russian Federation) to 71,10% (Austria).

Robbery and violent theft in some countries of Central and Eastern Europe in 1994


Country            Volume of crime               Attempts                Cases solved

               per 100.000 inhabitants              %                         %

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AUSTRIA                 57,75                      9,00                     71,10

BULGARIA                78,49                       -                       47,20

CZECH REP.*             38,89                      1,30                     37,70

MACEDONIA                6,82                      3,00                     67,40

HUNGARY                 25,00                      7,00                     54,40

GERMANY                 71,00                     16,70                     43,90

POLAND                  61,16                     10,70                     51,50

RUSSIAN FED.           125,98                       -                       36,70

SLOVAK REP.             23,80                      0,50                     62,70

SLOVENIA                14,89                     11,90                     66,33

SWITZERLAND             27,83                     13,80                       -

UKRAINE                 72,79                       -                       38,20

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Source: International Crime Statistics, Interpol 1994 

* Information for 1993; Source: International Crime Statistics, Interpol 1993

- information not provided by the source 

1.3. Tendency of robbery incidence in Republic of Croatia during the period 1990-1995

During the period from 1990 to 1995 the total of 3.509 crimes of robbery committed in the territory of Republic of Croatia were reported to the police. The police records show the highest number of reported cases in 1991. In the following three years - 1992, 1993 and 1994 - the number of reported robberies is decreasing, while the records for 1995 show again an increase of 9,5% in relation to 1994. However, the number of reported robberies in 1995 was 50,46% lower than the number recorded in 1991.

Robberies in Republic of Croatia in the period from 1990 to 1995


Year              Absolute No.           Number of robberies            % of solved cases

            per 100.000 inhabitants

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1990                 484                       10,08                           58

1991                 860                       17,92                           37

1992                 743                       15,45                           58

1993                 607                       12,64                           55

1994                 389                        8,10                           61

1995                 426                        8,87                           63

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Source: Statistics of the RC Ministry of the Interior 

Until now there have been five or six serious researches conducted in Republic of Croatia, most of them, however, are of an earlier date, so that many questions remained open or unresearched. During the years 1994 and 1995 the authors of this paper have conducted the research of criminological characteristics of offenders convicted of robbery serving their sentences in the closed type penal institution.

RESULTS: ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION

The aim of this research was:

The sample consisted of 327 adult male examinees from the territory of Republic of Croatia, who during the period between January 1st, 1980 and June 30th, 1993 were serving their sentences in the closed type penal institution for criminal offenses of robbery or assaults with intent to rob. In their interpretation of obtained information, the researchers have taken into account the fact that this was a negatively selected sample of particularly socially dangerous offenders, in other words, that the results obtained in this research do not apply generally to all perpetrators of robberies.

The results have shown as follows: Regarding offenders' personal status, their age generally ranges from 22 to 40 years. In almost 50% of cases their intelligence is bellow average and more than 50% of them are very poorly educated. In most cases they were not religious, had no work habits and while their aggressiveness was evaluated as above average, their capability of self-criticism was found to be bellow average. The personality traits disorders were found in as many as three quarters of cases and in 64% of cases the presence of the psychopathic personality structure. Regarding their health status, the results show that majority of them are feeling subjectively healthy (88,7%), and that the orderly clinical findings and the good total result of medical examinations are obtained for over 90% of examinees.

For the part of information related to the conditions of life within the family, it can be said that the majority of perpetrators of robbery come from the large rural families with poorly educated parents. In addition to that, those families were for the greater part burdened with poor inter-familial relationships, disturbed family structure, low material status and the high percentage of alcoholism. About one third of examinees were institutionalized before or put up with foster families. In fact, such picture of offenders' former socioeconomic and family status confirms the already existing findings obtained in earlier studies.

In regard to the behavioral characteristics of examinees at the time when they committed their criminal act, we can state that most frequently there is the evidence of loitering, vagrancy and excessive consummation of alcohol (which corresponds to the results of similar researches), and that other behavioral disorders, although represented with a lower absolute number, are relatively more frequent among them than among general population.

Apart from the criminal acts, which were the reason for their inclusion into this research sample, the two thirds of examinees were convicted before, mostly as adults. About one fifth of them were sentenced once before and somewhat more than that were sentenced more than three times. Their former offenses were mostly offenses against the property and somewhat less than half of them were tried for offenses against public order.

If we turn our attention to the criminal act itself and modalities of its perpetration, it should be said that over 30% of examinees, when tried for their main offense, because of which they are included into the sample, were punished with the same sentence also for some other criminal acts. The robberies perpetrated by the examinees were mostly completed, in over 50% of cases they were committed with help of accomplices, and in 80,2% of cases with the use of force. Most frequent way of the use of force is the use of offender's own physical strength (67,3%), then comes the use of knives or similar instruments (12,8%), the use of firearms (10,7%) and various tools (6,4%). About 40% of examinees were at the moment of perpetration of crime in the state of alcoholic intoxication and almost the same percentage committed the crime because it represented the momentary solution of their existential problems. There are no particularly critical months in a year or days in a month for perpetration of the criminal offense of robbery, but it could be said that during a day, the most critical period is the evening hours from 6 p.m. to 3 o'clock in the morning (75,5%) and within that period the hours between 9 p.m. and midnight. The most frequent crime locations for robbery are small towns (36,5%) and after that, smaller settlements (23,5%). The city of Zagreb and other larger towns appear as robbery sites in only 12 or 13 % of cases. The criminal act is most often perpetrated in a street or square (39%), inside a house or an apartment (24,5%), on the road (13,3%) and in a bar, a restaurant or hotel/motel (6,8%). Other possible locations participate with less than 5%

Particular attention was paid to the circumstances related to the victim of offense, who in somewhat over 50% of cases suffered, mostly light, physical injuries during perpetration of crime. Most often the offender and the victim did not know each other before. In over three quarters of cases the victims are men, aged mostly between 38 and 68 years of age. There is also a quite significant percentage of children victims(under 14 years of age), 17,3%, that shouldn't be overlooked. The victims mostly did not give any resistance and in one fifth of the cases at the time of the robbery, the victims were under the influence of alcohol. The location where the robbery took place most frequently is also victim's place of residence.

In order to investigate the differences between offenders and their characteristics with regard to the manner in which the criminal act was perpetrated, we have divided the offenders into five groups:

  1. offenders who did not use force (only threats)

  2. offenders who used their own physical strength

  3. offenders who used knives or similar instruments

  4. offenders who used firearms

  5. offenders who used tools.

On the basis of discriminative analysis and the analysis of contingency tables, we have concluded that between the above listed groups there are no statistically significant differences in regard to their former and actual social and familial characteristics, their sociopathic behavior and their former criminal style.

However, the differences were determined in regard to their personal characteristics and other modalities of observed criminal acts of robbery.

Regarding personal characteristics of examinees:

Regarding other modalities of their criminal style, the differences between above listed groups are as follows:

The research has shown that majority of perpetrators of robbery in Republic of Croatia belong to a high risk, mostly rural environment and that they commit their criminal acts mostly in small towns. Their life styles in adult age is characterized by various forms of sociopathic behavior, including former criminal history. Among perpetrators of robbery there is a significantly high number of those, whose personal characteristics indicate high degree of social danger and difficulties in social integration. At the same time, these characteristics are lessening the chances for their successful rehabilitation.

The social background and life style of the offender does not essentially influence the manner in which he will use the force. His personal characteristics, however, heighten the probability of use of particular weapon or instrument of assault.

The offenders using firearms, who are more intelligent, better educated, psychopathically structured and who perform their criminal acts in a group, represent one type of danger, since all those characteristics make a solid basis for professionalization in this type of criminal acts. If we put this into the context of the post-war circumstances in Republic of Croatia with many young people returning home from the front with traumas suffered during the war and without secured decent existence, but having at the same time ample possibilities to withhold or acquire firearms - it can be expected that this type of criminal acts will become even more frequent.

The other group of offenders with more primitively structured personality, who are not even using their own physical strength or knife primarily for reasons of material gain, but in whose case the violence is a purpose to itself, while the monetary gain is only a secondary benefit, represent another type of social danger. These are more situational delinquents, whose criminal actions are quite unpredictable.

Concluding Observations

The specific characteristics of offender's personality are manifested in every committed criminal act. Therefore, it is useful to investigate the correlation between particular personality characteristics of perpetrators of robbery and the forms of their criminal behavior. In this way, we can trace those characteristics which could be more or less conducive to appearance of aberrant behavior.

In our research we have analyzed numerous characteristics of perpetrators of robbery and then compared the obtained results by methods of multivariant information analysis in order to establish possible differences with regard to the manner in which they have carried out their criminal act.

In accordance with the obtained results we can single out two particular types of perpetrators of robbery in the Republic of Croatia, which deserve special attention. One type is represented by perpetrators using firearms, who are more intelligent, better educated, psychopathically structured and tend to work in a group or gang. In view of the post-war situation in Republic of Croatia, it could be expected that there will be a further increase of incidence of this type of robbery. The police can react by forming special. regular or ad hoc task forces for investigation of such forms of criminal activity. This particular type of criminal activity requires also the centralization of information about the robberies of this kind committed throughout the country and an adequate analytical activity of the operative group. Another type of perpetrators of robbery that requires special attention is represented by the perpetrators with primitively structured personality who are using their own physical strength or knives and other similar offensive weapons to secure material gain, but in their case the violence appears as a purpose to itself. These offenders can be described as situational delinquents, whose criminal actions are rather difficult to predict. The preventive activity of the society should be directed toward the improvement of the overall situation.


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