The U.S. Department of Justice released the first ever national study of crime against persons with disabilities, and the results are both sickening and shocking. The report finds that the crime rate against persons with disabilities is one and a half times higher than the non-disabled. For 2007, the most frequent violent crimes against the disabled were simple assault, aggravated assault, and robbery.
According to the Bureau of Justice and Statistics, 2.3 million property crimes were committed against the disabled in 2007, with 1.7 million being thefts. There were also 527,000 burglaries, and 107,000 car thefts.
Younger people with disabilities were more likely to be victimized. According to the report, “Examining specific age groups, the risk of violence was higher for young and middle-age persons with a disability than those of similar age groups without disabilities. Persons age 12 to 19 and those age 35 to 49 with a disability experienced violence at nearly twice the rate as persons of the same age groups without a disability. The rate of violence did not differ by disability status for persons age 50 or older. Persons age 65 or older, with or without a disability, had the lowest rates of violent crime.”
Disabled men had higher than rates of victimization than non-disabled men, 30 out of 1,000 compared to 24 out of 1,000 for the non-disabled. However, disabled women are victimized at twice the rate of the non-disabled, 35 per 1,000 for disabled women compared to 19 per 1,000 for non disabled women. Sixteen percent of violent crimes against disabled women were committed by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend, which is a lower rate that the 27% figure for the general population.
More than half of the disabled people victimized had more than one type of disability, and 20% of the victims surveyed believed that they were targeted because of their disability. What is most disturbing about this report is that these crimes are probably underreported, and that this study was done before the recession. The numbers have likely skyrocketed higher since the economy tanked.
The motivation for criminals is fairly simple. The disabled are easy targets. Depending on their level of disability, they may stand out in a crowd, and may not put up much resistance. As a person with a disability, who has also been a crime victim, the best advice that I can give anyone disabled or not, is to protect yourself, and don’t think that it can happen to you.
Persons with disabilities should take the same precautions as anyone else. Because of accessibility issues, sometimes persons with disabilities are put into especially vulnerable positions, such as when some buildings locate their ramps in the back, along side doors, or in poorly lit areas. If you are going to a place that is dangerous, don’t travel alone. Every individual’s circumstances are different, but by utilizing some basic common sense, you can stay safe.