No. I (1960)

Robbery and its perpetrators

Published 1960-08-01


  • robbery,
  • perpetrators of robbery,
  • research,
  • Poland,
  • police statistics,
  • criminal statistics,
  • cities,
  • villges

How to Cite

Łukaszewicz, Z., & Szymanowski, T. (1960). Robbery and its perpetrators. Archives of Criminology, (I), 215–239.


In the period immediately following the end robberies of the hostilities the number of recorded in polish police statistics was very high. In 1945 there were 26 471 robberies recorded, and 23 987 in 1946. As from 1947 onwards that number underwent a visible and considerable decrease, which found its expression in the figures of 10 231, 5224, 3018 and 2089 for the years 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950 respectively.

In later years, beginning with 1955, an increase in the number of robberies was once more recorded; that number reached the figure of 3185 in 1957.

The coefficient of robberies (as per 100 000 of the inhabitants) amounted to 7.6 in 1954 and to 8.9 in 1958. The highest coefficients were recorded in the capital city of Warsaw, in Łódź, the second largest city in the country, in the voivodeship of Katowice and in the western voivodeships, consequently in industrial regions and areas with large numbers of inhabitants who had immigrated there from other parts of the country.

While, in 1958, this coefficient for rural areas amounted to 4.6, in the cities and towns it was as high as 13.8, in cities of more than 200 000 inhabitants the same coefficient amounted to as much as 21.3.

It ought to be noted that in the immediate post-war period, i.e. the years 1945 to 1946 the largest number of robberies were committed in rural areas, and a very big percentage of them consisted in armed robberies, committed by bands armed with firearms. By 1958 robberies committed arms in hand constituted a mere 10.4 per cent of the total number. The number of robberies involving manslaughter amounted to an average of 50 yearly in the years 1954 to 1958.

Below we shall discuss the results of the examination of 302 judicial records concerning 474 perpetrators of robbery convicted in 1955; such examination has been undertaken in order to find out what robberies in recent period looked like and out of what kind of offenders their perpetrators were recruited.

Investigation has comprised 63 per cent of all the persons convicted of robbery in 1955 by all the courts in the country; the rack of any selection in collecting such records allows us to treat the material collected as representative for robbery in Poland in this period.

Our materials comprised 94.1 per cent of men and 5.9 per cent of women.

36.2 per cent of the perpetrators acted singly, 34.7 per cent of them - in twos, 17.3 per cent - in threes, and only 11.8 per cent in larger groups.

32,4 per cent of all the robberies were committed in the countryside, and 67.6 per cent of them - in the cities and towns, an overwhelming majority of them in cities of above 100 000 inhabitants.

The perpetrators of robbery are, as a rule, young people: 69.5 per cent of those convicted of robbery were below 26 years of age. Only 13.2 per cent of the perpetrators were over 30.

78.3 per cent of the convicts lived in the cities and towns, 21.7 per cent of them - in the countryside; part of the offenders who now live in towns recruit from the rural population recently arrived in the towns.

Part of the robberies in rural areas were perpetrated by persons recently living in towns, and who went to the country in order to perpetrate a robbery.

Nearly all those convicted of robbery who lived in cities and towns figure in the records as workers (95.7 per cent of them), but 50 per cent of the perpetrators of robbery did not work in the period immediately preceding the commission of robbery.

As far as the convicts who lived in the country are concerned, only 17.5 per cent of them have been recorded as farmers, while 77.7 per cent said they were workers. The percentage of non-working persons is high, as it amounts to 37.8 per cent.

The perpetrators of robbery have had plenty of criminal experience behind them. In spite of the lack of complete data covering the period up to 17 years of age it appears that out of 474 perpetrators of robbery 320 had already committed at least one criminal offence in the past. The percentage of recidivism in this sense of the word consequently amounts to 67.5 per cent.

The data concerning the criminal past of these 320 offenders present the following picture: 60.3 per cent of those convicted of robbery had committed one or two offences in the past, 20.6 per cent - three or four offences, 19.1 per cent - five or more offences. When we analyze the kinds of offences previously committed by the 320 recidivists, we are in a position  to select the following groups among them:

a) 22.3 per cent of the recidivists had already committed robberies in the past, along with other offences, which, as a rule, were thefts;

b) 42 per cent of the recidivists had committed only thefts in the past;

c) 10.6 per cent of them committed mostly thefts, but also offences against authorities and offices, as weII as injury to the body (acting from hooligan motives);

d) 14.8 per cent committed almost exclusively offences of a hooligan character;

e) 10.8 per cent of the recidivists committed various other offenses, not previously enumerated.

As can be seen from the above, the criminal past of the perpetrators of robbery is far from uniform, while with the majority dominate of the recidivists there, offences against property, nearly all of them thefts (74 per cent).

A very large majority of the recidivists were town-dwellers (84.5 per cent), 58.6 per cent of the recidivists were under 26 years of age, but the share of recidivists among the perpetrators of robbery increases in the older age groups. Among the convicts aged from 26 to 30 years there were 70.7 per cent of recidivists, among those aged 31 to 40 years – 75.5 per cent of recidivists. Thus the majority of the older perpetrators of robbery consists of recidivists.

Very essential are the differences which occur between the robberies committed in the towns and those committed in rural areas.

A typical town robbery is perpetrated with the use of violence (86 per cent), which, as a rule, boils down to the aggressor beating up his victim. The place where robberies take place are, in 56 per cent of the cases, streets, squares and parks, in 12.4 per cent of the cases - suburban groves, fields while it only in exceptional cases that we have to do with assaults with the purpose of robbery at home (6.6 per cent), just like robberies of shops (7.1 per cent).

On the other hand, robbery in the countryside is done with using violence (beating up) only in 46 per cent of the cases, and in 54 per cent of the cases with the use of threats, frequently supported with a show of weapons or mock-revolvers. The place where robberies are committed are roads, fields and forests in 52 per cent of the cases, and the dwelling or croft of the victim in 33 per cent.

The value of the loss sustained by the victim did not exceed 500 zlotys in 37 per cent of the cases in towns and 30 per cent of the cases in the countryside. Robberies in which the victims sustained big losses exceeding 5000 zlotys amounted to only 7.1 per cent in the towns and to 22.6 per cent in the countryside.

It should be added that in the robberies involving the use of violence (73 per cent of the total number of robberies) it was only in 22 per cent of the cases, both in town and country, that the victims sustained more serious bodily harm, which caused serious injury of the body. In the remaining cases we have to do with beating up, causing only sight injury of the body, or even merely an infringement of bodily inviolability.

As for the towns, special attention is deserved by the numerous category of robberies on passers-by (55.4 per cent of the total) perpetrated, without any previous planning, in the streets, in the evening or at night, as a rule, by young men in a state of ebriety, 61 per cent of whom had already been punished by the law-courts previously. An interesting fact is that, in the towns, really only one-third of the robberies comprised by the material under investigation can be described as having previously planned and prepared. For, indeed, with, part of the robberies classified as the planned ones we have to do with offenders with whom the intention of committing offence has arisen in special circumstances, after having met a drunken individual in a restaurant. After thus striking acquaintance and, usually, a common consumption of alcohol such offenders entice their victim to some out-of-the-way place (frequently with the participation of women), where, after severely beating up their victim, they rob him of money, watch, etc. Among such offenders there is also a very large percentage of recidivists, as well as of young individuals who systematically abuse alcohol.

Research on robbery brings to light the importance of the problem of young adult delinquents. 69.5 per cent of the perpetrators of robbery are below 25 years of age. The majority of them are recidivists who, in spite of their youth, mix with a criminal environment and refuse to do any work. The remaining ones, who constitute about 40 per cent of the total number, are to be sure, individuals not previously punished by the law-courts and seemingly leading a normal life, but highly demoralized, with a clearly hooligan attitude; all of them systematically abuse alcohol. With regard to such juvenile offenders it is indispensable to apply a special penitentiary policy, based on Borstal principles.


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