Crime and its Social Context

Toward an Integrated Theory of Offenders, Victims, and Situations

By Terance D. Miethe & Robert F. Meier

Subjects: Social Problems
Series: SUNY series in Deviance and Social Control
Paperback : 9780791419021, 224 pages, July 1994
Hardcover : 9780791419014, 224 pages, July 1994

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Table of contents

Tables and Figures


1. Introduction to the Study of Crime

What Is It To Be Integrated?
Linking Theory to Data
The Current Study

2. Theories of Criminality

Theoretical Legacies
The Criminal as a Unifying Concept
Two Major Problems, Some Exceptions, and New Directions
Crime and Community
Some Hypotheses
Summary and Conclusions

3. Theories of Victimization and Criminal Opportunities

Historical Foundations for Current Victimization Theories
The Lifestyle-Exposure Theory of Victimization
The Routine Activity Theory
Alternative Theorectical Models
Contextual Effects in Models of Victimization
Major Concepts in Victimization Theories
Problems with Previous Evaluations of Victimization Theories
Summary and Research Hypothesis

4. An Integrated Perspective

Compatibility of Theories of Criminality and Victimization
A Heuristic Model

5. Data Sources for Evaluating Criminological Theories

UCR Data and Census Reports
National Crime Surveys
Seattle Telephone Survey
Measures of Major Concepts
Analytic Procedures
Summary and Conclusions
Measures of Concepts and Descriptive Statistics

6. The Empirical Distribution of Crime and Victimization

Victim-Offender Relationship
Physical Location of Crime
Time of Occurrence of Crime
Social Characteristics of Offenders and Victims
Summary and Conclusions

7. Predicting Crime Rates

Crime Rates and Theoretically Derived Variables
Variation in the Predicators of Crime Rates
The Value of Theoretical Integration
Conclusions and Implications

8. Predicting Individuals' Risks of Victimization

Explaining the Victimization Experience
Conclusions and Implications

9. Crime and Context

Types of Contextual Effects
The Importance of Contextual Effects
Main and Mediational Effects of Contextual Factors
Interactions between Contextual and Individual Factors
Conclusions and Implications

10. Summary and Implications

Summary Results
Implications for Macro-Level Theories of Criminality
Implications for Theories of Victimization
Implications for a General Theory of Crime
Implications of Data Limitations for Testing Theories
Implications for Crime Control Policy
Criminal Propensities and the Social Context



Author Index

Subject Index


Theories of criminality and theories of victimization have traditionally been discussed as though they bore no relationship to one another. Yet, a complete explanation for crime must examine both the decision to engage in crime by an offender and the everyday actions of ordinary citizens that increase vulnerability to criminals. The integration of these approaches yields testable models that have greater predictive power than could be obtained by looking only at models of offenders or models of victim behavior. A more general perspective that accounts for both the decision to engage in crime and the selection of particular crime targets is developed and tested.

Terance D. Miethe is Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Robert F. Meier is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Iowa State University.


"The authors deal with the difficult topic of integrating theories for a better explanation of crime. What especially interests me is the inclusion of theories dealing with motivation and opportunities. I think that this is an essential area of inquiry if criminology is to make headway in its attempts to explain and predict crime. I liked their hypothesis on the conditional nature of relationships between guardianship, target attractiveness and risk of victimization. " — Christopher Birkbeck, University of New Mexico