Traditionally, males were disproportionately more likely to commit a crime compared to females. Steffensmeier and Allan (2000) further concur in stating, “gender is the single best predictor of crime: in all know societies and throughout all historical eras, men commit more crime than women” (p. 299). However, over the past few decades, the prevalence of women committing violent crimes has drastically increased (Schwartz, Steffensmeier, and Feldmeyer, 2015). Recent data suggests that females are equally as likely as males to commit a violent crime. In order to determine whether or not females are more likely than their male counterparts to commit a violent crime, gender related trends in violent crimes will be explored.
In 1995, the only type of crime that females committed more frequently than males was prostitution (Steffensmeier and Allan, 2000). However, recent statistics detailing the prevalence of gender related crimes suggest that females are more likely to engage in violent crime than males (Schwartz et. al., 2015). Although the gender gap pertaining to violent crime has narrowed, the type of violent crime males and females commit still tends to vary. As addressed by Schwartz et. al., females tend to commit less serious violent crimes when compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, female violent crime is more likely to occur in a private setting and tends to be aimed at an intimate partner. In contrast, males are considerably more likely to engage in a violent crime that involves serious injuries. Additionally, violent crimes committed by males is more likely to be aimed at friends, acquaintances, or strangers, and occur in a public setting. Although females are engaging in more violent crimes, the type of violent crime committed by females demonstrates strong differences when compared to the type of violent crime committed by males.
Although violent crimes committed by females has increased significantly over the past few decades, some attribute the increased prevalence of female offenders to policy changes and the way crime is measured. As addressed by Schwartz et. al. (2009)
these changes include: “(1) elasticity of violence definitions, (2) broadness of UCR violence categories like aggravated or simple assault, and (3) variability in the gender/violence relationship depending on how violence is defined” (p. 457). Schwartz et. al. further argues that these changes have created an atmosphere that is less lenient towards female offenders. However, the way women are perceived in society may also influence the prevalence of female offenders. Females have been historically perceived as weaker than males (Steffensmeier and Allan, 2000). As a result of this perception, women engaging in certain acts may not have been arrested for their crime. In other cases, the charge given to the female offender may have been lesser than the charges given to male offenders. Yet as time has elapsed, females have been ascribed similar roles and responsibilities when compared to their male counterparts. The increased acceptability of females carrying similar roles and responsibilities as males has left it increasingly likely that females will be held responsible for acts that were once primarily ascribed to males, such as violent crime.
In further reviewing why female violent crime has increased, Schwartz et. al. (2009) argues that many police departments have developed policies that hold both the male and female responsible. For example, if an occurrence of domestic violence occurs in the household, the police officer may choose to arrest the male and female. This is especially true if it appears as though both the male and female engaged in acts of violence against each other. According to Schwartz et. al. the purpose of this strategy is to reduce the police department’s liability if another incident occurs. From this standpoint, it could be argued that if the police arrest only the man or only the woman and another incident occurs within a short period, the police department could be held liable for failing to protect the victim.
Although police departments are holding both males and females accountable for their actions, there has been an increased level of manipulation regarding situations involving domestic violence. Specifically, Schwartz et. al. (2009) addresses the male manipulation of the system in noting, males tend to call “911 first to proactively define the situation, self-inflicting wounds so the woman is viewed as dangerous, and capitalizing on their outward calm once police arrive” (p. 500). The implementation of these strategies would suggest that the male is making the female appear to be more violent or dangerous to police officers as a way of ensuring she is taken into custody.
In reviewing other types of violent crimes that do not involve intimate partner violence or domestic related crimes, Schwartz et. al. (2009) sought to explore the prevalence of robberies and homicides based on the gender of the offender. As addressed by Steffensmeier and Allan (2000) historically, females have been significantly les likely to commit “masculine crimes like robbery and burglary (about 8 percent each for female offenders)” (p. 303). In analyzing recent data, Schwartz et. al. found that females were significantly less likely to engage in these forms of violent crimes than males. The results of this analysis would suggest that females are more likely to engage in intimate partner violence or domestic related acts of violent crimes but significantly less likely to engage in other types of violent crimes.
Throughout history, males have been more likely to commit crime than females. However, in the present, females are committing more acts of violent crime than ever before. Despite this recent increase, females are more prone to engage in violent crime against a partner or individual living within her household. In contrast, males are still more likely to target strangers or friends in a public place. Schwartz et. al. (2009) further concluded that females are significantly less likely than males to engage in certain types of violent crimes such as robberies or homicides. Although there is an evident increase in women committing violent crimes, this increase appears to primarily be evident in domestic related acts of violent and relatively absent from other types of violent crime.